Faraway, tectonic plates clenched uneasily, brutal regimes held on tenuously and a hurricane gathered confidence, but on Martha’s Vineyard it was still vacation for President Obama and his family.

The White House issued regular updates throughout the week on the President’s calls with foreign leaders to discuss the uprising in Libya, with corporate leaders on the state of the U.S. economy, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the status of the oncoming Hurricane Irene, and even with geological experts.

Barack Obama golf cart
Mr. Obama does a bit of fist bumping, on par with a good vacation. — Allen Green

But when the commander in chief did take time off, the traveling press corps that follows him could only update on his putts (bad at Farm Neck, where he did not feel the earthquake), meals (it was State Road for dinner last night) and anxiously await his appearance on two wheels in the state forest.

While the First Family seemed the picture of ease during their daytime jaunts to the south shore, the state forest — and even Nantucket on Wednesday for the girls, according to the Inquirer and Mirror — behind the scenes the President worked with his advisors to manage an increasingly unstable slate of world affairs.

Yesterday, as Hurricane Irene bore down on the mid-Atlantic, the Vineyard in its sights, the President convened a conference call with chief of staff Bill Daley, Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to coordinate emergency preparedness all along the Atlantic seaboard. The President has been receiving regular updates about the development of the storm and on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, the first American territory to be visited by Irene. Early last evening he declared a state of emergency in North Carolina where Irene was predicted to reach the Outer Banks by Saturday morning.

Josh Earnest
Spokesman Josh Earnest works Mansion House crowd. — Ivy Ashe

Nevertheless, on Wednesday as the hurricane got organized to head north, principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the President had no plans to leave the Island earlier than his scheduled Saturday morning departure.

But hurricanes were not the only force of nature to threaten the East Coast during the President’s stay. On Tuesday, after a morning spent biking through the state forest with his family, followed by a brief visit to Job’s Neck beach on the south shore off the Edgartown Great Pond, the President visited Farm Neck Golf Club for a five-hour round with Chicago friend Eric Whitaker, White House trip director Marvin Nicholson and Vernon Jordan. There the press was treated to a rare, if unflattering, glimpse of the presidential putter as he missed a mid-range, then tap-in, putt . . . and an earthquake wasn’t to blame.

“The President didn’t feel the earthquake today,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told the press.

The President did make a conference call to his advisors from the 18-hole course, though, about the 5.8 magnitude Virginia quake that some felt even on the Island. Included in that call were senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards with the Department of Interior Dr. David Applegate and Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Greg Jaczko.

Michelle Obama bicycle
First Lady Michelle Obama rides through state forest. — Matthew Healey/White House Pool via CNP

Throughout the week the President also received daily reports from his economic team, including chats with advisor Brian Deese and Federal Reserve chairman Timothy Geithner, and on Wednesday Mr. Obama spoke via conference call with General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt and American Express chief executive Ken Chenault about possible jobs proposals.

And between trips to the beach and the links, Mr. Obama stayed abreast of the situation in Libya with daily briefings with deputy national security advisor John Brennan and a conversation on Tuesday with French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

“They agreed that Qadhafi and the remnants of his regime needed to accept that their time is up and relinquish power once and for all,” a statement from the White House said.

On Wednesday Mr. Earnest addressed the unfolding revolution in North Africa in a briefing delivered from the press filing center in the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven.

“What I can tell you is that the developments that we’re seeing are an indication that the Qadhafi regime’s 42-year grip on power in Libya is slipping,” he said. “And that is frankly a testament to the resolve and courage of the Libyan people.”

Golf Course Barack Obama POTUS
President, Eric Whitaker and Vernon Jordan on the green of first hole at Farm Neck Golf club. — Matthew Healey/White House Pool via CNP

Mr. Earnest said the United States was working to unfreeze about $1.5 billion in Libyan assets to support the National Transitional Council. He also said the United States did not know the whereabouts of deposed dictator Moammar Qadhafi.

While Mr. Earnest spoke with reporters on Wednesday the President braved hazardous road conditions up-Island. The Presidential motorcade was forced to take a circuitous half-hour route to Mink Meadows when a portion of State Road in West Tisbury was closed after a truck carrying recycled cooking oil spilled over 50 gallons of grease on the roadway. This time the President played golf with Mr. Whitaker, Mr. Nicholson and chef Sam Kass before heading back to Blue Heron Farm for the night and turning in — though not before issuing another declaration of disaster, this time for six counties in Iowa which were struck by severe storms and flooding in July.

On Thursday the first family spent another brilliant five-hour beach day at the same private beach Edgartown, their third such trip of the vacation, with Sasha and Malia enjoying windsurfing lessons on Edgartown Great Pond from the experts at Wind’s Up of Vineyard Haven. At around 4:30 the First Family once again pulled down the dusty dirt road, past the pastures of grazing Dutch Belted cows to their summer compound in Chilmark.

The President could not have asked for a more pleasant week on Martha’s Vineyard, with long, hazy days spent biking, sunbathing and golfing with friends. Off-Island was a different story though, as the world shook, and news poured into Blue Heron Farm about earthquakes, hurricanes and revolution.