WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Bo and 'the Beast'

President Barack Obama celebrated long-standing ties with Portugal and Portuguese-American communities across the U.S., including in his home state of Hawaii and ... the White House.

Yes, the White House.

"I understand that there's been a fair amount of interest here about how my family has been enriched by Portugal as well, specifically Bo, our dog," Obama said Friday, standing alongside Prime Minister Jose Socrates.

"He is the most popular member of the White House."

Bo, a furry black pooch with splashes of white on his chest and paws, is a Portuguese water dog. The breed originated in an area of southern Portugal that is known for its beaches and resorts.


Portuguese media seems fascinated by Obama's limousine, a sleek, armored car they've dubbed Cadillac One.

Newspapers and magazines have run photos and half-page graphics marveling at the vehicle, which also is known in Washington as "The Beast" because of its extra-thick doors and huge tires.

Noticias magazine called it a "bunker on wheels." Sabado, another magazine, calculated that the gas-guzzling Cadillac cost more than three times the Portuguese president's unarmored car.

Socrates, meanwhile, arrived at the NATO summit in an electric car after a short ride across the Atlantic port city from his office in the 19th-century Sao Bento palace.

A major theme of Socrates' government is the shift to renewable energy. The country has been a European pioneer in the development of solar and wind power, and is setting up a national network of charging stations for electric cars.

Obama's limo attracted outsize interest from local media during portions of his recent trip to Asia, as well.


Speaking of cars, Obama seems to get a charge out of electric cars and their batteries.

He touts the future of electric cars often at home and has visited plants that make their batteries and other components. He's scheduled a visit Saturday to a GM electric car station in Portugal before he returns to Washington.

Obama complimented Socrates' leadership on electric cars when the two appeared together. He said Socrates' vision would create new opportunities for American companies doing business in Portugal.


Socrates' remarks after his meeting with Obama didn't get lost in translation.

There was no translation.

With the two leaders standing together, Socrates launched into a minutes-long discussion of the U.S.-Portugal relationship. But unless Obama brushed up on his Portuguese before landing, he couldn't understand a thing. An audio feed that pipes English translations through an earpiece for the president and U.S. reporters failed.

A bemused Obama removed his earpiece and smiled and nodded politely as Socrates spoke.

As the prime minister neared the end of his remarks, Obama got a signal that the translation was up and running. He tuned in just in time to hear Socrates commit to stepping up the Portuguese presence in Afghanistan.


Associated Press writer Barry Hatton contributed to this report.