Obama spokesman sets different expectations for Martha's Vineyard vacation

A look at some of the vacation spots visited by the Obama family.
By Michael D. Shear
Friday, August 20, 2010

Last year, as President Obama embarked on his first Martha's Vineyard vacation, deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton made a classic beginner's mistake.

Obama "wants you to relax and have a good time," Burton told reporters en route to the island off Massachusetts. "Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody is looking to make any news."

Big mistake, one that virtually assured the trip would be consumed by news: first, the president's decision to reappoint Ben S. Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, and then the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

So Burton tried another approach this week.

"This is going to be the hardest that they will ever have worked in their entire lives," he told the press corps Tuesday. "You'll probably be working every day, early till late, maybe really early in the morning till really late at night, and over the weekend as well. And you'll probably never see outside of your bed-and-breakfast where you'll be staying."

One reporter picked up on the strategy: "Reverse psychology."

"I'm just trying to set expectations appropriately," Burton said.

The Obamas arrived on the island Thursday afternoon to start for a 10-day getaway, their last vacation of the summer. They will stay at the same private compound, Blue Heron Farm, as last year.

The symbolism of a presidential vacation on a ritzy, upscale island -- and renting a fancy, expensive house that can shield the family from gawkers -- is not ideal for the administration, given the economic distress that many still feel.

But Obama weathered those criticisms last year, at a time when the economy was on even shakier ground. Asked about the issue again this week, Burton dismissed it as a question that most people won't even consider.

"I don't think there's an American person who doesn't know that the president is working hard to do everything possible to get this economy back on the right track, to move initiatives through Congress that are going to help businesses right away to create jobs and to make our economy even stronger," he said.

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