Wednesday, May 02, 2012

After Afghanistan Visit, President Obama Hosts Impromptu Birthday Party On Air Force One

Bloomberg correspondent feted by the President...
Traveling home to Washington aboard Air Force One from Afghanistan early on Wednesday morning, President Obama celebrated the birthday of one of the reporters who accompanied him on his whirlwind surprise trip, which lasted a little more than six hours in country. Once airborne after a refueling stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, President Obama strolled back to the press cabin, carrying cake--complete with a lit candle--for Bloomberg News White House correspondent Julianna Goldman. (Above: The President, cake in hand)

The birthday cake was actually coffee cake, reported pool, and today is Goldman's birthday. The President had removed his jacket and tie for his visit with his 13-member traveling pool, and led the cabin in singing "Happy Birthday" to Goldman. It took place shortly after 9:11 AM Germany time, 3:11 AM ET.

It was the pool's first sighting of the President since they'd joined him at the Presidential Palace in Kabul hours before; they'd spent much of his trip in a hangar at Bagram Air Base, where they watched the President make a live address to America just like everyone else in America: By TV feed.

The President has previously celebrated birthdays for both aides and journalists aboard Air Force One, but Goldman (l) omitted her party details in her report about the trip published today by Bloomberg. A Maryland native, she has frequently traveled abroad with the President, and also covered his 2008 presidential race. Goldman writes a riveting account of the cloak-and-dagger subterfuge and extra measures required to keep the very dangerous trip both secret and secure, due to dire concerns for the safety of the President and everyone in his entourage. She manages to avoid the subject of her party by ending her Bloomberg report as Air Force One takes off from Bagram Air Base, minutes after the President finished his live address.

"At 4:30 a.m. local time, 8 p.m. in Washington, we felt the plane's wheels lift off Afghan soil. Obama had spent six hours and 10 minutes on the ground," Goldman wrote. The President's offering of cake came hours later.

Kabul was rocked by violence shortly after the President left. According to Afghan officials, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on a compound where Westerners are housed. It left seven dead and seventeen wounded.

The President's visit to Afghanistan included a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karza at the Presidential Palace in Kabul to sign US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership. He also visited with cheering US troops at Bagram Air Field, and stopped at the ICU to award ten Purple Hearts to wounded warriors. The President made a live address to the nation, speaking about the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, and the long end to the war in Afghanistan. (Above: The President greets troops at Bagram Air Field)

The President arrived at the White House at 11:02 AM Wednesday morning, landing on the South Lawn in Marine One. (Above: A White House photo of the President climbing aboard Air Force One for his departure from Bagram Air Field)

Politico's Josh Gerstein was the travel pooler who provided the detailed accounts of the President's visit.

*Top photo by Getty/Pool; Goldman photo by Bloomberg; others by Pete Souza/White House