Second term brings out a more relaxed Obama

by Kathleen Hennessey, LA Times  |  published on February 20, 2013

No longer facing voter polls, the president can show some emotion, go off-script, take the first lady to a lavish Valentine’s Day dinner, even go golfing with Tiger Woods. Historians warn against overconfidence.

Finally unburdened by worries about running for another election, President Obama is acting different these days.

Second-term Obama is noticeably quicker to speak his mind and get personal on subjects he once avoided. His schedule at times ignores concerns about “optics,” Washington-speak for what voters might perceive.

On Friday, for example, the president delivered an unexpectedly personal, and at times off-the-cuff, speech in Chicago about the root causes of urban violence. The famously reserved president spoke bluntly about the Kenyan-born father whom he barely knew, and his wayward high school days in Hawaii.

“I wish I had had a father who was around and involved,” he said.

In the past, Obama typically wove the uplifting version of his personal narrative — raised by a single mother, loved by doting grandparents — into his campaign message. He rarely admitted to having “issues,” as he did in Chicago.

Then, over the Presidents Day weekend, Obama headed to Florida for a golf outing with the guys. The president stayed in an exclusive resort near West Palm Beach, Fla., and hit the course with several friends and high-power donors, plus Tiger Woods. The president’s wife and two daughters, meanwhile, jetted west to ski in Aspen, Colo.

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