EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama wrapped up a 10-day vacation Saturday that was blissfully free of the news emergencies that have interrupted some of his past getaways.
Grim economic reports cast an inescapable shadow over the first family’s stay in Martha’s Vineyard, and tough tasks on Iraq and the Middle East await the president in Washington after a stop in New Orleans Sunday on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
But during his time on this lovely island, the president never once had to shed his leisure wear to step in front of the podium and address a national emergency or matter of state. So as the first family hit the beach under picture-perfect skies Saturday for their last day away, they could celebrate an apparent end to what had become something of a vacation jinx.
On Obama’s first extended presidential vacation, last August’s Martha’s Vineyard trip, the somber news of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s death required Obama to leave the island for the senator’s funeral. Also last year on Martha’s Vineyard Obama renominated Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman.
Then there was Hawaii over Christmas and New Year’s. Obama had barely arrived when Christmas Day brought the attempted terror attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, forcing the president to spend the subsequent days conferring with his national security team between golf outings.
These past days on Martha’s Vineyard, by contrast, the only thing that kept Obama off the golf course was a spell of stormy weather. And even that didn’t dampen his enjoyment as he holed up with his family and friends to read and play Scrabble and board games at a rented 30-acre farm with private beach.
Obama got in plenty of golf even if storms kept him off the links for a few days. He played five rounds during his stay, hitting all three island courses. The president dined out three times with first lady Michelle Obama and friends, and took Mrs. Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia to lunch at a wharfside seafood restaurant. There was also ice cream for the girls and a trip to a bookstore.
Their final vacation day took them to a stretch of beach along the island’s south-facing coast. Reporters and photographers were kept well away as — for five hours — the Obamas enjoyed bright skies and warm temperatures.
It wasn’t all down time for the president, of course. He got regular national security briefings and conferred with his economic team. He also spent about 15 minutes discussing the economy with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday before the two golfed together.
And a packed agenda awaited Obama beginning Sunday, when he flew from Martha’s Vineyard to New Orleans to give a speech on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and discuss the Gulf oil spill.
On Tuesday, he marked the end to combat missions in Iraq with a speech to the troops in Fort Bliss, Texas, and an Oval Office address. And Wednesday, Obama plunged into the Middle East peace process, welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington for talks.
So if the president stored up some rest on Martha’s Vineyard, he’s going to need it.
It was Obama’s ninth vacation as president, counting shorter weekend getaways, according to CBS radio reporter Mark Knoller, recognized by the White House as a meticulous presidential statistician.