President Obama and his family arrived August 19 for a 10-day visit. Readers will find a running account of the president’s activities online here, updated continually with White House press pool reports and other reporting.
Also, under the headline, The President and Me, we invite you to post photographs of your encounters with the first family, whether you’re dining with the leader of the free world, swimming or golfing with him, playing a game of Horse, or just offering advice. Post your photos or videos in real time, and see the images others post. We’re aiming for a Vineyard scrapbook of the president’s 2010 visit.
Tuesday, August 24
The day began with a morning press briefing. The first pool report was issued at 6:34 pm and concerned nerf football.
After a range of questions on international and national issues, a question about the first family’s rainy weather vacation activities brought an upbeat response from deputy press secretary Bill Burton at a Tuesday morning briefing.
“They’re having a great time,” Mr. Burton said. “The rain has not dampened spirits. They are playing board games. I’ve heard reports of ‘Taboo,’ and ‘Scrabble,’ being played.” Mr. Burton said among the game players is Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and advisor to the president, who is a regular Island visitor. “This will probably get me fired, but I know that Valerie did not do well in ‘Scrabble’ against the president. They’re also watching some movies, reading some books, and getting some good down time, spending time with each other.” Mr. Burton declined to specifically answer questions about Mr. Obama’s golf game, or his scores, during two outings at the Vineyard Golf Club.
The national press corps and the White House communications staff are working out of headquarters at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven.
Counter terrorism advisor John Brennan began the briefing by reading a statement marking a milestone in the draw down of U.S. combat troops in Iraq. He said a week before the goal set by Mr. Obama, fewer than 50,000 combat troops remain in Iraq.
“On September 1, our mission will shift, and we will have a change of command in Iraq,” Mr. Brennan said. “The United States will have a different mission, one of advising and assisting, Iraqi security forces.”
Other questions covered a range of current topics, including a court ruling blocking some federally funded stem cell research; plunging home sales figures; and a call for the resignation of the president’s team of economic advisors from U.S. House Republican leader John Boehner.
6:34 pm, White House Pool report
After spirited Nerf football contest outside the farm, pool is loaded and holding.
Later Tuesday night
No news from the pool but under a news update headline, “President, First Lady Enjoy Island Eating,” the Vineyard Gazette reported the following:
“It’s dinner out again for the President and Mrs. Obama, who are at State Road restaurant in West Tisbury on Tuesday night with Vernon and Ann Jordan and longtime friends Eric and Cheryl Whitaker.
The Gazette also reported that earlier in the day Michelle Obama lunched with girlfriends at the Atlantic Boathouse on Edgartown Harbor.
10 pm, White House Pool
POTUS and FLOTUS left the State Road restaurant, walking into a misty night lit up by flashbulbs from waiting pool, after two and one half hour dinner. POTUS told the pool he was “having a great time” despite theweather and has been “doing a lot of reading.”
Monday, August 23
How exciting is it to be a member of the White House press pool assigned to the presidential vacation beat?
Here is the first pool report of the day filed at 12:24 pm by Gayle Fee of the Boston Herald: Lid until mid afternoon.
3:09 pm, White House Pool
POTUS departed Blue Heron Farm at about 3:45 arrived at Oak Bluffs Elementary School at about 4 pm. We are told he is playing basketball inside withstaffers. Holding.
5:06 pm, White House Pool
POTUS spent about an hour and a half inside Oak Bluffs Elementary School shooting hoops with pals Eric Whitaker and Robert Wolf and Wolf’s two sons.Meanwhile, outside the driving rain and high winds reportedly caused power outages all over the town of O.B. No word on whether the presidential basketball game was impaired…… POTUS returned to Blue Heron Farm at about 5:45. Pool is holding.
7:15 pm, White House Pool
Then it was off to the Sweet Life in Oak Bluffs. Sweet Life is the restaurant POTUS and FLOTUS visited last year. Press pool dined next door, and they were told dinner companions were Eric and Cheryl Whitaker and Valerie Jarrett
9:54 pm, White House Pool
POTUS, FLOTUS, Valerie Jarrett and the Whitakers exited The Sweet Life at 9:43 PM after spending about 2 hours inside. POTUS had a wave and a big smile for a crowd of folks standing across the street on the porch of The Oak Bluffs Inn. First Lady also had a smile for the crowd as they made their way through driving rain the short distance to the motorcade.10:05 and we have lid.
