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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 20-vehicle motorcade passed through a cordon of 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.
It was the same drill Saturday when he went to the beach for a picnic lunch with his family.
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 and his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.
Brennan, who wants 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 e-mail to provide other updates not requiring a visit to Blue Heron Farm, the 30-acre property the Obama family was using.
“Communication systems are very robust. We can move information at the speed of light,” said Brennan. “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.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was taking his own vacation during the president’s 10-day break. Other top aides, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and political strategist David Axelrod, were nowhere in sight.
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton was among the traveling party. In a nod to the more casual tone, he brought along his wife.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press