Friday, August 19, 2011

Obama Begins Vacation On Martha's Vineyard

President has no public events scheduled during nine-day vacation at Blue Heron Farm; top advisors on island, too...

President Obama starts his first full day of vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard today. He'll be making ice cream runs, golfing, and cycling as he relaxes for nine days on the woodsy island off the coast of Massachusetts, according to a White House spokesman. After three days of talking corn seed and the economy in the heartland, President Obama--minus his family--left the White House to travel to the island on Thursday afternoon, accompanied by First Dog Bo. The First Family is staying at the privately owned Blue Heron Farm, a 28.5-acre estate in the township of Chilmark. They also rented the property the previous two summers. (Above: The President arrives at Martha's Vineyard Airport in West Tisbury, Thursday evening)

"I don't usually hang out with Red Sox fans," said President Obama, a White Sox enthusiast, as he mingled with excited locals at the Cape Cod airport, holding a baby clad in the enemy team's gear. The baby's thrilled mom snapped photos. Mr. Obama has no public events scheduled through Saturday, Aug. 27, when he returns to Washington.

"This is an opportunity for the President to spend a little time away from the spotlight with his wife and two daughters," said Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, adding that the summer holiday will be much like those in 2009 and 2010.

The President is expected to "go out and get ice cream and ride bicycles," Earnest said, and play golf, "a hobby he enjoys."

The island has been a retreat for Presidents and their families for decades, including the Kennedys and the Clintons, who own a home there. It has miles of pristine beaches and hiking and cycling trails, and a vibrant restaurant scene.

The estate...

There's plenty of privacy at the vacation retreat, which rents for $50,000 a night: Blue Heron Farm is at the end of a mile-long driveway. It has four different dwellings, including a white Victorian farm house, a reconstructed "Pennsylvania hay barn" and a "Vermont shed." There's also an apple orchard, vegetable gardens, a swimming pool, golf practice tee and a small basketball court. (Above: The President's motorcade turns into Blue Heron Farm on Thursday evening)

The property overlooks Tisbury Great Pond. Last year's island idyll included runs for treats to ice creamery Mad Martha's, cycling with First Lady Obama and Malia and Sasha, beach picnics, and evening dining outings.

A working vacation...

Amidst much criticism that the President is vacationing as the economy is unstable, with the stock market tumbling again Thursday, Earnest stressed that it's a working vacation. The President will be crafting a new jobs package he is expected to roll out in a speech after Labor Day, Earnest said.

"I don’t think that the American people begrudge the President spending a little time with his wife and daughters at the end of the summer before his daughters head back to school," Earnest said.

John Brennan, the President's top counter terrorism advisor, will be on the island "for the duration of the President’s time there," Earnest said. "He’ll be providing regular updates to the President to ensure that he’s properly briefed on national security issues."

Brian Deese, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, will travel to Martha’s Vineyard "and will spend the week there next week," Earnest said, also doing briefings.

The President arrived at Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, MA, aboard Air Force One at 5:25 PM Thursday. He greeted locals, held a baby, then traveled by Marine One to the island, landing at 5:58 PM. He then departed for Chilmark in his motorcade. (Above: At Andrews Air Force Base, an aide leads Bo to Air Force One for the first leg of the trip)

*AP photos

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