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President Obama is now on Martha's Vineyard for his vacation. He and his family arrived on the island Sunday after a brief delay due to Hurricane Bill. A White House spokesman says the family has no public events scheduled during their week-long stay in the town of Chilmark.
To find out more about the mood on the Vineyard and the Obamas' first day there, we spoke to Mike Seccombe, senior writer at the Vineyard Gazette, who is covering the First Family's visit.
Bob Oakes: Tell us about the Obamas' arrival on Sunday. What was the scene like at the airport and elsewhere on the island?
Mike Seccombe: There were smallish crowds — you wouldn't call them large crowds, but there were smallish crowds — gathered at the airport. None of them saw a great deal, I don't believe.
They got off the plane pretty promptly, jumped in their little motorcade and there were a few people along the road — you wouldn't say it was a lot of people, a few with signs welcoming them — and it took them, I would think, all of 10 minutes to get from the airport to the place they're staying, and as soon as they went through the gate, they were gone and didn't re-emerge for the rest of the day.
President Obama is the first sitting president to visit Martha's Vineyard since 9/11. What's security like?
They certainly seem to be much harder to get to than the Clintons were, although the extent to which that is 9/11-related and the extent to which that's just the difference in the personalities of the presidents, it's hard to tell.
Clinton, as you would probably know, loved a crowd and when he was on the island he was always out glad-handing and every second store on the island has a picture of the owner shaking hands with Bill Clinton, and hundreds of islanders would have fond memories of having bumped into him at the agricultural show or elsewhere.
Obama seems more keen to have just a vacation with his family.
What are the merchants on the island hoping? To what extent will the Obama visit boost end-of-the-season tourism and sales there?
The fond hope is that it will boost them greatly. It has not been a good summer so far, particularly early in the piece, because we had so much rain. So they're doing everything they can to attract buyers.
We have everything from Obama muffins in some of the bakeries to, I think there's an "Obama-rita" at one of the Mexican-flavored restaurants. There's T-shirts, bags, you name it — you know, every possible bit of merchandise that you could stick the president's name or face on has been manufactured somewhere on the island in the hopes of attracting the tourist dollar.
Unfortunately it's a bit early for me to tell you at this stage exactly how successful all that has been.
And what's the chance that the Obama family is going to see any of that? What do we know about the family's itinerary this week, anything?
Well, to the extent that the White House has told us, I spoke to the White House press office the day before yesterday, and they were stressing at that point that there were no public engagements planned.
It's possible that they would get out on an impromptu and spontaneous basis. But also made the point, very forcefully, that it's possible that the two daughters will go out without the parents at some point, presumably under the care of some other person, and that if they went out alone they were to be left strictly alone.
You know, it may be that he will go out for dinner. There's a couple of restaurants that people are speculatively booking tables at on the off-chance — but it certainly appears to be the case that the president really plans to stay very much out of the limelight.
There are some reports that the president might visit Sen. Edward Kennedy in Hyannis Port. Any word on that yet?
No, and there was some speculation that he may actually do it en route, and that obviously didn't happen. You know, Sen. Kennedy's health appears to be somewhat tenuous and the president does owe him a number of debts for his support in his presidential run and also for helping smooth the way a bit on the health care thing — not that that's looking so smooth at the moment.
So it would be a nice thing to do, I would think, but so far we have no confirmation at all that that has been planned in any formal sense.
This program aired on August 24, 2009.
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