Obama Vacation Beat: Monday, August 11

Iraq caps a day at the beach

President Obama in Chilmark, plus pool shots. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Late this afternoon, President Obama, dressed in a navy blazer, dark grey pants and a blue collared shirt with no tie, issued a brief statement on Iraq. Standing in a small clearing, flanked by trees and sweeping water views on the other side, Mr. Obama said he called new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to offer his support and congratulations, according to press pool reports.

Mr. Obama reiterated that there is no American military solution to the problem and that Iraq must form an inclusive government. Today’s developments are a “promising step forward” in what he called a “critical effort.”

​President Obama said over the past few days American forces have successfully completed targeted airstrikes to “prevent terrorist forces from advancing on the city of Irbil.” Mr. Obama said humanitarian efforts have continued to members of a minority sect trapped on a mountain and that a USAID disaster response team is now involved in the mission.

Mr. Obama said aircraft remain “positioned to strike terrorist forces” around the mountain that threaten the safety of the people on it.

Mr. Obama said the new leadership has a “difficult task” and must regain the trust of its people. He said the United States “stands ready to support” a government that addresses the needs of all Iraqi people.

Mr. Obama said these have been “difficult days” in Iraq and that the U.S. will remain vigilant to the threat posed by ISIS.

At 5:30 pm, President Obama left his vacation house to attend a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee event hosted by Berklee College of Music President Roger Brown and his wife, Linda Mason, in Tisbury. The DSCC said tickets to the fundraiser ranged from $15,000 to $32,400.

Mr. Brown and Ms. Mason founded Bright Horizons, a child-care provider. Ms. Mason is also a chairman of MercyCorps.

President Obama walked under a white tent to a singer belting out “Signed, Sealed Delivered.” Guests including Sen. Ed Markey and Sen. Michael Bennett sat around round tables with green tablecloths and centerpieces of yellow and white flowers.

Mr. Obama told the assembled guests that with the help of a strong Democratic Senate, “We were able to right the ship.”
He said, “When I first came into office, we were then losing 800,000 jobs a month. We now are seeing the lowest unemployment claim since 2006 — the largest drop this past year in unemployment in 30 years. We’ve seen the deficit cut by more than half. We’ve seen the stock market rise so that people fully recovered their 401(k)s. We’ve seen corporate profits booming. Our energy production at unprecedented levels. Solar production 10 times what it was when I came into office; wind power three times what it was when I came into office. We’ve reduced our carbon by more than any nation on Earth. The housing market has recovered. And it’s worth noting that we also have several million people who didn’t have health care before that now have affordable care that they can count on,” according to a White House transcript of his remarks.

Mr. Obama said we are seeing around the world incredible challenges, “many of them all coming to a head at the same time.”
But he added, “I do want to point out, though, at a time when the news seems filled with news of Ukraine and Gaza and Ebola and you name it, that in every instance people are constantly interested in finding out how can America help solve these problems. And there’s a reason for that. Because despite the complaints and the second-guessing, and the anti-American sentiment that you hear sometimes on television around the globe, when there’s an actual problem they all recognize we’re the one indispensable nation. They all recognize that our leadership is absolutely critical. And that’s true both for challenges and opportunities.”

Delving into the homefront he said, “And I think it’s fair to say that the one area where we haven’t seen as much improvement as I would have liked is getting a Congress that is focused not on the next election, but on the next generation; that is serious about how do we grow an economy so that middle-class folks and folks who want to get into the middle class have opportunity.”

“What’s preventing us from getting things done right now is you’ve got a faction within the Republican Party that thinks solely in terms of their own ideological purposes and solely in terms of how do they hang on to power. And that’s a problem. And that’s why I need a Democratic Senate. Not to mention the fact that we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments, and there are going to be a whole host of issues that many people here care about that are going to be determined by whether or not Democrats retain the Senate.”

Mr. Obama urged democrats to get excited about the midterms elections. “We get real excited about presidential elections. We lose sight of the importance of elections in the midterm,” he said.

Mr. Obama returned to his Chilmark house early in the evening.

Earlier, on a perfect summer beach day, after another late start, President Obama decided to go to the beach.

The press pool reported that the motorcade departed the Chilmark vacation house off North Road at 12:40 pm bound for Edgartown. The uneventful 21-minute ride took the motorcade past verdant fields, clapboard houses and one animated woman who threw the motorcade the Shaka sign, a Hawaiian hand signal – the ultimate symbol of aloha and local culture in Hawaii and interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” according to a website that specializes in Hawaiian culture.

The motorcade turned down Pohoganut Road in Edgartown at about 1:02 p.m. for the beach, leaving the press pool in its dust and parked by a state forest fire lane on Edgartown-West Tisbury road.

Pohoganut Road leads to a series of roads that provide access to private beaches that stretch between Edgartown Great Pond and Oyster Pond. Property owners include the Flynn family, for generations the largest landowners of Pohogonot Farm and surrounding property at Jobs Neck and Edgartown Great Pond, Andrew and Pamela Kohlberg, children of Jerome Kohlberg, owner of the Vineyard Gazette, Robert Levine, and Richard L. Friedman, the real estate investor and former host of President Bill Clinton when he vacationed on the Vineyard.

President Obama left the beach at 3:30 pm. The pool reported it was unclear if the rest of the family stayed behind to enjoy the beach a bit longer.

This morning, the White House reported, the President spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine. President Obama expressed his strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a press statement. The two leaders agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine without the formal, express consent and authorization of the Ukraine government would be unacceptable and a violation of international law. President Poroshenko also noted the continued shelling of Ukraine’s territory from Russia. President Poroshenko updated the President on his engagement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the effort to deliver multilateral humanitarian aid to the distressed populations in eastern Ukraine. The President noted the urgency of such humanitarian efforts and encouraged President Poroshenko to continue to exercise restraint and caution in military operations in order to avoid civilian casualties. In light of the ongoing violence and instability, the President and President Poroshenko agreed that all parties should prioritize diplomatic efforts toward finding a political resolution to the crisis.

The President also spoke this morning with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi about the latest developments in Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine, as well as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the White House reported. On Iraq, the two leaders agreed on the need to ensure humanitarian assistance is reaching vulnerable Iraqis, continue to seek the safety of the civilians on Mount Sinjar, and work together to develop options that will secure the safety of the civilians on Mount Sinjar. Renzi expressed his support for the United States’ efforts in Iraq. Both leaders noted the urgency of efforts to counter the threat ISIL poses against all Iraqis and discussed the latest developments in Iraq’s political transition.