Obama Beat : Press frenzy feeds on Obama visit
A weekly gleaning of news reports about President Obama's vacation; where he will stay, what he will do and references to the Island (called Hollywood East, didn't you know?) and Islanders that may surprise some.
• With the Obamas Vineyard vacation confirmed and the house rented, one media critic decided it was all too much.
On July 29 Tim Graham, editor of the "media blog" in The National Review online edition poked fun at CBS. Under the headline, "Obamas to Martha's Vineyard: It's Electric!"
Mr. Graham wrote, "When George W. Bush took his summer vacation on his ranch in hot and dusty Crawford, Texas, the media didn't give him points for keeping it simple. They played up Cindy Sheehan publicity-stunt visits and suggested he was goofing off. By contrast, when Barack Obama plans a trip to an exclusive resort in Martha's Vineyard, all CBS could manage was gooey excitement. Unemployment may be raging, but oh, the electricity among the yuppie elite!"
On The Early Show, reporter Bianca Solorzano found gushy Julia Wells, editor of the Vineyard Gazette newspaper: "There's an electric excitement about it all." Solorzano explained the first family would bring their electricity to Blue Heron Farm: "The 28-acre, $20 million enclave is located in Chilmark. The farm suits Obama to a tee with golf facilities, a pool, basketball court, private beach, and a rental price tag of up to $50,000 a week."
• For The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, the Obamas' visit is a chance to recapture the glory (and visitor dollars) of the Clinton years. The Chamber's August newsletter, under the banner headline, "Lets get ready to welcome the First Family, said, "The First Family's visit provides us with a fabulous opportunity to shine. Let's work together to put our best face forward, and take full advantage of this opportunity to show the world who we are, why we live here, and everything that makes the Vineyard such a magnificent place to visit."
The Chamber noted the economic boost a presidential Vineyard vacation could provide and said many Island business owners remember "the positive impact the presidential visits of 1993 and 1994 had for the Island." To its members the Chamber wrote: "Smile a lot - the rest of the world is watching! Let's extend a Vineyard welcome to the First Family and all the visitors arriving on Island!"
• On Sunday The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review combined coverage of the Obamas vacation and the controversy surrounding his friend's run-in with the Cambridge law.
Under the headline, "Common (Vacation) Ground," the Tribune-Review wrote, "Don't be surprised if President Barack Obama and Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates soon get together again for another beer.
"Gates spends his summers in Martha's Vineyard, a Massachusetts island off the coast of Cape Cod. Obama is headed there later this month and will vacation in luxurious accommodations.
"The Vineyard Gazette reported that the everyman president is renting a $20 million, 28.5-acre complex known as Blue Heron Farm in the town of Chilmark."
The story described the farm's amenities and noted that Mr. Gates had an equally nice vacation spot.
"Gates' digs are slightly less ostentatious, but they're still nice. According to Martha's Vineyard Magazine, Gates stays at an impressive-looking white house in Harthaven.
"'I love the irony of the neo-plantation look,' Gates told the magazine. 'As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most elegant and historic houses on the Vineyard, and my family and I are lucky to have it.'"
The Pittsburgh newspaper reviewed the controversy surrounding the arrest of Mr. Gates by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, the president's comment on that arrest, and the subsequent White House beer party.
"No word on where Crowley is vacationing, but we bet he won't be downing more brewskis with the president and the professor," the Tribune-Review wrote.
"It's difficult to afford Martha's Vineyard lodging on a policeman's salary."
• Residents of the United Kingdom remain greatly interested in the Obama vacation. On Tuesday Willem Buiter of the Financial Times, who will vacation on the Vineyard this month with his family, wrote a blog under the title, "On holiday with the Obamas."
Mr. Buiter complained about the effect of the "presidential hordes" on the Vineyard's peace and quiet. "The party that tags along on any presidential journey, let alone a temporary relocation involving the entire presidential nuclear family," Mr. Buiter said, "looks and behaves like an occupying army. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of persons charged with security, ranging from the secret service to the specially beefed-up state and local police forces. Communications experts, specialist medical personnel, myriad advisers and countless other hangers-on cause the Vineyard to sink at least a foot deeper into the sea. The press corps and assorted other media camp out all over the island, competing with the presidential staff for first place in the hot air emission stakes. Roads are blocked. Traditional rights-of-way are suspended. Beaches become inaccessible."
Mr. Buiter said he had some experience with what to expect. "I have seen the presidential occupying forces in action abroad," he wrote. "The only time I have been to Davos for the World Economic Forum (the event with the highest ratio of self-importance to importance of any gathering of humans anywhere, ever), President Clinton attended part of the circus. Let me emphasise that I was there ex officio only - as briefcase carrier (aka chief economist) to the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. US security personnel simply took over the town, established a defensive perimeter and bossed and bullied everyone there, including the Swiss army and police, on the roads and in the meeting halls."
Mr. Buiter looked on the bright side. "Fortunately, we will be staying at just about the opposite end of the Vineyard from where the Obamas and most of the Obamistas will be staying, so we may escape the worst spillovers and fallout from the visit. I leave you with an Econ 101 question. The same estate agent who deplored the negative externalities created for everyone else by a presidential holiday on the Vineyard also asserted that it would be good for property prices. Show me a model of property prices that reconciles these two observations."