Barack Obama’s political honeymoon is over — BB King/Gary Moore “The Thrill Is Gone” Video — Late August heat: No letup for Obama — Oil industry protest campaign adds to summer heat  — Obama-Europe Honeymoon: The Thrill is Gone? — Martha’s Vineyard remembers Walter Cronkite —


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The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you’ll be sorry someday

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away from me
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away from me
Although I’ll still live on
But so lonely I’ll be

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away for good
Oh, the thrill is gone baby
Baby its gone away for good
Someday I know I’ll be over it all baby
Just like I know a man should

You know I’m free, free now baby
I’m free from your spell
I’m free, free now
I’m free from your spell
And now that it’s over
All I can do is wish you well


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In Woods Hole, Nobska Point Light shines against a lunar eclipse.


After the Thrill Is Gone

Friday, August 7, 2009

Barack Obama’s political honeymoon is over.

It was steamy and nice while it lasted. The 44th president was elected as a voice of reason transcending stale ideological debates and a symbol of unity in a nation long afflicted by bigotry. He seemed, on brief public acquaintance, to be pragmatic, positive, steady, moderate and thoughtful…

Honeymoons always end. But it is fair to ask: What did Obama use this initial period of unique standing and influence to achieve? It will seem strange to history, and probably, eventually, to Obama himself, that the president’s main expenditure of political capital and largest legislative achievement was a $787 billion stimulus package he did not design and that ended up complicating the rest of his policy agenda. Such a pleasant honeymoon — yet all we got was this lousy stimulus bill.

… So these are the main accomplishments of the Obama honeymoon: a widely criticized stimulus package, a health debate poorly begun and a growing, potentially consuming deficit problem. The initial period of Obama’s presidency has revealed an odd mixture of boldness and timidity. A bold, even fiscally reckless, embrace of the priorities of the Democratic left. A timid, and politically unwise, deference to the views and approaches of the Democratic congressional leadership.

Obama can, of course, recover, as other presidents have. But he did not take full advantage of his honeymoon — and he will not get it back.


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The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard was built in 1891.


Late August heat: No letup for Obama

By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst
08/23/09 2:26 PM EDT

The tide of opinion seems to continue to run against Barack Obama and the Democrats’ health care bills. This seems apparent, for example, in this excellent article by Jonathan Martin in Politico on Congressman Allen Boyd’s town meetings. It is apparent in pollster Scott Rasmussen’s daily tracking, which shows 27% strongly approving Obama’s performance and 41% strongly disapproving. And note these very negative responses on an aol.com online poll: 78% say they do not believe Obama will make the right decisions for the country and 66% rate his job performance as poor, with another 15% fair. Obviously this is not representative of the general public. But so far as I know the aol.com website does not have an audience that tilts far to the right. The inference I draw is that those opposed to Obama and his health care plans are much more highly motivated to click on the poll than those on his side.

In response, Obama recalls those several weeks last August and September when he was not doing particularly well in the polls, when he seemed flatfooted in response to the selection of Sarah Palin and when he came out behind after the two parties’ national conventions. Obama makes the point that he adhered to his long-term strategy and ended up doing just fine in November.

A fair point, and consistent with Obama’s tendency to adopt and stick to long-term strategies, a course that often works very well for politicians. But it’s still not apparent how Obama will get the balance of enthusiasm, so positive for him in 2008, to work in his favor this year. This lead article from today’s Washington Post tells how a high-ranking Obama organizer is attempting to stir up enthusiasm in Racine, Wisconsin, which Obama carried 53%-46% in November 2008—exactly his national average. The organizer and his pals don’t seem to be having much success.

Curiously, the article does not mention that Racine County is in the congressional district represented by Republican Paul Ryan, ranking minority member on the Budget Committee and co-sponsor of an interesting health care plan which is one of the few Republican alternatives on offer.


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Vacationer sips a Coke on the front porch of Alley’s General Store on State Rd. in West Tisbury.

The store is over 150 years old.


The thrill is gone for Obama and the media

By: Chris Stirewalt
Political Editor
August 24, 2009

There’s nothing like a summer vacation to rekindle a romance. So maybe a week on Martha’s Vineyard can bring back some of the magic between the Obama administration and the media.