Sunday, August 22
11 am, White House Pool
The presidential motorcade pulled out of Blue Heron Farm at a little before 8:30 this morning, driving past a group of curious onlookers at Alley’s General Store and turned right down Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. It arrived at The Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown around 8:45. The sky was overcast with an itermittent light drizzle as the President played golf. Will update on golf partners.
2:25 pm, White House Pool
This afternoon the President played golf with long-time Chicago friend Eric Whitaker, White House trip director Marvin Nicholson and regular Vineyard vacationer Bill Lewis at the Vineyard Golf Club. He left the Vineyard Golf Club at 1:05 and returned to Blue Heron Farm at 1:20. White House issues a lid at 2:25.
4 pm, Saturday, August 21, White House Pool (Times writer Steve Myrick is the pool reporter today.)
The motorcade exited Oyster Watcha Road at 3:43 p.m., and traveled back the same route along Edgartown-West Tisbury Road it took earlier in the day.The motorcade reached Blue Heron Farm about 10 minutes later.
Very few people were observed along the way, until the motorcade reached Alley’s General Store, where a crowd of about 20 people stood on the front porch to watch the motorcade go by.
The White House issued a full lid, 4:03 pm.
4 pm Saturday, August 21, White House Pool (Times writer Steve Myrick is the pool reporter today.)
The president and family left Blue Heron Farm at 11:00 a.m., traveled along Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, into the town of Edgartown. The motorcade turned down Oyster Watcha Road, a narrow, dusty dirt road that leads to a private beach near Oyster Pond, on the south side of the Island. The first family will have a picnic on the beach, according to a White House staffer. The president visited the same beach during his Martha’s Vineyard vacation last year.
The weather is very pleasant for a beach day, with temperatures in the 70′s, mostly sunny with a few high thin clouds overhead.
A scattering of people watched the 15 vehicle motorcade along the route. A couple on roller blades standing at the entrance to Martha’s Vineyard Airport, dressed from head to toe in protective gear, applauded with raised hands as the motorcade passed. A small gaggle of people gathered at the end of Barnes Road waved and smiled.
Pool reporters did not see POTUS, and have been advised we are not likely to see him at any point in the day.
9:08 pm Friday, August 20
POTUS played 18 holes with White House aide Marvin Nicholson, Chicago pal Eric Whitaker and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and finished up shortly after 6:30 p.m. He traveled by motorcade back to Blue Heron Farm and is home for the night. Lid at 7:08.
2:15 pm, Friday, August 20, White House Pool report
We’re told the president bought the new novel “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen, at Bunch of Grapes. A followup to his National Book Award-winning “The Corrections,” the book is a 576-page family drama.Departed Blue Heron Farm at 1:20 for the Vineyard Golf Club, the Island’s private links. POTUS is expected to play 18. We don’t know who is in his foursome.
Reported by the MV Times
Although owner Dawn Braasch wrote a note inviting the Obamas to stop by her bookstore during their vacation, the visit caught her completely by surprise.
“It was so exciting,” Ms. Braasch said in a phone call afterwards. “I had a call giving me about 10 minutes’ notice, and then the Secret Service arrived and came up to my office to explain what I should and shouldn’t do. They asked if I would be willing to greet him at the front door. I told them I would be thrilled to do that.”
When the president arrived, Ms. Braasch said he made it clear the shopping trip was for his daughters.
“He said he lets them read some of what all teens like to read, but that he also likes to suggest some other books to them,” she recalled.
His oldest daughter, Malia, had read a book by John Steinbeck, so he got her another book by Steinbeck, “The Red Pony,” and a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, which Malia hadn’t read yet, Ms. Braasch said.
The president also picked up a few books for himself. He asked about Jonathan Franzen’s new book, “Freedom: A Novel,” which isn’t available yet, so Ms. Braasch said she loaned him an advance copy the store had.
President Obama shook hands with the staff and signed copies of his book, “Dreams from my Father.” Ms. Braasch said he had tremendous charisma and made her feel as though she had known him all her life.
“He talked to me like he was my next door neighbor,” she said. “His girls were so lovely, well mannered, and well spoken. I complimented him on them as they were leaving, and he said, ‘I give Michelle all the credit.’”
Before the president left the bookstore, carrying two shopping bags, Ms. Braasch said, “I told him it would be an honor for me if you would have the books as a gift, but he said no, that he wanted to do his part to support our local, independent bookstore.”
“I don’t think any of us have touched the ground yet,” she said.
