Obamas trading White House for Martha’s Vineyard

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CHILMARK, Mass. (AP)—The first family settled in Sunday for their vacation on Martha’s Vineyard not long after Hurricane Bill scampered away, leaving behind big waves and heavy rip currents for the Obamas.

A tropical storm warning was lifted just hours before President Barack Obama began his first vacation since taking office. The hurricane forced him to delay his departure from Andrews Air Force Base by a few hours.

During the flight from Washington to Cape Cod, White House spokesman Bill Burton conveyed a message from Obama, who boarded Air Force One in khakis and without jacket or tie, to the reporters traveling with him.

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TAKING A BREAK—President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Malia, right, and Sasha, walk to board Air Force One heading for a week of vacation in Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod, Mass., at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. They are accompanied by base commander, Air Force Col. Steven Shepro.

“He wants you to relax and have a good time. Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody’s looking to make any news,” Burton told reporters.

The Obamas then flew by helicopter from the Coast Guard station at Otis Air Base to Martha’s Vineyard, and took a motorcade from the airport to their vacation home. Along the route, several people held signs, including ones that said, “Aloha Obama Family” and “Hope, Obama.”

Some Obama friends, including White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and Chicago physician Eric Whitaker, joined the family, as did Obama’s sister, Maya, and her husband. The president has no official events scheduled in the week ahead.

“You can bet there’s going to be some golf playing. Maybe a little bit swimming,” Burton said.

There are the likely trips for ice cream and salt water taffy, possibly a bike ride and plenty of quiet time at a secluded 28-acre private estate that rents for $35,000 a week. The Obamas are paying for their share of the vacation home; taxpayers are picking up the tab for security and White House staff, which is customary for all presidents.

Ahead of the trip, Obama and his aides asked for privacy for his daughters, 8-year-old Sasha and 11-year-old Malia.

The White House said there are no plans for Obama to visit ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy at his vacation home in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod. A visit with Kennedy, who has brain cancer, could provide a rallying point for Democrats as Obama seeks to achieve one of Kennedy’s career goals: overhauling the nation’s health insurance system to provide near-universal coverage.

Vendors on Martha’s Vineyard are selling T-shirts with the first family’s pictures and even promoting Bo. The first dog flew with the Obamas on Air Force One and wandered through the press cabin during the flight. There are cupcakes and ice creams named for the Obamas and cardboard cutouts of the president in storefront windows.

The Vineyard is just 23 miles long with a year-round population of about 15,000. Any motorcade is certain to draw attention on an island already crowded with summer visitors.

The playground for the rich was a vacation spot for President Bill Clinton and President Ulysses S. Grant.

Obama has visited twice before. More typically he has vacationed in Hawaii, where he was born and spent time as a child.

(by Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer)

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