Politics and world affairs took the center stage during the first week of President Obama’s Vineyard vacation. The President mixed down time on the golf course and with family with public statements, fundraising and discussions with staff and world leaders.
While Islanders are becoming used to seeing the presidential motorcade rush down Vineyard roads, this week a backyard in Chilmark and the Edgartown School cafeteria became the backdrops for presidential addresses to the nation. Farm Neck Golf Club was both a place for the President to work on his drives and putts, and also a place to dance the night away at a birthday party for an old friend. The President also made his first public comments about visiting the Vineyard.
Marine One touched down at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport just before 1 p.m. Saturday. The President, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia made the trip; a White House spokesman said later that daughter Sasha arrives next week. First dogs Bo and Sunny also made the trip.
The Obamas are staying at a rented home in Chilmark off North Road on Gosnold’s Way.
There are the usual signs that the White House has arrived on the Island, including people gathered on porches and standing on the side of the road, waving and snapping pictures of the motorcade. There are welcome signs posted on roadsides and at Island businesses.
Shortly after landing on Saturday, the President headed to Farm Neck for an afternoon on the links. He visited the club for another 18 holes on Sunday, and on Tuesday and Thursday was at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown.
His golf partners have included former Celtic Ray Allen, sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, former ambassador Ron Kirk and World Bank president Jim Kim.
On Monday, the First Family spent time on a south shore beach in Edgartown. On Tuesday night, the President and First Lady had dinner at an old favorite, the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs. Their dinner companions were National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder, Mr. Kirk and their respective spouses. The President and Mrs. Obama headed back to Farm Neck on Wednesday night, this time for the 80th birthday part of Ann D. Jordan, wife of Vernon Jordan, a Democratic advisor to President Clinton. The Jordans are longtime summer visitors to the Vineyard.
The birthday party became the focus of increased media attention after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the President’s foreign policy in a recent interview. Mrs. Clinton was also on the Island this week, signing books at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore Wednesday and then attending Mrs. Jordan’s birthday party.
Mrs. Clinton and former president Bill Clinton sat near the President and First Lady at the party, the White House reported.
There were toasts, dinner and dancing, and the Obamas danced to nearly every song, the White House said. “A good time was had by all.”
While beach outings and visiting with old friends are usual vacation activities for the Obamas, this year has seen some departures from the norm. On Monday, President Obama made an appearance at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser. The event was held at the home of Roger Brown and Linda Mason in Vineyard Haven. Mr. Brown is president of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
With a view of Lagoon Pond in the distance, the President spoke to the 50 or so guests, among them Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
“It’s really wonderful to be at Martha’s Vineyard, especially when the weather is this good,” President Obama said, adding that his family was having a wonderful time. “We were hanging out with some seals this afternoon who came by and said hello.
“I found, as somebody from Hawaii, the water is still a little cold,” he added. “But it couldn’t have been nicer.”
He went on to talk about the challenges facing the nation, calling for Democrats to turn out at the midterm elections in November.
As the presidential motorcade traveled down the road to the fundraiser, groups of people gathered to wave and take pictures. Across the street cardboard signs read “Welcome Obama,” signed Cara, Chris and Ben, and “Enjoy MV.” Several onlookers had homemade Obama T-shirts.
The juxtaposition between vacation scenes and dealing with serious world matters was evident throughout the week. At a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said this has been a working vacation for the President. He is traveling with members of his staff including National Security Advisor Susan Rice and deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. According to the White House, the President has been speaking with world leaders throughout the week.
On Monday, President Obama addressed the nation about the ongoing crisis in Iraq. He spoke for about five minutes from the backyard of a home near his Chilmark house.
He addressed the nation again early Thursday afternoon, providing an update about the situation in Iraq and calling for “peace and calm” in Ferguson, Mo., where there has been growing civil unrest after the shooting of an 18-year-old man.
The statement took place at the Edgartown School cafeteria, which is serving as the press filing center. About 50 members of the press were gathered for the statement.
After the address, the President headed to the Vineyard Golf Club, down the road from the school.
Mr. Obama is due to leave Sunday to travel back to Washington for business meetings and is scheduled to return to the Vineyard on Tuesday. The Obamas plan to leave the Vineyard on August 24.