1 pm, August 20, White House news briefing
In the first White House briefing since President Barack Obama arrived on Martha’s Vineyard, White House press secretary Bill Burton outlined the first family’s vacation plans.
“Like last year, the family will get up in the morning and decide what they’re going to do,” Mr. Burton said. “He plans to spend some time playing basketball at the farm, go to the beach. I have a feeling they’ll be going for ice cream. He’s a big fan of the ice cream on this Island.”
Mr. Burton said the president remains in close touch with his staff in Washington, D.C., getting a “quite robust” number of briefings each day. Many of them take the form of written memos.
“His economic advisors are sending him memos on economic issues as they happen,” Mr. Burton said.
The press briefing took place in somewhat cramped quarters at the Mansion House on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. Mr. Burton’s de facto staging room is a storage closet off the hotel’s conference room. Three rows of seats for reporters were directly in front of the podium, backed by tables for the national media, and electronic equipment stacked from floor to near the ceiling, with video cameras, cables, equipment trunks and temporary wiring conduits stored around the perimeter of the room.
White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, who accompanied the president Thursday, aboard Air Force One to Cape Cod and then by helicopter to the Vineyard, spoke at length during the briefing.
Mr. Brennan provides a daily national security briefing to Mr. Obama. “When I have anything to convey to the president, I can do that very quickly,” Mr. Brennan said. There is little difference in the threshold of issues he might bring to the attention of the president, because he is on vacation.
“All the things you would expect to hear in a national security briefing,” Mr. Brennan said. “There are a number of developments the president is following very, very closely and wants to be kept informed. Communications systems are very robust. We can move information at the speed of light. I have immediate access if I need that. I am certain I could do it as quickly here as I could do it in Washington.”
Mr. Burton and Mr. Brennan answered questions for almost 30 minutes The touched on topics that included the release one year ago of the only man convicted of the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland; Iran’s nuclear capability; implementation of health care reform; the resumption of Middle East peace talks; the persistent but incorrect supposition that President Obama is a Muslim; the current strength and capabilities of terror organizations based in Africa; plans for a mosque in New York City, near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks; Senator John Kerry’s diplomatic visit to Afghanistan; and fiery political comments from Vice-President Joe Biden.
12:24 pm, Friday, August 20, White House Pool
The motorcade with POTUS, Malia and Sasha left Blue Heron Farm shortly after 11 am for Vineyard Haven. The president and the two girls visited Bunch of Grapes bookstore and spent about 15 minutes inside.The Bunch of Grapes is a small, independent bookstore that has been on the island for more than a decade. The owner at the time would send books to President Bill Clinton and his family when they vacationed here.A block of the downtown shopping district was cordoned off, and several hundred onlookers gathered behind yellow police tape hoping for a peek at the president.They exited the bookstore at about 11:45, to cheers from the crowd. The president, who was wearing a navy blue polo, faded jeans, a White Sox cap, sandals and dark sunglasses, waved to the crowd.Malia, wearing a blue jacket, striped shirt and white shorts and Sasha, wearing a yellow top and plaid shorts, followed their dad back to the motorcade. Pool is now holding.
3:30 pm, August 19, White House Pool
Early lid today at 3:15 pm. (“Early lid” is news speak that means exactly what you think it does.)
3 pm, Thursday, August 19, White House Press Pool
The president landed at Martha’s Vineyard Airport at 2:40 pm, where a convoy of five SUVs met him. Pool was too far away to see POTUS (president of the United States) emerge, and then pool was quickly hustled onto the bus.The motorcade hurried along windy island roads mostly empty of people, though one woman gave the passing motorcade a thumbs-down.As they did last year, the Obamas are renting 28-acre Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, Mass.
No public events are planned.
3 pm, Thursday, August 19
About 2 pm, a few print and television journalists could be found lounging in the press center at the Mansion House in Tisbury, when a Times reporter wandered through. The friendliest person – the only person to make contact and say hello to an obvious stranger – was a technician for AT&T, the guy who keeps the phones running for the White House press corps.
The Mansion House has provided a rooftop perch for the news cameras that will allow the photogenic few, the elite of on-camera television news media, to expound with Vineyard Haven Harbor and Nantucket Sound in the background.
About 2:30 pm, the thud of helicopters could be heard in Vineyard Haven. Three Marine helicopters flew over West Chop and another two flew over East Chop on their way to Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Very impressive sight.
There was no way to identify which helicopters carried the First Family and friends and which carried the bicycles.