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President Obama caused quite a stir on Saturday after he left the White House without the traveling press corps, but it's not the first time he's slipped away without them.
Traditionally a press "pool" accompanies the president whenever he leaves the White House grounds, regardless of whether his trip off campus is for business or pleasure.
The pool is comprised of members of the White House Correspondents Association from different media outlets who document the president's movements for the entire press corps.
The understanding between the White House and the press is that wherever the president goes, the pool follows.
But on Saturday Obama left the White House without the group of reporters, producers, and photographers assigned to cover him, and went to watch one of his daughters play soccer at an area park. Press wranglers scrambled to get the media caught up with Obama, but it was too late. The game had already ended by the time the press vans got to the field. Later in the day the president left the White House grounds for a golf outing, this time with the travel pool in tow.
On Sunday the Commander-in-Chief made light of the situation, acknowledging that the pool wasn't pleased with the situation. "Apparently I caused quite a problem," he told Pakistan's Prime Minister during a meeting that was briefly caught on camera before the press corps was ushered out of the room. "They were very upset about it," he said. "It was big news today." The president suggested that there was some kind of miscommunication between his secretary and Secret Service that led to the mix up.
But this isn't the first time the president has broken protocol by abandoning the pool. On February 14, 2009 the presidential motorcade departed the Obama's Chicago home for a downtown restaurant where the first couple enjoyed a Valentine's Day dinner. The pool vans were being restaged at the time the motorcade left the house. The press caught up with the President and First Lady 45 minutes later, after they had already entered the restaurant.
On December 26, 2008 then President-elect Obama took his daughters to Sea Life Park, a marine amusement park in Waimanalo, Hawaii where the family was vacationing over the Christmas holiday. The pool wasn't immediately called to gather for the trip, but met up with the Obama entourage about an hour later.
A travel photo "lid" had already been called, signaling that all presidential movements were done for the day and the press would not be needed to cover any activity.
"With no further scheduled events for the day, a lid was called until further notice," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said a statement. "The President-elect decided to take the girls to a water park and we assembled the pool as quickly as possible."
The cameras stayed with the president-elect for the remainder of the day, which included a trip to a sandwich shop and a shaved ice joint. It was there that the press documented Obama's every move, right down to the details of his lunch (tuna melt on 12-grain, tomatoes and no mayo).
After placing his order, Obama seemed to ask for some privacy, something he seems to covet even now that he's in the White House and under even greater scrutiny. "You don't really need to write all that down," he told a print reporter who was hurriedly taking notes at the marina deli. Moments later, the president-elect appeared to make a good willed gesture to the press, offering to buy a shaved ice for anyone interested. "I'm telling you, this is really good," he said. "I don't think this is against policy. You want one, I can tell."
President Obama isn't the first commander-in-chief to make a run for it.
In April 2008 President Bush abruptly left a meeting he was attending at the NATO summit at the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. The president got up and walked out to his car, leaving the rest of the motorcade behind.
According to the print pool report from April 3, 2008, "the pool scrambled and ran through the palace, making it to the vans four minutes later but it was too late; the motorcade was already gone. As it was, one journalist was left behind as the vans left to try to catch up."
A White House official tried to explain the mix up to the media. "The president sat through the entire first part of the meeting, unlike some of the other world leaders who went and came as they pleased. The bulk of the discussion he felt had ended at that point," the official told the press, adding that the president wanted to get back to the hotel he was staying at in order to pick up Mrs. Bush and get ready for the evening events.
Bill Clinton, an avid jogger who was often captured on camera going for runs as president, spent nearly two hours without the media after he tore a tendon in his knee on uneven pavement during a 1997 trip to West Palm Beach, Florida. The travel pool was kept in the dark.. literally.
While the press corps slept at a nearby hotel, Clinton took a 30-minute ambulance ride to a nearby hospital to be checked out.
At the time, the White House said that aides were more focused on the president's condition than notifying the press about the accident.