Obama Beat: White House confirms vacation


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.

The news is out. On Friday, July 23, the White House confirmed that on August 19, the Obama family will travel to Martha’s Vineyard. “After a busy and productive July, they are looking forward to returning to Martha’s Vineyard to spend time together as a family before heading back to Washington on August 29,” the White House press office said.

Vacation pundits assume that the Obamas will once again stay at the Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, a luxury estate owned by William and Mollie Van Devender of Mississippi.

Two themes run through this year’s news coverage of the president’s vacation plans: the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and how much time former presidents, most notably George W. Bush, spent on vacation.

Under the headline, “First Family to Visit Gulf Coast,” on July 22, Helene Cooper of the New York Times wrote, “Before beginning their long planned summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, America’s first family will head to Florida’s oil stricken Gulf Coast.”

Ms. Cooper reported, “No details yet on where exactly they’re going, but the trip was pretty much a foregone conclusion after Mr. Obama last month called on Americans to visit Gulf resorts to help out the struggling tourist industry there.”

That report, the first published confirmation, elicited an online comment from a Gorgegirl of White Salmon, WA, who said that after watching George W. Bush take an average of 122 days vacation per year, the amount of time President Obama takes with his family seems rather small.

Georgegirl provided a tally: George W. Bush took 149 trips to Camp David during which he spent all or part of 487 days. He took 177 trips to Crawford, Texas, spending 490 days there, and then there are the 43 days he spent at the Bush Compound at Kennebunkport, Maine.

On July 23, the Washington Post ran an AP story on the Vineyard vacation confirmation. Lest readers think the president had too much fun, the story noted, “Last year’s Vineyard getaway wasn’t all rest and relaxation for the president. During that stay, Obama nominated Ben Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman. He also went to Boston to eulogize his friend and former colleague, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.”

The Boston Globe was a bit late out of the gate. It did not post a story until Saturday, July 24.

“The White House yesterday confirmed what many islanders have been anticipating for weeks: The first family will return to Martha’s Vineyard for their vacation next month,” the Globe reported.

The Globe noted, “The Obamas spent their summer vacation last year at the Blue Heron Farm, in the sleepy enclave of Chilmark.”

Although Chilmark is one of the Island’s six towns, the Globe definition might fit the worldview some Chilmarkers hold of their community. An enclave is defined as a “region surrounded by foreign territory,” and a “distinct group in a larger community.”

Online posts to the Globe provided an outside view of the Vineyard. A commenter identified as Cass devine wrote, “Posh Martha Vineyard — the elitist vacation spot fit for a king! …”

A commenter identified as Consultant wrote, “The Clintons also couldn’t get enough of MVY — which in the summer, is simply a borough of NYC. The wait staff on the island refers to them as ‘212s.'”

“The Scoop from Washington” columnist Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times, the Obamas’ hometown newspaper, reported on Monday that the Obama family would vacation on the Vineyard.

That report generated two dueling comments that highlighted the depth of the political divide.

Commenter William Rhodes wrote: “The jobless and homeless will really be happy that their president and family are enjoying another hard earned vacation! How stupid must the people who elected him and those who didn’t vote must rightly feel!”

Commenter rh wrote: “Why don’t you look up George Bush Jr.’s record for presidents going on vacation? Plus, him going to the Gulf Coast for vacation will help boost tourism there, or don’t you think that is important? I feel stupid for sharing a country with you.”

The lead headline in the Tuesday Vineyard Gazette announced, “President Obama Returns To the Vineyard in August For First Family Vacation.”

The story offered a litmus test for Islanders who consider themselves insiders.

“The White House confirmed on Friday what Islanders in the know have been whispering for weeks now: a year after their much-hyped and ultimately anticlimactic first presidential visit, the Obamas will return to the Vineyard on August 19 for a 10-day vacation.”

Providing more Island insights, the reporter opined, “Vineyarders have gained a reputation over the years for their respectful and discreet treatment of visiting public figures (with the notable exception of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara who was nearly tossed off of the Islander ferry by a furious passenger in 1972), and the Obamas have warmed to the Vineyard’s easy charms over the years during visits to close friends and seasonal residents, including presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett and Harvard professor and notable non-burglar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who both rent homes in Oak Bluffs.”