President Obama started his annual vacation on Martha’s Vineyard as he began the previous four and in the same way he will likely end it: on the golf course.
With barely 24 hours on the island behind him, Obama was already into his second round of golf at a semi-private course with a view of Nantucket Sound. The Farm Neck Golf Club is an Obama favorite; it was his first stop last year, as well.
Obama getaways tend to stick to familiar patterns. He keeps a low-key schedule of golf and dinners out with a cluster of friends who also retreat to the seaside haven in August. He works in an occasional bike ride and an ice cream run with his daughters. He created a minor stir last year by not making his usual trip to the local bookstore.
This year the president has shown little sign of upending his routine, even as critics accuse him of slacking off during of time of upheaval abroad.
As Obama woke up at his secluded rental estate, the Pentagon announced it had completed another round of airstrikes on militant forces in northern Iraq. The new air campaign against the Islamic State militants was just three days old, giving Republicans a opening to accuse Obama of spending a crisis on the course.
As it always argues when the president travels amid turmoil, the White House says the president can do his job from anywhere and will return to Washington if necessary.
The president took a team of top advisors with him, including national security advisor Susan Rice, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. Obama received three updates from the national security staff on Sunday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
Even before the strikes, he’d planned to interrupt his two-week vacation to return to Washington for three days of meetings next week.
As he left Washington on Saturday, Obama showed little sign of concern for the political attacks and an eagerness to get to the ocean. He told reporters he expected the Iraq mission to be a lengthy one, then he jumped on a helicopter for the island.
First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia joined him, while daughter Sasha is expected to arrive later. But so far, the president has been seen with friends, not family, on his first outings. On Saturday, Obama golfed with former sports commentator Ahmad Rashad, NBA star Ray Allen, and Cyrus Walker, Jarrett’s cousin.
Walker and Rashad returned for Sunday’s round. The foursome was filled out with Robert Wolf, a sometime advisor to the president on Wall Street issues and an Obama donor.
Well-heeled Democratic donors are plentiful on this island, and Obama isn’t missing the chance to raise money while he’s here. He’s scheduled to attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to attend a book signing at the Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Wednesday. The White House says there are no plans for the two to cross paths, although the island is small.
Obama has rented a private home on Martha’s Vineyard every year of his presidency except 2012 - the year of his reelection campaign. The choice this year is a large summer home with a swimming pool, tennis court, basketball court and views of the Elizabeth Islands. It belongs to Connecticut widow Joanne Hubschman, according to the local Vineyard Gazette, which described the estate as “situated in a secluded high meadow dotted with wildflowers and native shrubs.”
The president is scheduled to return to Washington on Aug. 17 for meetings and head back to Martha’s Vineyard on Aug. 19.