`The bear is loose' -- Obama goes out and about

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'The Bear Is Out' -- Obama
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`The bear is loose' -- Obama goes out and about
In this May 21, 2014 photo, President Barack Obama stops to greet tourists during his surprise walk across the ellipse in Washington as they head towards the Department of the Interior. Obama seems to have caught a bad case of cabin fever. Since taking office, Obama has periodically grumbled about the claustrophobia that sets in when his every move is surrounded by intense security, rendering it nearly impossible to enjoy the simple pleasures that private citizens take for granted. But in recent days, the president has made more of a point to get out. "The bear is loose!" Obama declared this week after leaving the White House on foot, ditching his motorcade and his suit jacket in favor of fresh air as he headed to the Interior Department. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this May 19, 2014, photo, President Barack Obama greets players as he makes an unannounced stop to surprise members of the Northwest little league baseball teams at Friendship Park in Washington. Obama seems to have caught a bad case of cabin fever. Since taking office, Obama has periodically grumbled about the claustrophobia that sets in when his every move is surrounded by intense security, rendering it nearly impossible to enjoy the simple pleasures that private citizens take for granted. But in recent days, the president has made more of a point to get out. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this May 16, 2014, photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, meets with, from left, Abdullahi Mohamed, Meredith Upchurch and Antonio Byrd at the Shake Shack in Washington. Obama seems to have caught a bad case of cabin fever. Since taking office, Obama has periodically grumbled about the claustrophobia that sets in when his every move is surrounded by intense security, rendering it nearly impossible to enjoy the simple pleasures that private citizens take for granted. But in recent days, the president has made more of a point to get out. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
As sprinkler's water the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, President Barack Obama walks from the White House as he heads to play golf, Saturday, May 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Water sprinklers cause a rainbow to appear on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, May 24, 2014, as a motorcade waits to take President Barack Obama to play golf. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Air Force One prepares to leave O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Friday, May 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
President Barack Obama removes his suit jacket as he walks towards the Oval Office of the White House following his arrival on Marine One helicopter, Friday, May 23, 2014 in Washington. Obama was returning from a Chicago where he attended a pair of private fundraisers for the Democratic party yesterday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama waves as he walks from Marine One to Air Force One at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Friday, May 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama is escorted to Marine One helicopter from the steps of Air Force One, Friday, May 23, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., as he arrives from Chicago. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn order breakfast at Valois Cafeteria in Chicago, Friday, May 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Barack Obama makes his way to his car before leaving the White House in Washington on May 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama makes his way to his car before leaving the White House in Washington on May 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office on May 23, 2014 upon returning at the White House in Washington, DC, from Chicago. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Marine One helicopter with US President Barack Obama on board prepares to land on the South Lawn on May 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama takes off his jacket as he walks to the Oval Office on May 23, 2014 upon returning at the White House in Washington, DC, from Chicago. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office on May 23, 2014 upon returning at the White House in Washington, DC, from Chicago. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama takes off his jacket as he walks to the Oval Office on May 23, 2014 upon returning at the White House in Washington, DC, from Chicago. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office on May 23, 2014 upon returning at the White House in Washington, DC, from Chicago. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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By JOSH LEDERMAN
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- "The bear is loose!"

Those were President Barack Obama's words as he ditched his motorcade and left the White House on foot, favoring the fresh air in a walk toward the Interior Department.

Tourists near the White House never expected to see the president in person on a steamy spring afternoon. One woman squealed with delight; another suggested she thought Wednesday's sighting might be an Obama impostor.

Since taking office, Obama has grumbled periodically about the claustrophobia that sets in when his every move is surrounded by intense security. That makes it nearly impossible to enjoy the simple pleasures that others take for granted.

"It's good to be out," Obama said.

Traditionally, whenever the president leaves the White House, he travels by motorcade or helicopter. Before he arrives at his destination, Secret Service agents have prepared security, which generally keeps Obama at a distance from anything unpredictable.

Life in this bubble can feel suffocating.

For Obama, relief frequently comes in the form of a weekend golf outing, usually at a military base. But every once in a while, the golf course just doesn't cut it.

"I don't get a chance to take walks very often," Obama said this past week. "Secret Service gets a little stressed. But every once in a while I'm able to sneak off."

Nearly six years into his presidency, Obama seems to be sneaking off just a bit more often.

Last week, diners at a Shake Shack near the White House looked up from their cheeseburgers to see Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stroll in. The White House said Obama was there to promote government-financed work projects and a proposed minimum wage increase, but the hastily arranged visit raised a few eyebrows.

Three days later, Obama was en route to a fundraiser in suburban Maryland when his motorcade made a detour and pulled into a park.

Obama stopped by a baseball field where Little League teams were getting ready for a game. Obama lobbed a few balls toward home plate and posed for photos.

White House officials offered little explanation for the stop, other than to point out that Obama was scheduled later in the week to travel to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. That visit, officials said, was aimed at promoting tourism to the U.S. as a way to boost the economy.

"And, no, this not just an excuse to go the Baseball Hall of Fame," Obama's senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, wrote in a blog post.

Former White House aides said it's always gratifying to depart from the norm by allowing the president to interact more directly with people, even if it's a major headache for those responsible for making it happen.

"Staff loves it, Secret Service hates it," said Ari Fleischer, who traveled frequently with President George W. Bush as his press secretary. "They want everything buttoned down and under total, nothing-could-possibly-go-wrong control."

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