Obama pledges quiet time over vacation

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In their quest for a quiet family vacation on the posh resort island of Martha’s Vineyard this week, President Barack Obama and his family have retreated to a 28-acre spread with a stretch of beach so private — it’s sealed off by the Secret Service — that the chances of a paparazzi photo of the president in his swim trunks are all but nil.

Immediately after arriving at a closed airport on Sunday afternoon, though, the Obamas’ “normal family vacation” got off to a not-so-normal start.

Dozens of people lined the roads from the Vineyard Haven airport to the family’s rented compound, waving and taking pictures as the Obamas rode by. Children sat on the tops of vans and convertibles to get a better view, and people hoisted signs welcoming the vacationers with “Aloha Obama Family” and “Hope, Obama!”

Hope is exactly what Obama was keeping alive, though, as he sent his emissaries out with a message for those who would intrude on the weeklong summer vacation.

A sandal-clad spokesman told reporters he had a special message from the president: “He wants you to relax,” deputy press secretary Bill Burton said, and “have a good time. Take some walks on the beaches.”

“Nobody,” he added “is looking to make news.”

Well, maybe nobody on Team Obama is looking to make news.

But tell that to Geraldo Rivera, just one of dozens of journalists planning coverage from the island in the days to come. Television crews alit on the sandy beaches over the weekend. Local motels filled with reporters.

There’s always a chance actual news will break out, of course, no matter where the leader of the free world happens to be encamped. Aides keep describing this as a non-working vacation, with press secretary Robert Gibbs insisting that, if there are any hot meetings with the president this week, they will happen on the golf course.

Even he had to concede Obama might make a few calls to members of the Senate Finance Committee, the hotbed of legislative action on the president’s attempt to overhaul the system of health insurance.

Also, the proximity to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s retreat on Cape Cod has inspired speculation the president plans to visit the ailing Massachusetts senator. (Not in the current plans, says Burton.)

And senior White House officials have not completely ruled out the possibility of a town hall meeting.

The temptation to speak his mind may be too much for the president to resist. Just because he’s taking a week’s break doesn’t mean the health care debate is doing the same thing.

Indeed, the conversation continued at close-to-full volume on Sunday.

Shortly after Obama left from Andrews Air Force Base, a collection of lawmakers across the party spectrum took to the airwaves to critique his health care efforts so far and offer advice moving forward.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., warned Obama should scale back his push to overhaul health care in light of concerns about the economy. In particular, Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Obama should delay his push to cover every American with health insurance.

(c) 2009, Tribune Co. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.