WASHINGTON — The first summer vacation of President Barack Obama’s second term is taking him back to Martha’s Vineyard, resuming his White House tradition of an August break on the well-heeled Massachusetts island he avoided during last year’s re-election campaign.
But his return is causing a bit of an uproar among residents because the Secret Service plans to close part of a public road near the six-bedroom home Obama is renting in Chilmark, a move that would be a first for presidential vacations on the island known as a refuge for the wealthy and the well-connected.
Obama is scheduled to arrive today for a nine-day stay after a stop in Orlando, Fla., to address the Disabled American Veterans national convention. He plans no official public appearances while on vacation and is due back in Washington on Aug. 18.
Since a president is never truly on vacation — just the scenery around him changes — Obama will be briefed regularly on the full range of issues, including the al-Qaida terror threat that led the government to shutter nearly two dozen embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa, said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
Beyond that, Obama will play golf, hit the beach, dine out, relax with his family and read something other than a White House briefing book. He engaged in all those activities and more during his earlier presidential vacations on the island.
“The president very much looks forward to being able to spend a few days with his family,” Carney said. “It also remains the case that wherever he is, he’s president of the United States and will be dedicating a portion of his day to being briefed and working on all the issues that are on the table in front of him.”
Obama vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and before he became president. But Obama, who is a millionaire thanks to sales of his best-selling books, skipped the island during last year’s presidential campaign, most likely to avoid perceptions of elitism at the same time he was casting himself as a champion of the middle class in the heated contest against Republican Mitt Romney, who is a millionaire many times over.
But public perception is less important when you don’t ever have to face voters again. Obama doesn’t, and it’s a point he’s been making lately in speeches.
After arriving today at the Coast Guard station on Cape Cod, Mass., Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who also is addressing injured veterans in Florida, will transfer to a helicopter for the short hop to the island.
The president, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha will again camp out in tony Chilmark, an area on the island’s western tip that is dotted with expansive, multimillion-dollar homes. Its famous residents include actors Ted Danson and his wife, Mary Steenburgen, and Michael J. Fox, singer Carly Simon and Washington power broker Vernon Jordan.
The Obamas were forced into new vacation digs after the 28-acre Blue Heron Farm, where they spent previous vacations, was sold, and because the new place is closer to public roads, some residents are upset over Secret Service plans to ban vehicular traffic along a portion of a road that runs near the property.
“My response to this is we’ve had the president come to our town three times and it’s been very cordial and there’s been very little disruption and we love to have him,” said Chilmark Selectman Warren Doty, according to a report on the website of the Vineyard Gazette. “This would change that approach ... and be very disruptive.”
The town also emailed residents this week, saying “anyone aggrieved by this closing should email or call the White House.”
Doty did not return a telephone message left at his office by The Associated Press.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the agency works closely with state and local law enforcement agencies to have as little impact as possible on traffic and to keep any necessary street closures as brief as possible.
Obama’s new vacation place — the main house has four bedrooms and a guesthouse has two more — is owned by David Schulte, a Chicago-based corporate restructuring specialist and friend of the president. Schulte confirmed the rental in an email to the AP. A local real estate agent handled the transaction.
Schulte donated $2,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
His 5,000-square-foot, contemporary-style home sits on 9 1/2 acres overlooking Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Vineyard Gazette. The private master suite has a den, porch, outdoor shower, his and her bathrooms and access to a gym. The house has an open floor plan with views of the ocean and the pond from the living and dining rooms and the kitchen. It also has a small basketball court, the newspaper reported.
Since becoming president in 2009, Obama has taken 14 vacation trips spanning all or part of 92 days, according to CBS News White House reporter Mark Knoller, who tracks presidential travel. The figures do not include visits to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.