Obama Beat : Why Democrats find Martha's Vineyard, oh, so special
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.
President Obama and family arrive on Martha's Vineyard Sunday, fresh from a mini-vacation to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. Because it is August, the press focused much of its attention on an analysis of the news connected to Martha's Vineyard, rather than North Korea or Iraq.
• Noting the First Family's western swing, The Los Angeles Times provided political analysis. "Before he leaves for his summer break on tony Martha's Vineyard, President Obama will spend a weekend in the decidedly more populist, middle-American terrain of the national park system," reporter Peter Nicholas wrote. "No president can afford to look elitist amid an economic downturn, which makes the business of choosing a vacation spot a delicate one. Obama will be splitting the difference, in essence.
• Commentator Ann "Babe" Hugget of San Francisco saw redeeming value in the political vacation season. She wrote, "Mark Twain's cynical comment that, 'No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session,' is even truer today than when he first uttered those words in 1866. Time to hit the beach and frolic in the waves just like our President and Representatives! Oh, wait, we can't. We're too busy clinging to our jobs to take time off for fun, working two jobs to pay for the ever-increasing cost of living or too broke from being unemployed to go anywhere for vacation this year. Bummer."
• With few vacation details left to uncover, the press has adopted a story line of an Island inhabited by happy, clam-raking yeomen simmering in racial, multi-cultural harmony. This is a "special" place and there is no shortage of folks willing to let others know how special their special connection is.
The Huffington Post served up Susie Middleton, Editor-at-Large of "Fine Cooking" magazine to write about the slow fish movement. "Eat. More. Fish. Easy for me to say, right? I live in Martha's Vineyard, an island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Fish we have. (McDonald's and Wal-Marts, thankfully we do not.) Here on the Rock - the affectionate name we give our 90-square-mile of glacial moraine - most year-rounders own a fishing pole or a clam rake, or are comfortable using their own two hands to pluck glistening mussels from their rocky, seaweedy palaces at mid-tide."
• Under the heading, "Room for Debate, a running commentary on the news," on April 13 the New York Times asked seven people to answer the burning question: Why Democrats love Martha's Vineyard? The group included lawyers and Harvard professors Alan Dershowitz and Charles Ogletree, Jr., and Vineyard Gazette editor Julia Wells of West Tisbury, who led the navel-gazing pack in the word count.
"The island is a place where you can be yourself," Ms. Wells wrote. "People don't lock their doors. Children can walk to their town libraries after school unaccompanied by an adult. It is a place where class lines are blurred, where you will find carpenters, electricians and landscapers bumping elbows at cocktail parties with some of the country's wealthiest and most influential people."
Noting the Island's shift from Republican to Democrat over the years, she wrote, "But I think the president wants to vacation on the Vineyard for another reason, one that has no party affiliation. The island remains extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful. Sunsets at Menemsha are rivaled only by sunrises over Chappaquiddick."
Quite true for a President who will not have to wait in a line of baking traffic for the On Time ferry or battle for a parking spot in Menemsha.
Alan Dershowitz had this to say: "The Vineyard was the perfect vacation spot for Bill Clinton, who regarded himself as America's first black president. So it stands to reason that it will be the perfect spot for Barack Obama who is in fact America's first black president. Why? Because it is one of the few integrated vacation communities in the United States."
Charles Ogletree kept his remarks to three paragraphs.
Martha's Vineyard, he said, is unpretentious and a place where people respect each other. "For the past 15 years," he wrote, "it has been a place for me to fish for striped bass with family and friends and to enjoy a good conversation about Barack Obama and John McCain."
Jill Nelson, author of "Finding Martha's Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island," wrote, "The island is Alice's Restaurant for the mind, body and soul: once you find it, you can get anything you want.
"Martha's Vineyard is big enough to hide out on and small enough to do just about everything you want over a week's vacation. It doesn't hurt that along with the island's physical beauty and diverse communities there's a rainbow coalition of Democrats with money, connections, influence and lots of good will."
Not to be outdone by The New York Times, the Washington Post welcomed an essay from former Gazette reporter Julia Rappaport, who is now assistant arts and lifestyle editor at the Boston Herald.
Under the headline, "Back to My Island, With the Obamas," Ms. Rappaport took issue with the cynics (guilty as charged) and said there is no place she would rather be than Martha's Vineyard in August.
As she geared up to cover the presidential vacation entourage on the Island where she grew up, Ms. Rappaport said, "My home town instilled in me an understanding of community, a love of salt air and an appreciation for slurping up a plate of littlenecks caught just hours before.
"The Vineyard is a magical community - in August and the other months of the year."
Ms. Rappaport described her excitement and the likelihood that the presidential visit would provide a boost to the economy. "Now I am about to report on the first black president for a big-city daily. As far as I know, I will be the only reporter in the press pool who was actually raised on the Vineyard. The heat and crowds will not matter. This trip will be a thrill
"It will also be a moment of hope - not just for me but for the Vineyard as well. Like working-class communities across the country, it has been hit hard by this year's double whammy of foul weather and a sluggish economy."
The economy, what merchants are selling in the way of Obama vacation memorabilia, and what tourists have to say is providing the media with plenty of light lifting.
Under the headline, "Martha's Vineyard Gets Ready For The Obamas," WBZ reporter Ken MacLeod wrote, "Tourists and locals alike seem psyched about the upcoming visit. They're hoping to at least catch a glimpse of President Obama and his family during their visit to the island amid the Secret Service swarm."
He said merchants recovering from a soggy start to summer are hoping "the buzz created by the Obamas' visit will spawn a late summer surge on the island, the same kind of boost they saw when another first family, the Clintons, vacationed on the Vineyard."
Under the story, WBZ also elevated the visit to a proper noun noting that, "Bill Shields will be reporting live from the Vineyard as the Presidential Visit gets underway."