Before White House press secretary Robert Gibbs left town, he tried to clarify President Barack Obama’s comment that “everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.” Gibbs explained to reporters that what the president meant was that they were a bunch of bed wetters who made too much out of the implosion of the White House health care strategy.

Gibbs has grown more sardonic and patronizing as the summer wears on and Obama’s poll numbers wilt.

The press secretary has lectured reporters on the nature of their jobs — apparently to defend the administration against “misinformation” rather than asking impertinent questions like “How will you pay for it?” When asked recently about the administration’s endless evasions on the public option, Gibbs instead opted to define a monopoly.

“If you had one place to eat lunch before you came to the briefing, do you think it would be cheap?” Gibbs demanded of CNN’s Ed Henry.

Henry should have asked Gibbs to define monopsony: a market in which one buyer is so large that it can control suppliers and ruin competitors. Henry could then explain he’d rather pay too much for the sandwich he wanted than have to eat at a government chow line opened across the street to encourage “competition.”

Gibbs is so crabby because, incredibly, the administration blames the media for the president’s problems.

It tried blaming Republicans, but the GOP is too far out of power. When the leader of the free world is complaining about a posting on the former governor of Alaska’s Facebook page, he’s got problems.

Team Obama tried blaming special interests, but that was a bust too. The president’s deal with the pharmaceutical industry gets him $150 million worth of ads to boost his plan, whatever it is.

The same people who bombard us with ads for products that promise to prevent hardened arteries or encourage hardening elsewhere will soon be selling you Obamacare.

“If you experience doubts about the plan lasting more than four hours, seek immediate help from Organizing for America.”

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Democrats tried blaming the “mobs” of “un-American” protesters and “evil mongers” who were giving raspberries to members of Congress at town halls. That flopped too, leaving the administration to blame the messenger.

And one can understand why Gibbs would be a bit shocked by the slightly less accommodating tone of the media.

Reporters who traveled with the Obama campaign tell horror stories about the organization — dishonesty, rudeness and abysmal access. But those reporters still served up the glowing coverage.

Obama was the hottest news story of their generation. Rather than covering the long-shot freshman senator who would be crushed in February, Obama campaign reporters experienced the reflected glory of being along for a historic journey. There was plenty of motivation to keep that journey going.

Conversely, Obama making a hash out of health care provides plenty of good copy for the White House press corps. And because Obama fatigue has set in with the reading and viewing public, skeptical stories match the national mood.

Some are still in the tank for Obama. But many liberal reporters think the president is blowing the Left’s big chance.

In talking about how everything got so “wee-weed up,” Obama observed that in August of 2008 the media predicted doom because John McCain began to close the gap after picking Sarah Palin.

In trying to explain that the president was talking about media incontinence, Gibbs referred to August and September of 2007, when most predicted Hillary Clinton would roll to victory in Iowa.

So not only are Obama and his people still reliving the campaign, they’re drawing the wrong lessons from it.

At this point in 2007, Obama was coming up in the polls, making Iowa a three-way race with Clinton and John Edwards. Now, the president’s numbers are sinking.

And if the trend line in the late summer of 2008 had held, Obama would have lost. It took a tsunami of bad economic news and the McCain campaign’s mishandling of it to put Obama back on top.

But there is no opponent here other than public opinion and no finish line other than the end of his term.

With only the steady breeze of favorable coverage of a typical Democratic president instead of the gale of positive press that once helped drive Obama to victory, it’s going to be a very long journey.

Chris Stirewalt, The Examiner’s political editor, can be contacted at  cstirewalt@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears on Monday and Thursday, and his blog posts appear on ExaminerPolitics.com.


mannequins_1468357iShop window in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard


Obama’s Big Bang could go bust

By MIKE ALLEN & JIM VANDEHEI | 8/24/09

Barack Obama’s Big Bang is beginning to backfire, as his plans for rapid, once-in-a-generation overhauls of energy, financial regulation and health care are running into stiff resistance, both in Washington and around the country.

The Obama theory was simple, though always freighted with risk: Use a season of economic anxiety to enact sweeping changes the public likely wouldn’t stomach in ordinary times. But the abrupt swing in the public’s mood, from optimism about Obama’s possibility to concern he may be overreaching, has thrown the White House off its strategy and forced the president to curtail his ambitions.

