He may be leader of the free world, but President Barack Obama isn’t exempt from a summer rainstorm like the one that blew across New England on Monday, swamping his Martha’s Vineyard vacation.
Gone was any thought of more presidential golf. But he did dine out for the first time since arriving here last week, and he got in a basketball game — indoors and in private.
On the fifth day of a planned 10-day holiday here, Obama was once again mostly out of the public eye.
Criticized for summering on an upscale resort island at a time when so many Americans are out of work, he’s practically been in hiding since arriving, though the White House denied any connection.
The storm moved in Sunday, raking the island off Cape Cod with heavy rain and wind gusts. It churned up whitecaps offshore and sent waves crashing against jetties at Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Mariners struggled to tie down sails on boats anchored in the chop.
With the weather so gloomy, Obama spent much of Monday at Blue Heron Farm, the multimillion-dollar compound he’s rented for the second straight summer.
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton reported that activities there have included reading, watching movies and playing poker with Obama’s Chicago pal Eric Whitaker — who’s staying at the compound with his wife, along with senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and her daughter.
Indeed, the shut-ins didn’t lack for entertainment options. The farm has its own stretch of beach, a basketball court, a swimming pool and a workout room. However, the basketball is half-court and outdoors, which explains why the president drove to the Oak Bluffs School to play with staff and friends, including Whitaker and banker Robert Wolf of UBS.
Burton said Michelle Obama and daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, had been able to get out a bit despite the weather, but he didn’t provide details.
Late Monday, as the rain abated, Obama and the first lady drove to dinner at The Sweet Life in Oak Bluffs. They were joined by the Whitakers and Jarrett. The restaurant, where the Obamas also dined last summer, features French-American cuisine and lots of local seafood and produce. A small crowd formed outside but was kept well away from the entrance.
About two hours later the Obamas emerged onto the street. Before returning to the farm, the president waved to the crowd of a few dozen who had braved the rain to cheer the Obamas.
Since his arrival Thursday, the only other times the president has left the farm was for golf — twice; to visit a Vineyard Haven bookstore with his daughters; and to go for a picnic with the whole family on a private beach.
The Obamas are scheduled to leave Sunday. That morning, the president will fly to New Orleans to mark the fifth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Though there’s still plenty of time for a date night or other activities, Obama has avoided being conspicuous on Martha’s Vineyard. That might be politically prudent, not just because of the island’s reputation as an elite playground but because of the flak the first lady took for her recent vacation trip to Spain to dine with the king and queen.
Aides insist the Obamas have not downsized their Vineyard vacation — that’s just their island style. “Martha’s Vineyard is a pretty low-key place,” said Burton. “This vacation’s exactly like last year’s, only rainier.”
Associated Press reporters Erica Werner and Glen Johnson contributed to this report from Vineyard Haven, Mass.
Source: The Associated Press.