WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is fleeing the heat and headaches of the capital in search of summer’s greatest delight: some time to unwind and kiss the office goodbye. Even if it is the Oval Office.
With wife Michelle, daughters Sasha and Malia and pet dog Bo in tow, Obama is hoping for a pleasantly uneventful 10 days as he heads to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on Thursday.
“Just like a lot of American people, the president is taking a little time with his family to recharge his batteries,” deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters.
The long-awaited vacation comes after a hectic three-day fundraising and speechmaking sprint across the country and with new poll numbers showing Americans none too pleased with Obama’s handling of the economy as crucial midterm elections approach.
Then there’s the broiling controversy over a planned mosque near ground zero, which Obama elevated last week by saying the mosque should be allowed, a position a number of fellow Democrats are avoiding.
Continued high unemployment might seem to argue against an extended vacation at an exclusive island out of reach for most Americans. First lady Michelle Obama took flak over her recent jaunt to Spain. But Burton said voters wouldn’t begrudge their president some down time.
“I don’t think there’s an American person who doesn’t know that the president is working hard to do everything possible to get this economy back on the right track,” Burton said.
Burton also noted that any time a president goes on vacation, the word “vacation” has to be in quotes, because the responsibilities of the office don’t take time off. A battery of aides is accompanying the president to Martha’s Vineyard, where he’ll continue to receive his daily intelligence and other briefings.
Then there’s the unexpected. Last summer while on Martha’s Vineyard, Obama nominated Ben Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman to quiet speculation about the appointment. He also went to Boston to eulogize his friend and former colleague, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
Obama is the third sitting president to spend time on Martha’s Vineyard. Bill Clinton vacationed there often, and long before that, so did Ulysses S. Grant.