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Obama appears to be serious about having fun on vacation

On Martha's Vineyard, it's golf today with the first lady and friends. Tomorrow, more golf. A pile of books to read. In between, the Fed chief is renominated. Then it's back to relaxing.

August 26, 2009|Christi Parsons

OAK BLUFFS, MASS. — It's just your average vacation schedule -- a little reading, a little tennis and golf, a little briefing from the National Security Council.

Even though he has advisors in tow at the island resort of Martha's Vineyard this week, President Obama insists he is planning on more relaxation than work. And his schedule so far suggests he is serious about holing up with his family.

On Monday, for instance, the president worked out, played tennis with the first lady and hit the links with friends. On Tuesday he golfed again, at the Mink Meadows Golf Club -- after taking a brief break to announce the renomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

Obama brought along five books, possibly hoping to do a little reading in a hammock on the 28-acre Blue Heron Farm, where he's staying.

They include David McCullough's "John Adams" and Thomas Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded" -- more than a lot of people read in a month when they aren't also trying to redesign American healthcare.

Still, it seems like a light schedule for the president, which helps to fuel excitement around the island about the possibility of first-family sightings.

Sporting khakis and a white polo shirt Tuesday, Obama stopped on his way to the links to shake hands with golfers on the clubhouse porch.

"I hope I didn't mess anyone's day up," he said, according to Ronnie Lytle, a local retiree who had arrived for an 8:20 a.m. tee time but didn't get to play because so many carts were reserved for the president's party.

"You did," Lytle told the president, "but I don't care."

The first foursome played nine holes. According to a resident who saw Obama play from the second fairway to the second hole, the president yelled, "Fore!" shortly before his ball hit a tree.

Still, the ball landed not far from the green, said Sally Fitzgerald, who lives next to the hole. Obama hit it up with "a pretty good chip," and then, by her count, took three putts to sink it.

"But that's a tough green," Fitzgerald said. "It's a par four."

White House staffers came to the island hoping for a light week too. But so far, they've spent at least part of their time knocking down reports about all the things Obama might have on his calendar.

Golf with Tiger Woods? Tiger is "fun to play with," said one aide, but that's not in the works.

A big dinner with political supporters? Or perhaps a society wedding? Also not in the cards.

How about a trip to visit ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in nearby Hyannis Port? Locals say a presidential security team was there looking things over recently.

"I think that if Secret Service agents were there," said Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, "they probably heard . . . they have great lobster rolls out there, and they were probably just checking them out."

Forgive local residents if they're expecting a little more action.

After all, they used to host then-President Clinton, who was known for popping up around town and shaking hands on his way to dinner or after an ice cream cone on Circuit Avenue. Clinton rekindled the memories by showing up for a golf outing there the other day.

Still, "most islanders want [Obama] to be able to just relax and enjoy himself," said Elaine Allen, manager of the Laughing Bear boutique, a ladies dress shop in Oak Bluffs. "I think he really needs some downtime. When we take that downtime and center ourselves, we have more energy to put into our work."

The Obamas have no shortage of invitations here.

About every other shop in town boasts a sign welcoming their patronage. Laughing Bear's window display features a suggested island wardrobe for Michelle Obama. Notes pinned to two of the outfits say, "Do not sell, save for Michelle."

Elsewhere, posters and T-shirts feature a special presidential seal emblazoned with "Martha's Vineyard," or declare the creation of a "Summer White House" on the island.

A line of T-shirts is devoted to the Obamas' Portuguese water dog, Bo -- or "Bobama," as one shirt calls him.

The White House took a pass on a welcoming ceremony when the president arrived Sunday, which aides attributed to the threatening weather in the wake of Hurricane Bill. Obama may be out and about later in the week, but he's on a "loose" vacation schedule.

Burton made it sound as though the president would lie low most of the week.

"His desire in Martha's Vineyard is to get a little break," Burton said. "He certainly appreciates the hospitality of the folks who are here. But his desire here is to relax and spend time with the family."

--

cparsons@latimes.com

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