Some Democrats point to a decision in June as the first vivid sign of trouble for Obama. These Democrats say the White House, in retrospect, made a grievous mistake by muscling conservative Democrats in swing districts to vote for a cap-and-trade energy bill that was very unpopular among their constituents.

Many of those members were pounded back home because Democrats passed a bill Republicans successfully portrayed as a big tax increase on consumers. The result: many conservative Democrats were gun-shy about taking any more risky votes — or going out on a limb on health care.

The other result: The prospects for winning final passage of a cap-and-trade bill this year are greatly diminished. And, while most Democrats still predict a health care bill will pass this year, it is likely to be a shadow of what Obama once had planned.

“The majority-makers are the freshman and sophomores from conservative districts where there’s this narrative building about giveaways, bailouts and too much change at once,” said a top House Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity to discuss internal politics candidly. “There’s this big snowball building in those districts. That’s why those folks are so scared.”

David Axelrod, Obama’s political architect, said it was “very clear early in the transition” that Obama would have to attack a number of festering issues simultaneously.

“The times demanded it,” he said in an interview. “We didn’t have the luxury of taking things sequentially, year after year, and hoping we got there. That’s the reason that all these major issues had been deferred for decades: Change is hard.”

Axelrod said the president is “looking forward to an active fall” when he returns from next week’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, and is not as worried about the outlook as the denizens of Washington, where “every day is election day.”

But the “Big Bang” theory of governance, as some White House insiders called it, is not without risk and consequences.

By doing so much, so fast, Obama gave Republicans the chance to define large swaths of the debate. Conservatives successfully portrayed the stimulus bill as being full of pork for Democrats. Then Obama lost control of the health care debate by letting Republicans get away with their bogus claims about “death panels.” The GOP also has successfully raised concerns that the Obama plan is a big-government takeover of health care — and much of Middle America bought the idea, according to polls.

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By doing so much, so fast, Obama never sufficiently educated the public on the logic behind his policies. He spent little time explaining the biggest bailouts in U.S. history, which he inherited but supported and expanded. And then he lost crucial support on the left by not following up quickly with new and stricter rules for Wall Street. On Friday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman echoed a concern widely shared among leading liberals. “I don’t know if administration officials realize just how much damage they’ve done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry, just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying giant bonuses is playing.”

By doing so much so fast, Obama jammed the circuits on Capitol Hill. Congress has a hard time doing even one big thing well at a time. Congress is good at passing giveaways and tax cuts, but has not enacted a transformative piece of social legislation since President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996. “There’s a reason things up here were built to go slowly,” said another Democratic aide.

By doing so doing so much, so fast, he has left voters — especially independents — worried that he got an overblown sense of his mandates and is doing, well, too much too fast. A Washington Post-ABC News poll published Friday found that independents’ confidence in Obama’s ability to make the right decisions had dropped 20 points since the Inauguration, from 61 percent to 41 percent.

Axelrod and others argue Obama had no choice but to tackle all of these issues at once. That might be true for a stimulus bill and the bank and auto bailouts — but that case is harder to make for energy and health care, which have been the focus of intense debate for decades past and probably will for decades to come.

Go-big-or-go-home isn’t the only theory of the case that a new president can adopt. The most promising alternative is to build public support over time by showing competence and success, then using that to leverage bigger things.

So imagine if Obama had focused on fixing the economy, and chosen presidential power over congressional accommodation and constructed his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a true, immediate stimulus without the pork and paybacks.

He then could have pushed through tougher regulation of financial institutions, making it clear people were paying for their sins, and would have a much harder time doing it again. This would have delighted the left and perhaps bought Obama more durable support among independents. Instead, the left thinks he’s beholden to investment banks, and much of the public sees no consequences for the financial mess.

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Add in some serious budget cuts, and Obama would have positioned himself as a new kind of liberal with the courage to tame Washington and Wall Street, as promised. Under this scenario, Obama might be getting more credit for the economic recovery that appears to be under way. This would have positioned him to win health care reform starting next year — a mighty achievement, and clear vindication against the doubters. Some White House officials said they are skeptical of moving controversial bills in an election year, when lawmakers are often more timid.

