If there is one lesson to be learned from the presence of the Summer White House on the Vineyard, it is this: Never trust press spokesmen who tell reporters not to expect news during a presidential vacation trip. President Obama reinforced the no news forecast with a specific set of intructions conveyed through a deputy press secretary. The relaxed vacation talk was reminiscent of similar White House talk during the 1990s, the Clinton years on the Vineyard.
So it was again with Mr. Obama’s advice to the press upon his arrival on the Island last Sunday: “He wants you to relax,” his spokesman said. “Have a good time; take some walks on the beaches. Nobody’s looking to make any news.”
The point about these presidential trips is that no president is ever really on vacation. Presidential vacations are almost always interrupted by important news events. While on vacation in 1998, President Clinton ordered missile strikes against overseas terrorist bases and then rushed back to the nation’s capital from the Island to manage the crisis.
It is no different for this President. The press of major events elsewhere in the world already has diverted Mr. Obama’s attention away from family and vacation. Two days into this vacation the President suddenly appeared at a press briefing to announce the reappointment of Ben S. Bernanke to a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. On Wednesday Mr. Obama was awakened in the early morning hours and told by an aide of the passing of Sen. Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy. The President will interrupt his vacation again to deliver a eulogy at the memorial mass for Senator Kennedy in Boston Saturday.
Presidents deserve some quality time away from the pressures of office and it is to be hoped the Vineyard offers at least a few true vacation interludes between interruptions.