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Vacation Time for the First Family

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 24, 2009

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass., Aug. 23 -- Seven months after taking the oath of office, President Obama on Sunday began his first vacation, traveling to this tony hideaway for celebrities, politicians and other rich and powerful people.

As the president and his family headed to Martha's Vineyard -- after a brief delay while a weakening Hurricane Bill swept past the island -- a surprise visitor ambled through the media cabin on Air Force One: Bo, the first dog.

The pooch made only a brief appearance for the short flight from Andrews Air Force Base to the Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station. Also onboard were the president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family, and Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser and close friend who owns a house on the island. Soetoro-Ng recently accompanied Obama on a trip through the West that included visits to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon.

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton had a message -- almost a plea -- from the president for the media. "He wants you to relax," Burton said. "Have a good time. Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody's looking to make any news."

The family boarded Marine One for the short hop from Cape Cod to the island. By 3:20 p.m., Obama and his crew had arrived at their rental home in Chilmark. Islanders waved and took pictures as the motorcade wound for 10 minutes from the airport to Blue Heron Farm, a 28-acre waterfront estate.

Past presidents have been queasy about time away from the White House, fearing the image of a checked-out president. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs expressed none of that concern last week, saying, "I don't think the American people begrudge a president taking some time with his family that's well earned and well deserved, for a few days to see and spend time with them."

Obama is taking a week off from his day job, far less than some of his predecessors. Former president George H.W. Bush spent weeks at Kennebunkport, Maine. Son George W. Bush did the same at his ranch in Crawford, Tex.

Joining Obama are wife Michelle and daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8. Longtime friend Eric Whitaker is also on the list of vacationers, officials said.

The rumors are here, too: that former first daughter Chelsea Clinton will be getting married and Tiger Woods will be golfing with Obama.

Neither is true, officials said. The Clinton family has vehemently denied a wedding. And a White House spokesman said he does not think the president will be golfing with Woods, who plans to compete in a PGA tournament in New Jersey this week.

The president is expected to spend some time on the links, though. The rest of the vacation will play out at Blue Heron Farm.

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