The president’s motorcade makes its way through Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.,  in this image taken through the window of a media van in the motorcade Saturday.  (Associated Press)
The president’s motorcade makes its way through Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., in this image taken through the window of a media van in the motorcade Saturday. (Associated Press)

President brings office on vacation

VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. – President Barack Obama had a simple task for his first morning on vacation: Shoot over to a Martha’s Vineyard bookstore to fill out his daughters’ summer reading list and grab himself a novel.

Easier said than done.

His SUV, part of a 20-vehicle motorcade, passed through a cordon of Massachusetts State Police motorcycle officers in a protective cocoon of Secret Service agents. Tagging along for the quick trip Friday were White House communications trucks, an ambulance and two vans full of reporters and photographers.

This may be down time for Obama, but like all modern presidents, he must move about with a not insignificant entourage. It includes security officers and their array of arms, as well as advisers, friends in and out of politics, and a cook who doubles as a golfing buddy.

“They all have it and they all hate it,” said Ron Kaufman, political director for former President George H.W. Bush. “Every president that I know has been accused of taking off too much time and ignoring the responsibilities of their job. But the truth is, they never get away from it.”

Obama aides said before the Massachusetts trip that the president would travel light, with a skeleton staff. Accompanying him on Air Force One were senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who has her own house on this island getaway, and his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.

When they landed on Cape Cod, Obama transferred to Marine One, the presidential helicopter, while his staff and reporters raced to a pair of Marine Corps CH-53 helicopters. Other Blackhawk helicopters, painted identical to Marine One, flew with Obama’s as decoy aircraft. A State Police chopper swept over the route to Martha’s Vineyard Airport before the president passed overhead.

Brennan, who said he wanted to give the president his space while on vacation, briefed Obama on national security issues during the first day on the trip. Brennan also said he would rely on the phone and presidential BlackBerry to provide other updates not requiring a visit to Blue Heron Farm, the 30-acre property the Obama family was using for the second consecutive year.

“Communication systems are very robust. We can move information at the speed of light,” Brennan said. “If there were to be some type of event that would require immediate engagement with the president, I am certain I can do it as quickly as I could do back in Washington.”

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton was among the traveling party. In a nod to the more casual tone, he brought along his wife, but Burton traded his island wear for a business suit as he delivered the first of what he expected to be several media briefings.

He took care to also say the president was getting updates on economic issues.


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