EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama opened the first summer vacation of his second term Saturday on Martha's Vineyard, trading Washington debates over the budget, government surveillance and his health care overhaul for a hoped-for carefree week filled with golf, beach outings and hanging-out time with family and friends.
Obama arrived on the coastal Massachusetts island after addressing the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Orlando, Fla.
As he flew north on Air Force One, Obama got into a vacation mindset by trading his suit and tie for khakis and a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves. First lady Michelle Obama, who introduced him at the convention, kept her yellow-and-white sundress but switched from high heels to flats.
Daughters Malia and Sasha were reuniting with their parents later on. Family dog Bo traveled with the president.
People lined both sides of the two-lane road Obama's motorcade traveled from Edgartown, where he arrived by helicopter after landing in nearby Cape Cod, Mass., to the six-bedroom home he is renting in Chilmark. Many people waved and snapped photographs; a few held signs opposing the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast if approved by the Obama administration.
Unlike his past vacations here as president, some residents are upset over this visit. The Secret Service, which provides Obama's security, is banning vehicular traffic from part of a public road near Obama's rental home. Such a closure is a first for presidential vacations here.
Although Obama planned no official public appearances during his nine-day stay, his motorcade will be seen whisking him from golf courses to beaches to restaurants. He is due back in Washington a week from Sunday.
Since a president is never truly on vacation, Obama will receive regular briefings on national security and domestic issues, said White House press secretary Jay Carney. National security adviser Susan Rice and Rob Nabors, a deputy chief of staff, are among the White House aides on vacation duty.
Beyond that, Obama will play golf, hit the beach, dine out, relax with his family, visit with friends and read more than just White House briefing books.
"I know he's looking forward very much to some down time with his family," Carney said Saturday. "I'm sure he'll see some friends."
Obama vacationed on Martha's Vineyard before he became president and after, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
But Obama, who is a millionaire thanks to sales of his best-selling books, skipped the island during last year's presidential campaign, probably to avoid perceptions of elitism as he was casting himself as a champion of the middle class in the heated campaign against Republican Mitt Romney, who is a millionaire many times over. Public perception, however, is less important for politicians like Obama who won't face voters again.
The Obamas are again staying in Chilmark, an area on the island's western tip that is dotted with expansive, multimillion-dollar homes. Actors Ted Danson and his wife, Mary Steenburgen, singer Carly Simon and Washington power broker Vernon Jordan are among its famous residents.
The president and his family were forced into new vacation digs after the 28-acre Blue Heron Farm, the secluded Chilmark property they rented from 2009-2011, was sold. The new place is closer to public roads, which led the Secret Service to ban vehicular traffic nearby.
"My response to this is we've had the president come to our town three times and it's been very cordial and there's been very little disruption and we love to have him," said Chilmark Selectman Warren Doty, according to a report on the website of the Vineyard Gazette. "This would change that approach ... and be very disruptive."
The town also emailed residents, saying "anyone aggrieved by this closing should email or call the White House."
Doty did not return a telephone message left at his office by The Associated Press.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the agency works closely with state and local law enforcement agencies to have as little impact as possible on traffic and to keep necessary street closures brief.
Obama's new vacation home – the main house has four bedrooms and a guesthouse has two more – is owned by David Schulte, a Chicago-based corporate restructuring specialist and friend of the president. Schulte donated $2,000 to Obama's re-election campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Schulte confirmed the rental in an email to the AP. A local real estate agent handled the transaction.
The 5,000-square-foot, contemporary-style home sits on 9 1/2 acres overlooking Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Vineyard Gazette. The private master suite has a den, porch, outdoor shower, his and her bathrooms and access to a gym. An open floor plan provides views of the ocean and pond from the living and dining rooms and the kitchen. The home also has a small basketball court, the newspaper reported.
During Saturday's trip, two MV-22 Ospreys were used for the first time in support of a presidential flight aboard Marine One. They carried White House staff, media and Secret Service. The tilt-rotor aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but has wings for level flight, is replacing the Vietnam-era CH-46 helicopters used during presidential trips.
Vineyard Gazette: http://www.mvgazette.com
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