White House officials say they never seriously considered a more incremental approach to the year, though they did privately discuss trying to get regulation of the financial sector done right after the stimulus bill. There was too much disagreement among Democrats at the time over how far to go with regulation to proceed.

If the current strategy fails, the same person who got much of the credit for the crisp first 100 days will get some of the blame: White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. It was Emanuel who has strongly advocated the big-bang approach, declaring during the transition: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Now, what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do.”

The confidence of Obama’s aides was bolstered by their fresh memory that a similar approach had worked very effectively for then-President George W Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks. With the public on edge, Bush was able to enact restrictive policies under the banner of protecting American soil, and build an entire new department of government that voters otherwise might have opposed. The economic meltdown would be Obama’s Sept. 11 — the predicate for sweeping legislation that he wanted to enact anyway.

Just past halftime in his first year, the president has won passage of a long list of bills that the White House points to as proof of their approach. In addition to the stimulus, Obama signed major bills on tobacco, pay equity, children’s health insurance, national service and the mortgage rescue.

If he gets health care and either energy or regulation this year, it would be hard to argue the big-bang plan wasn’t a success.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), now president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, cautions that any verdict on Obama would be “kind of like judging a major surgical operation in the middle of the operation.”

With Obama reaching the defining season of his freshman year, Hamilton said the current agenda reminds him of the scale of the Great Society programs Congress was tackling when he came to Congress in 1965. “This president thinks big but I also think he acts pragmatically,” Hamilton said. “So many things in a congressional session come together at the last few hours, the last few weeks.” But sometimes they just come undone.

Zachary Abrahamson contributed to this report.


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Carly Simon shows us Martha’s Vineyard


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By Leonard Doyle in Washington
Published: 7:04PM BST 22 Aug 2009

Protests against Barack Obama are spreading across America like wildfire on a summer prairie, fuelled by an angry and fearful oil industry.

Still grappling on one front with opponents of his healthcare reforms, the President now faces a separate battle against an equally powerful foe: America’s oil companies.

As the Mr Obama begins his summer family holiday on the island retreat of Martha’s Vineyard, a raucous new group of protesters has begun venting its anger about his plans to tackle climate change – and has made clear that it will not allow his 10 day break to get in its way.

This time the strings are being pulled by the oil industry – known to its detractors as “Big Oil” – which is moving quickly and aggressively to block America’s first climate change legislation.

The protests moved into a higher gear when the White House last week signalled a sudden retreat over a key aspect of the President’s health care reform proposals: the plan for the US government itself to provide health insurance coverage for those who do not already have it.

It was a sign of weakness on which the oil industry has pounced. “Big Oil smells blood in the water,” said Frank O’Donnell, who advises Democrats on the environment. “The stakes are very high.”

The oil industry is aiming to kill off legislation which for the first time would limit how much carbon dioxide pollution US industry can pump out. During the election campaign Mr Obama came out in favour of a plan known as “cap and trade”, under which industry would have to bid for permits to emit carbon dioxide – the waste gas from burning oil, gas and coal that is blamed for global warming.

The “cap” is the overall limit on the carbon dioxide produced by the US, and the “trade” allows carbon emitters to buy and sell carbon permits. Heavily polluting industries could choose to reduce emissions – or to buy surplus permits from other companies which chose to reduce their own emissions instead.

Mr Obama took his cue from a broad coalition of US industry which supports the market based plan, itself modelled on the previous campaign that cut emissions causing acid rain.

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Many businesses believe that allowing the market to regulate emissions will give them more certainty about future energy costs and help them make better investment decisions.

Nuclear power plants and other low carbon emitters are big supporters of cap and trade, knowing it will make them more competitive. But the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents America’s “smokestack” industries and the oil industry, all of which face higher costs, is trenchantly opposed – arguing that it will end with companies moving production and jobs abroad.

To the horror of the oil industry – which was politically powerful under President George W.Bush – Congress is already well on the way to adopting a cap and trade system. The House of Representatives has approved it and the Senate is to vote in September.

The legislation aims to double the amount of energy the US produces from renewable power, and is at the heart of Mr Obama’s plan to give America a leading role in reversing global warming for the first time. But the fight now is about the cost to business.

The law being considered would charge companies at least $13 per ton of carbon emitted. Most energy companies and utilities would pass this on to consumers, and families would soon pay on average $1,437 a year more, studies show.

