President stays busy, mostly out of sight
A presidential vacation on Martha's Vineyard is not like any other vacation. It is free of airport waits, devoid of traffic delays, and there is never, ever a problem getting a reservation or a tee time. For President Barack Obama, the first few days of his week off included no public events, some golf, a dinner, some lunch with friends and a profile that could not have been lower.
Watchful Islanders caught glimpses as his motorcade passed, or peered through trees and over fences as he swung golf clubs at Mink Meadows or Farm Neck. If they were lucky enough to be nearby when he dined at the Sweet Life Cafe, or went for take-out at Nancy's, they caught a snapshot or shouted an adoring greeting and got a wave or a greeting in return.
The president certainly had a more relaxing time this week than Islanders who, anxious for some contact with the political leader they had so warmly endorsed in November, tried to be in the right places at the right time.
President Obama and family arrived on the Island Sunday, a bit later than they'd planned because of Hurricane Bill passing offshore. For the most part, over the last several days, the Secret Service has kept gawkers and well-wishers at some distance, and even on one occasion sequestered folks and the press, including a pool of reporters assigned each day to gather presidential news.
The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy Tuesday night may interrupt the president's idyll tomorrow. Sources say he may go to Hyannis Port in the afternoon to visit with the Kennedy family.
The presidential vacation activities, as described in the relentless daily press pool narrative, began Sunday.
President Obama and family landed at Air Station Cape Cod in Bourne on Air Force One at 2:40 pm. They made the final leg of the trip to Martha's Vineyard by Marine One helicopter.
On the way to Martha's Vineyard the President had specific instructions for the press. "He wants you to relax," Bill Burton, deputy pres secretary told the press. And he asked the press to "respect the privacy of the girls while they are out here on vacation." Specifically, the White House asked strongly that there be no photographs of Malia and Sasha when unaccompanied by either parent.
President Obama and his entourage arrived at their vacation home at 3:20 pm after a 10-minute motorcade ride from the Martha's Vineyard airport.
Dozens of Islanders lined the road from the airport, waving and snapping pictures as the first family passed by. There were kids and adults sitting on top of vans and convertibles, catching a better view as the slowly moving motorcade rolled along. Several people held signs greeting the visitors, including those that said: "Aloha Obama Family" and "Hope, Obama."
Monday afternoon, the motorcade rolled out of Blue Heron Farm and arrived at Farm Neck Golf club at about 1:10 pm. A cheer went up from the crowd when he stepped out to swing. He waved to the crowd and said, "Thank you," and "Good to see you, man."
Mr. Obama's golf partners included UBS chief executive officer Robert Wolf, friend Eric Whitaker and aide Marvin Nicholson.
After 18 holes of golf, the group departed for Chilmark at 6:04 pm and arrived at the farm at 6:23 pm.
A wakeup call
Tuesday morning, the presidential motorcade left Blue Heron Farm about 8:45 and traveled to the Oak Bluffs School, where the president delivered a prepared statement announcing the reappointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
"Good morning everybody, I apologize for interrupting the relaxing I told you all to do," the president, with Mr. Bernanke next to him, told the press to a chorus of laughter.
Mr. Bernanke left for home and Mr. Obama headed to the nine-hole Mink Meadows Golf Club in Vineyard Haven. Cars along the way were backed up 20 deep as state police stopped traffic for the motorcade.
Mr. Obama's foursome included Marvin Nicholson, one of the president's lead security officers, Michael Ruemmler, a member of the White House advance team, and Sam Kass, who works in the White House kitchen.
The president stopped on his way out to the course to shake hands with golfers on the clubhouse porch. "I hope I didn't mess anyone's day up," he said, according to Ronnie Lytle, a local retiree who had come for an 8:20 am tee time but didn't get to play because so many carts were being reserved for the president's party.
"You did," she said she told him, "but I don't care."
By the time President Obama made the turn on the 9-hole course around 10:30 this morning, crowds started to gather. At the course clubhouse, in front of the ninth green, desperate for a view, the crowd of about 50 onlookers was initially contained to the wraparound porch that fronts the dark-shingled clubhouse.
But after conferring further, Secret Security officers and course managers asked the crowd to move inside the building as the president approached.
The crowd groaned dejectedly as they piled one by one into the small clubhouse. "How are we supposed to see him inside?" one onlooker complained. "He's only our elected official."
Inside the clubhouse, viewers crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, nearly climbing over each other to get a window view as Mr. Obama, dressed casually in a white golf shirt, khaki pants, and a tan hat, approached the final green about 11:45 am.
A chorus of camera shutters echoed through the room as he crouched on the green to line up his putt. He took two quick practice swings, and after a moment's pause, he swung through, coming up short of the hole. Mr. Obama then picked up the ball to close out his round.
There was no official word on the president's final score but he did not get off to a great start, striking a tree near the green on the second hole, one onlooker said.
President Obama recovered nicely, chipping the ball onto the green, said Sally Fitzgerald, who lives near the second hole. He completed the hole with three putts. "But it's a tough green," she said.
On the way out of the club, the president greeted several club employees, exchanging laughs and collecting a club tee-shirt. He smiled to the crowd inside the clubhouse as he made his way to his vehicle, a dark Chevrolet Suburban. The president then returned to Blue Heron Farm for an afternoon rest.
An evening out
Tuesday evening President Obama and his wife, Michelle, visited with Valerie Jarrett, a long-time friend and senior White House adviser, at her Oak Bluffs home.
Black Chevy Suburbans in the presidential motorcade lined the road. Neighbors and onlookers gathered at the top of the street, peering down toward the Jarrett house, but the press was not permitted within viewing distance.
The Obamas left the Jarrett house around 7:10 for dinner at the Sweet Life Café on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
Hundreds of people filled the streets looking for a glimpse of the first couple. They waved to the crowds and quickly ducked into the restaurant, onlookers said.
President Obama closed out his day shortly after 9:30 p.m., waving to cheering crowds after finishing dinner. Hundreds of delighted onlookers bid goodnight to the president and first lady after their dinner with shouts of "We love you," and "Thank you for everything."
Early Wednesday morning a staff member woke President Obama to tell him of the death of Senator Kennedy. That morning he walked out on the lawn of Blue Heron Farm and spoke for about one minute to a group of reporters.
He called the outpouring of sympathy from around the world "a testament to the way this singular figure in American history, touched so many lives."
Later, the First Family spent a few hours at a private beach by Oyster and Watcha ponds on the Island's south shore. The next stop was lunch at Nancy's snack bar on Oak Bluffs Harbor.
It was the most public visit yet. The Obamas put in a large order for fried food, including nine medium orders of fried shrimp, two fried calamari, two cole slaw, one clam strip, and two fried scallops.
The President spoke briefly and shook hands with Joseph Moujabbar, owner of Nancy's, and later with Doug Abdelnour, Jr., manager and nephew of the owner.
He chatted with restaurant customers, shook hands, and posed for a picture with what looked like the entire wait staff of Nancy's. Ms. Obama talked to patrons.
Restaurant patrons mostly left them alone. A crowd of people watched from nearby Lake Avenue, the harbor front, from balconies on the cottages across the street from Nancy's, and from balconies of restaurants and pubs along the waterfront.
The President took two large grocery size bags of food, paid the tab, and went back to the motorcade, stopping for a few moments to shake hands with the crowd.
The motorcade then traveled a short distance to the East Chop home of Valerie Jarrett, where the First Family and friends went inside for lunch.
Later, the girls were spotted at the game room arcade on Circuit Avenue without their parents.
Compiled from pool reports.