Sunday, August 15, 2010
In a way, they were just like hundreds of other families in Panama City for the weekend. They went for a swim, they played miniature golf, they went out for lunch and dinner, they went for a boat ride. They just had a lot of fun, enjoying all the fun things to do on the Gulf Coast.
Except they aren’t just any other family. They are the First Family, and their presence in Panama City Beach was a big shot in the arm for local businesses.
Plans for this trip were hatched several weeks ago, when the First Lady visited the region. When she told local merchants she and her husband were taking the girls to Maine for a weekend, they told her: Maine doesn’t need your help. We do. Bring your girls down here! So she did. And locals were delighted with their visit…..
This post continues after the jump. Here are some preliminary photos, with a full set coming tomorrow!
Here with the First Family in Panama Beach City as part of the White House press corps, I interviewed the Mayor, a restaurant owner, and a charter fishing boat captain. They all told the same story. Their business was way down because of all the bad publicity about the spill and fears of oil on the beaches. At first, they thought, the federal government was slow to respond. But once Thad Allen was put in charge, and once Ken Feinberg took over the claims process, things started to turn around. And the First Family’s visit was the icing on the cake.
Indeed, on Sunday morning newspapers around the country carried photographs of Obama swimming with this daughter, and playing miniature golf with his wife and daughter. Money can’t buy that kind of publicity.
One added feature. The White House press corps descended en masse Saturday night on Captain Anderson’s, a favorite local seafood house. We ate shrimp and fish fresh from the Gulf, and it was delicious.
President Obama brought his family to the Gulf Coast, not just to enjoy a little down time, but to send a powerful message across the country: the BP oil spill is over – and the Gulf Coast is open and ready for business.
From what I witnessed first-hand, I think it’s safe to say: Mission Accomplished!
Bill Press, Panama Beach City