Mr Obama says his plan would return much of the money in lower taxes, but few buy that argument and opposition is growing shrill.

The oil sector, which accounts for 40 per cent of emissions but would receive only 2.5 per cent of the permits and faces buying the rest on the open market, is now rallying its forces to kill the legislation off altogether – preying on motorists’ fears of steep petrol price rises.

“If Big Oil succeeds now, it will make it very hard to pass it in the future,” said Mr O’Donnell. The reason is that the euphoria of Mr Obama’s honeymoon with American voters is steadily fading – and next year is a congressional election year, when legislators are notoriously wary of confronting influential lobby groups.

Spotting the first sign of weakness in a President whose popularity ratings are falling, the oil industry is attempting to replicate the methods of health reform opponents to derail Mr Obama’s plan.

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It organised a so-called “Energy Citizens” rally in Houston, America’s oil capital, last week, at which speakers railed against plans to change the country’s gas-guzzling ways.

“Something we hold dear is in danger, and that is our future,” said Bill Bailey, a rodeo announcer who was master of ceremonies. Inside the plus theatre auditorium, the wealthy owner of the Houston Astros baseball team urged more protests. “We need to preserve this way of life,” declared Drayton McLane.

There was a high school marching band, free hot dogs and hamburgers and a video of the country and western star Trace Adkins.

“Of course I want to help protect the earth and leave a beautiful place for my future children to enjoy,” said a protester, “But I will never have those future children if I am living on the streets because I lose my job due to this policy!”

The participants, mostly employees of energy companies, wore T-shirts with such slogans as “Create American jobs, don’t export them” and “I’ll pass on $4 Gas,” a reference to the panic when oil prices spiked last summer.

The rallies have caused a rancorous split in the oil industry. One company, Shell Oil, supports the legislation, telling fellow members of the American Petroleum Institute that it is boycotting the protests. James Smith, chairman of Shell UK, who helped persuade the company to take its stance, declared earlier this year: “The cap in a cap-and-schemes trade ensures that the environmental objective is met. It works, and it is already proven that it works.”

But most oil giants are opposed, some because they do not concede the need for such restrictions – and others because they would prefer an alternative scheme.

ConocoPhillips is openly encouraging its employees to protest, and there was a second rally in Roswell, New Mexico last week, organised by a public relations firm which represents both BP and Chevron.

Now many more “picnics”, as the industry describes the events, are planned across the country.

A leaked internal American Petroleum Institute document sent to British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other institute members revealed that the rallies were designed to send “a loud message” to the Senate. Kert Davis of Greenpeace, which obtained the letter last week, said: “It’s a clear political hit campaign.”

In moving to win more favourable terms, the energy industry has made some serious missteps. Last week a coal industry lobby was discovered to have sent fake letters to members of Congress, purportedly from worried black and elderly people.

But the Obama administration appears to have been blindsided by the ferocity of the lobbying. It has began its own push back by enrolling John Podesta – who heads a Democrat think tank and ran Mr Obama’s transition team – to argue the case.

“The cap-and-trade concept itself is a product of American ingenuity,” he declared, adding that new clean energy technologies will create 1.7 million new jobs.

But the oil industry, which faces the prospect of stumping up billions of dollars for its permits, is not to be deterred.

“There’s a lot of anger out there,” said Mr O’Donnell, who heads Clean Air Watch, a lobbying group. He fears that it will now be difficult to get a climate bill adopted in time for Mr Obama to take the lead at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

A defeat by the oil industry would be humbling for a president who took power with sweeping ambitions to transform America.

“He may be able to say that the US is finally taking steps in the right direction, but I don’t think we will have a law to back it up,” Mr O’Donnell lamented.


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Obama-Europe Honeymoon: The Thrill is Gone?

Judah Grunstein | Bio | 25 Jun 2009
WPR Blog

I thought this, from David Brooks’ analysis of President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech earlier this month, was on the money:

This speech builds an idealistic facade on a realist structure. And this gets to the core Obama foreign-policy perplexity. The president wants to be an inspiring leader who rallies the masses. He also wants be a top-down realist who cuts deals in the palaces. There is a tension between these two impulses that even a sharp Chicago pol is having trouble managing.

