EDGARTOWN, Mass. >> President Barack Obama opened the first summer vacation of his second term today on Martha’s Vineyard, trading Washington debates over the budget, government surveillance and his health care overhaul for a hoped-for carefree week filled with golf, beach outings and hanging-out time with family and friends.
Obama arrived on the coastal Massachusetts island after addressing the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Orlando, Fla.
As Air Force One flew north, Obama got into a vacation mindset by trading his suit and tie for more suitable attire: khakis and a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves. First lady Michelle Obama, who introduced him at the convention, kept her yellow-and-white sundress but had switched from a pair of beige high heels into flats in the same color.
Daughters Malia and Sasha were reuniting with their parents later on, while family dog Bo caught the flight.
People lined both sides of the two-lane road as Obama’s motorcade sped him away from where the Marine One helicopter landed in Edgartown to the six-bedroom home he is renting in Chilmark. Many people waved and snapped photographs; a few held signs opposing the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast if approved by the Obama administration.
Unlike his past vacations here as president, Obama has upset some residents with this particular visit. That’s because the Secret Service, which guards the president, is banning vehicular traffic from part of a public road near Obama’s rental home. Such a closure is a first for presidential vacations here, and it threatened to inconvenience residents of this island refuge for the wealthy and well-connected.
Although Obama planned no official public appearances during his nine days here, his motorcade will be seen whisking him from golf courses to beaches to restaurants.
Obama is due back in Washington a week from Sunday.
Since a president is never truly on vacation, Obama will receive regular briefings on national security and domestic issues, said White House press secretary Jay Carney. National security adviser Susan Rice and Rob Nabors, a deputy chief of staff, are among the small contingent of White House aides who will be with Obama during the vacation.
Beyond that, Obama will play golf, hit the beach, dine out, relax with his family, visit with friends and read more than just White House briefing books.
"I know he’s looking forward very much to some down time with his family," Carney said Saturday. "I’m sure he’ll see some friends."
Obama vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard before he became president and after, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
But Obama, who is a millionaire thanks to sales of his best-selling books, skipped the island during last year’s presidential campaign, probably to avoid perceptions of elitism at the same time he was casting himself as a champion of the middle class in the heated campaign against Republican Mitt Romney, who is a millionaire many times over.
Public perception, however, is less important when you don’t have to face voters again. Obama doesn’t, and he’s been making that point in speeches lately.
The president and his family will again camp out in 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, the secluded property they rented from 2009-2011, was sold. The new place is closer to public roads, a circumstance that led the Secret Service to decide to ban vehicular traffic nearby.
"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 past 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 brief.
Obama’s new vacation home — 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 donated $2,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Schulte confirmed the rental in an email to the AP. A local real estate agent handled the transaction.
The 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. An open floor plan provides views of the ocean and pond from the living and dining rooms and the kitchen. The home 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. At this same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had made 50 visits to his Texas ranch, covering all or part of 323 days. In addition, Bush also had taken seven trips to his family’s compound in Maine, spending all or part of 26 days there.
The figures do not include visits to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.