President Barack Obama began his 10-day vacation on a studious note Friday, stopping at a local bookstore for his first public appearance on Martha’s Vineyard.
With daughters Sasha and Malia in tow, Obama stepped into the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on Main Street in Vineyard Haven the morning after arriving on the quaint island. Crowds mobbed the landmark shop, cheering and snapping pictures.
“I said, ‘Have a nice vacation, Mr. President,’ and he said, ‘You, too. We’re hoping to,'” said Ed Murphy of Simsbury, Ct., who happened to be in the store with his three children. One, 14-year-old Brendan, had bought a copy of Obama’s memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” which the president autographed in a ballpoint pen.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing; you don’t usually see a president in the bookstore,” said 12-year-old Ciara Murphy.
After a short time inside, Obama left the store holding a brown paper bag. He appeared to have been stocking up on summer reading. Among the president’s purchases, according to bookstore cashier Leroy Hazelton, were “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Red Pony” by John Steinbeck.
Hazelton said his impression of the president and his daughters was that they were “normal all the way.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” said Hazelton, 65. “Just a happy father bringing the daughters in.”
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton has declined to reveal the president’s vacation reading list in recent days but planned an afternoon news conference after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the administration has invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Washington next month to resume peace talks.
The vacation comes after a series of positive developments for the administration, including plugging the Gulf oil spill, withdrawing the last combat troops from Iraq and seeing Congress head out of Washington on its own recess.
Still, doubts remain about the strength of the U.S. economy, and Obama tried to tamp them down before leaving for vacation. He called on lawmakers to pass a small business aid package when they return next month.
“A majority of senators are in favor of the bill and yet the obstruction continues,” he said before departing the White House on Thursday. “It’s obstruction that stands in the way of small business owners getting the loans and the tax cuts that they need to prosper. It’s obstruction that defies common sense.”
With that final jab at Republicans, he traded his suit coat and tie for an open collar, flew up to this island playground and settled into the 30-acre Blue Heron Farm, where the first family stayed last year.
First lady Michelle Obama traveled separately with Sasha and Malia, after picking up 12-year-old Malia following two weeks at a summer camp. Family dog Bo also made the trip.
The White House said it was hoping for a news-free vacation, and the president stayed in his first evening on the island, but shortly after the president arrived, he announced a series of recess appointments. He filled four diplomatic and agency jobs under a temporary authority he gains while Congress is on recess, and he blamed Republicans for forcing him to bypass the normal confirmation process.
“At a time when our nation faces so many pressing challenges, I urge members of the Senate to stop playing politics with our highly qualified nominees and fulfill their responsibilities of advice and consent,” the president said in a statement. “Until they do, I reserve the right to act within my authority to do what is best for the American people.”
Martha’s Vineyard has previously played host not only to Obama, but also two other presidents, Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant. It has been a traditional gathering point for affluent African-Americans, and Obama visited even before he was elected the country’s first black president in 2008.
Source: The Associated Press.