What made me think of it now was this passage from a Der Spiegel feature on the strain in U.S.-German relations:

In pursuing its foreign policy, the new administration in Washington no longer relies solely on high-level meetings and state receptions. In fact, the populations of other countries are now being mobilized to support the goals of the United States to an unprecedented extent. Officials at the White House and the State Department have developed a completely new form of the old concept of “public diplomacy.”

The piece goes on to describe a detailed White House communications strategy involving a “ground game” and an “air game” that, frankly, come off sounding a bit creepy. But the direct appeal to the masses has been an obvious tactic to bypass the ministries, with the tension Brooks identifies a very real one.

There was also this:

As it is, the U.S. president in person is by no means the charming and smiling character many have come to expect from his television appearances. He cultivates a cool style or, as one of the members of the delegation describes it, “an almost unfeeling style.”

That pretty much sums up the anti-climactic nature of the Obama honeymoon period. I expected an eventual clash between Washington and European agendas, but it’s been more of a fizz than a bang. Obama remains pretty popular here in terms of public opinon, but I suspect that expectations and enthusiasm have been lowered a bit by his cautious approach to reversing some of the more unpopular Bush policies.

As for Obama’s much-vaunted willingness to listen that won such raves on his first trip through Europe, the Der Speigel piece suggests that the thrill is gone there, too. It’s a bit more Janet Jackson (What Have You Done for Me Lately) than Michael Jackson (Beat It), but either way, Europe feels out of the loop.


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On Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama’s summer reading includes few beach reads

BY David Saltonstall
DAILY NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT

Updated Monday, August 24th 2009

MARTHA’S VINEYARD, Mass. – His politics are a little to the left, and so is his golf game.

President Obama wasted little time hitting the links Monday as he enjoyed his first full day of vacation on this celebrity-packed island.

His first tee shot – while a solid strike that flew at least a couple of hundred yards – landed just inside the woods off the left-hand side of the fairway.

“Hi guys,” the first duffer said to a small crowd that had gathered to watch him as he approached the first tee at Felix Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs. “I want to say ahead of time that I am terrible.”

With that, Obama – who also swings lefty — stepped up to the tee, took two practice swings, then sailed his ball into the woods.

The crowd erupted into a cheer anyways, and Obama acknowledged the throng with a small bow.

“Look at that — no mulligan,” said one woman after Obama — said to be a stickler for the rules — declined to take a do-over.

“It wasn’t a bad shot under all this pressure,” said onlooker Scott Pieringer. “I would have whiffed in front of all these people.”

While Obama is a regular golfer, he almost never plays in front of an audience. On Monday, his foursome included UBS CEO Robert Wolf, Chicago pal Eric Whitaker and White House aide Marvin Nicholson.

Obama’s weeklong stay is expected to be a low-key affair.

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Presidential spokesman Bill Burton said Monday that in addition to golfing, tennis and swimming with his two daughters, Obama had brought along enough books to sink a Vineyard whaling ship.

The tomes – which together total some 2,300 pages – include “The Way Home” by George Pellicanos, “Hot, Flat and Crowded” by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, “Lush Life” by Richard Price, “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf, and “John Adams” by historian David McCullough.

Burton also defended the President against charges – most recently from the National Republican Congressional Committee – that he should not be taking a vacation at a time when many Americans are struggling economically.

“As I recall, the previous president took quite a bit of vacation time himself, and I don’t think anyone bemoaned that,” Burton told reporters, referring to the month of summer vacation that President George W. Bush routinely took. “I think it’s important for the President, as with anybody, to take a little time, spend time with his family, and recharge his batteries.”

The president kicked off his vacation with a Sunday night dinner including White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and her daughters, as well as Chicago friends Dr. Eric Whitaker and wife Cheryl at the 28.5-acre Blue Heron Farm the First Family rented.

The president has no calls or meetings on his schedule at the moment, Burton said, but he is staying up-to-date with developments on the economy, healthcare, and foreign policy.

Obama’s palatial spread sports its own pool, a private beach, a basketball hoop and even a golf hole, suggesting The First Family may have little reason to leave.

There was certainly no getting close to the presidential compound on Monday – a state police cruiser was parked at the end of the long dirt road that serves as the only access point to the retreat.

