WASHINGTON — Golf shoes in the Oval Office could have been a clue.
President Barack Obama usually goes to the residence quarters of the White House after putting in a few weekend hours on the links. But he made an unusual beeline for his West Wing office last Sunday that raised eyebrows only in retrospect.
He was headed for a top-secret meeting to review final preparations for a military operation he'd approved two days earlier, the one involving a raid by Navy SEALs that would end with the death of Osama bin Laden, one of the world's most hunted men.
But only a few insiders knew the real deal.Story: Pakistan accused of playing bin Laden 'double game'
In a remarkable 72 hours of his presidency, Obama carried around a momentous secret and gave no hint of it as he went about his duties consoling tornado victims, delivering a college commencement address and cracking jokes at a black-tie dinner.
After signing off on the operation Friday morning, Obama left the White House with his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, for a busy day of travel, with three stops in two Southern states.
In Alabama, one of several states hammered by fierce tornadoes, Obama assumed his role as consoler in chief as he and the first lady got up close and walked the streets of rubble-strewn Tuscaloosa communities that had been flattened by the twisters.Story: Obama in Ala.: 'I've never seen devastation like this'
His next stop was Cape Canaveral, Fla., and the launch of space shuttle Endeavour. But the lift-off was scrubbed before the Obamas even left Alabama. He kept to his schedule anyway, touring NASA facilities and getting a view of space shuttle Atlantis with his family.
Obama also met privately at the Kennedy Space Center with wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Recovering from a bullet to the head, Giffords flew from a Houston rehabilitation facility to Florida for the launch because her husband, Mark Kelly, is the shuttle commander.
Obama later delivered an evening commencement address at Miami Dade College before returning to Washington.
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He kept his poker face throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, Obama donned a tuxedo for the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner and lobbed a few barbs at Donald Trump after having endured weeks of attacks by the prospective Republican presidential candidate over whether Obama is U.S.-born and eligible to be president. He poked fun at the host of NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice" for not having serious issues to keep him up at night.Story: Obama mocks Trump and self at gala dinner
Come Sunday, Obama headed for the Andrews Air Force Base golf course, as he does on many weekends when the weather is nice. But he only played nine holes, instead of his customary 18, leaving after about three hours. The reporters who accompany him on public outings didn't think anything was amiss and thought the chilly, rainy weather played into the president's decision to leave several hours earlier than usual.
What they didn't know was that Obama was heading back for that final meeting on the bin Laden operation.Video: Mission accomplished: The end of bin Laden (on this page)
In retrospect, there were a few meager clues that something may have been going on. Take the golf shoes in the Oval Office, for example. Photos of Obama walking up the path to his office also showed him with a tense look and clenched jaw.
All became clear when Obama announced shortly before midnight Sunday that bin Laden had been killed at the hands of U.S. forces.
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