President Barack Obama played tennis with
his wife and golf with his buddies Monday, starting his first
vacation in office on Martha’s Vineyard, a picturesque island known
as a refuge for the wealthy and privileged.
White House officials have stressed that the president is on a
private vacation and very little is planned.
But the White House continued governing at full pace and with tremendous interest for All Things Obama, officials have trickled out a few personal details here and there.
For instance, Burton told reporters that the president’s reading
list includes “The Way Home” by George Pelecanos, “Hot, Flat and
Crowded” by Tom Friedman, “Lush Life” by Richard Price,
“Plainsong” by Kent Haruf and “John Adams” by David McCullough.
But the trip was clearly designed to limit exposure for the
first family. White House aides have asked journalists not to tail
the first daughters when they are not with their parents.
And journalists were taken to the first hole moments after Obama’s
first drive but in time to capture him walking down the lush green
fairway at an Oak Bluffs golf course.
“Good to see you,” Obama said to a cheering crowd as he walked
pass an impromptu crowd. “Hey man, how are you?”
He told the group that his daughters were swimming while he hit
Obama’s sister, Maya, flew with the Obamas from Washington, as
did first pooch Bo, who wandered through the press cabin during the flight.
Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and
counselor to the president, joined the flight aboard Air Force One
and the dinner table on Sunday night hours after arriving.
Other midlevel aides were on the island to assist the president
if needed, a reminder the presidency does not allow for complete
breaks from the job.
But Burton joked that even some of those aides were in vacation
mode with the president.
“He’s obviously worked very hard this year, as have some
members of the staff. I don’t know about all of them; I know
Tommy’s in flip-flops today,” Burton joked, pointing to assistant
press secretary Tommy Vietor standing at the side of the room with
a football and sandals.
Other White House aides followed Obama onto the golf course,
including travel and advance staffers.
The White House does not have a formal schedule while the Obamas are on the island, but the president received a daily briefing in person from a National Security Council official. He received an economic briefing through memos, and the secluded 28-acre private estate has a secure line to the White House if a situation develops.
At the White House, senior administration officials conducted a
conference call with reporters about national security programs.
White House officials continued to say Obama has no plans for
Obama to visit ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy at his home in Hyannis
Port on nearby Cape Cod. A visit with Kennedy, who has brain
cancer, could provide a rallying point for Democrats as Obama seeks to achieve one of Kennedy’s career goals: overhauling the nation’s health insurance system to provide near-universal coverage.
“I heard some reports today that the Secret Service had visited
Hyannis Port,” Burton said. “I don’t think that there’s any
reason to believe that there’s any plan to go to Hyannis Port at
this point. I think that if Secret Service agents were there they
probably heard — like all of you already know — that they have
great lobster rolls out there and they were probably just checking
Instead, aides said there might be trips for ice cream and
salt-water taffy, possibly a bike ride and plenty of quiet time at
the compound that rents for $35,000 a week.
The Obamas are paying for their share of the vacation home; taxpayers are picking up the tab for security and White House staff, which is customary for all presidents.
More typically he has vacationed in Hawaii, where he
was born and spent time as a child.