OAK BLUFFS, Mass. – Give the guy credit for trying.
President Barack Obama came to this tiny, upscale island of Martha’s Vineyard for a break from his day job, a weeklong respite from the angry town halls and the pessimistic pundits and the Democratic lawmakers who just won’t seem to fall into line. It was supposed to be a vacation.
But alas, the modern presidency hardly grants full escapes. There is, the 44th president is quickly discovering, no way to shrug off the burdens of the economy, the adoring crowds with their digital cameras held high over their heads, or – it sadly turns out – the vagaries of life and death.
“I apologize for interrupting the relaxing I told you all to do,” a tie-less president told reporters on the second full day of his retreat from Washington, as he did that most Washington of things: reappointing the Federal Reserve chairman to another four-year term.
Offering an island paradise as the backdrop for Ben Bernanke’s second anointment was, of course, Obama’s own choice and timing. The death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was not, and the passing of his friend and onetime colleague – which he learned about from an aide at 2 a.m. – has injected a somber tone into what was supposed to be a lighthearted week.
Obama plans to eulogize Kennedy Saturday night in Boston, boarding Marine One for the brief hop over from Martha’s Vineyard to the mainland and then returning back to Blue Heron Farm, his rented getaway, for one more night free from the humid weather – and all the hot air – in Washington.
And yet, despite the interruptions, aides say, Obama has approached relaxing here with the same determined, cram-it-all-in approach that he has brought to legislating. In five days, they say, the first family has managed to have plenty of fun in between the burdens of office.
“Obviously, some things have come up over the course of the week that have probably cut into a lot of the different things he’s done to relax,” spokesman Bill Burton said. “But, you know, we were out there on the basketball court yesterday, and he was talking as much trash as he usually does. And that’s the rumor from the golf course as well. So it sounds like the relaxing is happening at an appropriate pace.”