CHICAGO — All President Barack Obama wanted to do was go home.
No, not to the fancy government house in Washington. He wanted the familiar bed at his Kenwood/Hyde Park house in Chicago. The comfy chair. Maybe watch some ESPN. Chill.
“Still works!” he declared as he strolled through his leafy neighborhood around noon on a splendid spring Saturday on his way to visit old Chicago pal Marty Nesbitt.
It had been more than a year since he had spent a night at his home, and he was determined to do so Friday after a long day on the road.
“I am sleeping in my bed tonight,” he told a group of fellow Chicagoans at a fundraiser Friday evening. “I’m going to go into my kitchen. I might cook something for myself, putter around in the backyard a little bit.”
Couldn’t blame him, not after a day like Friday. Not with a jobs report that could put his own job in jeopardy. So home he went to be with his own thoughts and a security detail, puttering. His wife, Michelle, and his two daughters did not join him.
Saturday he looked refreshed as he walked the three blocks to Nesbitt’s house, accompanied by friend and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and a retinue of aides and Secret Service. Asked whether he made breakfast, he shouted back:
“No, I woke up too late.”
He’d been pining for this for a while. Last month, while in Chicago for a NATO summit, the leader of the free world couldn’t even buy a ride home.
“Despite being 15 minutes away from my house, nobody would let me go home,” he said at a post-summit news conference. “I was thinking I would be able to sleep in my own bed tonight. They said I would cause even worse traffic. So I ended up staying in a hotel.”
No such limitations this time.
The last time Obama stopped by his home was in January. It was a quick visit, not an overnight stay.
If you have a nice house with a mortgage between $500,000 and $1 million at a rate of 5.265 percent (according to his 2011 financial report), you might want to spend a night or two in there.
He last slept in the house on April 2011, when he was in Chicago on a fundraising trip.
He was fundraising in his home city again on Friday, with three events packed into four hours. He added at least $3.5 million to the estimated $1.8 million he raised earlier Friday in Minneapolis.
But the love bestowed by his high-dollar donors was weak solace compared with the dismal jobs report from the Labor Department. Only 69,000 jobs created in May and an uptick in unemployment to 8.2 percent, the first increase in nearly a year.
Obama had no clue what the jobs report would say when he first made plans to spend the night at his house.
But he recently had the notion on his mind that his place at the White House is fleeting.
At a ceremony Thursday for the unveiling of former President George W. Bush’s portrait, Obama reflected on the White House’s different roles as a working office, a living museum and as “an enduring symbol of our democracy.”
“I think it’s fair to say that every president is acutely aware that we are just temporary residents — we’re renters here,” he added.
In Chicago Friday, he told a crowd of donors gathered at the Chicago Cultural Center: “It’s good to be home. The White House is nice, but I’m just leasing.”
For as long as he is allowed.