Rain drenches Obama's holiday
Chilmark – He may be leader of the free world, but President Barack Obama isn't exempt from a summer rainstorm like the one that blew across New England on Monday, swamping his Martha's Vineyard vacation.
Gone was any thought of more presidential golf. Instead, his only outing was to a local school gym to play basketball – indoors, and in private.
On the fifth day of a planned 10-day holiday here, Obama was once again mostly out of the public eye.
Criticised for summering on an upscale resort island at a time when so many Americans are out of work, he's practically been in hiding since arriving.
The storm moved in on Sunday, raking the island off Cape Cod with heavy rain and wind gusts. It churned up whitecaps offshore and sent waves crashing against jetties at Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Mariners struggled to tie down sails on boats anchored in the chop.
With the weather so gloomy, Obama spent much of Monday at Blue Heron Farm, the multimillion-dollar compound he's rented for the second straight summer.
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton reported that activities there have included reading, watching movies and playing poker with Obama's Chicago pal Eric Whitaker – who's staying at the compound with his wife, along with senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and her daughter.
Indeed, the shut-ins didn't lack for entertainment options. The farm has its own stretch of beach, a basketball court, a swimming pool and a workout room. However, the basketball is half-court and outdoors, which explains why the president drove to the Oak Bluffs School to play.
Picnic with the family
Burton said Michelle Obama and daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, had been able to get out a bit despite the weather, but he didn't provide details.
Since his arrival on Thursday, the only other times the president has left the farm was for golf – twice; to visit a Vineyard Haven bookstore with his daughters; and to go for a picnic with the whole family on a private beach.
The Obamas are scheduled to leave on Sunday. That morning, the president will fly to New Orleans to mark the fifth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Though there's still plenty of time for a date night or other activities, Obama seems determined to avoid being conspicuous on Martha's Vineyard. That might be politically prudent, not just because of the island's reputation as an elite playground but because of the flak the first lady took for her recent vacation trip to Spain to dine with the king and queen.
Not downsized vacation
Aides insist the Obamas have not downsized their Vineyard vacation – that's just their island style. "Martha's Vineyard is a pretty low-key place," said Burton.
Still, it's a big change from when President Bill Clinton visited here, dining out often and making the rounds at the homes of the island's political and literary set – from author William Styron to actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. Clinton once threw a party for friends and reporters where he accompanied singer Carly Simon on saxophone.
At least some residents grouse that Obama should be out visiting more shops and boosting the local economy, especially since his motorcades have snarled traffic.
"I think it's really bothersome to a lot of people," said Wendy Maseda, 40, Oak Bluffs. She said the difference with Clinton is "huge... Clinton really helped businesses here."