The spot is only a couple of miles from actor Ted Danson‘s home, where for weeks now rumors have flown that Chelsea Clinton would be getting married this past weekend.

But the rumors appear to be just that – rumors. Over the weekend, there was virtually no sign of life at the hill-top spread, suggesting that longstanding denials from ex-President Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Danson were all on the up-and-up.

Obama left behind a Washington, D.C. in the throes of debate over his healthcare reform plans, but that debate is following him to the Vineyard.

The Republican group Conservatives For Patients’ Rights have already bought airtime on Boston stations for a new ad, “Surf’s Up,” which mocks Obama’s vacation plans and his healthcare prescriptions. They plan to run the the spot during the Red Sox‘ match-up this week with Obama’s beloved White Sox.

“The beach is nice this time of year, but while President Obama vacations, concerns mount about his health care plan,” the ad says. “Mr. President, when you go back to D.C., drop your government-run health care plan.”

There had been some speculation that Obama would take some time out of his vacation to go visit the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer at his family’s historic compound in Hyannis Port, just across Nantucket Sound.

Such a visit could become a powerful tool in the ongoing debate over health care reform, which Kennedy has dubbed “the cause of my life.” But aides to Kennedy and Obama have said no such visits are planned or expected.


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A devoted yachtsman, Mr. Cronkite sailed a 48-foot Sunward.

He was a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club and for many years summered on Martha’s Vineyard.


Martha’s Vineyard remembers Walter Cronkite

By Jazmine Ulloa and Eric Moskowitz, July 18, 2009
Globe Correspondent and Globe staff

EDGARTOWN — Residents and tourists alike today remembered legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, who died Friday night at age 92 after a long illness.

Cronkite became a fixture in American living rooms as a steadying voice throughout much of the 20th century, a time that saw the country steeped in social movements, lunar exploration, and a raging war in Vietnam.

But at his quiet summer home on the waterfront across from Edgartown’s inner harbor, the most trusted man in America could escape fame and sail his boat, his neighbors said.

“He came here to be a normal person, not a celebrity,” said Bo Reily, who owns a summer home near Cronkite’s in Edgartown. “You can get away with that at Martha’s Vineyard.”

Reily’s parents first bought the summer vacation home in the 1970s, and he met Cronkite when he was 9, he said.

Now 48, he said Cronkite was like part of his family.

“I could not believe he died,” he said. “He had so much life and was bigger than life.”

In the home just behind Cronkite’s, Jean and William Graham remember their summer neighbor as a down-to-earth man with a passion for sailing.

“He was caring, he really looked out for us,” Jean said.

Cronkite would take their grandchildren along with his own on his boat as they went for ice cream, and the families would get together for softball games and picnics on the neatly trimmed lawn in Cronkite’s backyard.

Along Edgartown’s harbor, Kenneth Yelland of Wellesley was taking a stroll with his wife and friends. Their boat was moored across from Cronkite’s home last night, and they said they found themselves wondering about his health.

This morning a friend called to tell them about Cronkite’s death.

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“Just as the Beatles were the soundtrack for our lives, Cronkite was the voice of the news growing up,” said Yelland. “He only had 20 minutes to tell us what was going on in the world and we trusted that he could.

The consistent pleasure, privacy, and serenity Cronkite found as he sailed the waters around the Vineyard on his majestic sailboat, Wyntje led the retired anchor to lend his voice in 2003 to the opposition movement to Cape Wind.

In radio and TV spots for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Cronkite said the plan to build 130 electricity-generating wind turbines on a 24-square-mile area of the Sound would spoil the Sound.

“National treasures should be off limits to industrialization,” he said.

But Cronkite ultimately reversed course. After speaking with scientists and reviewing the matter, he acknowledged publicly that his initial position had been an emotional one.

“It sounded like such a ghastly invasion of this wonderful body of water,” he told the Globe at the time. “I will confess, also, that I did not do my own homework as I should have before making the statements. I did not and I can only regret that now.”

Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind Associates, yesterday credited Cronkite for “having the courage to publicly acknowledge that he made a mistake.” Cronkite’s review, which included a lengthy meeting with Cape Wind president Jim Gordon, was consistent with his evenhanded record as a journalist, and it resonated with the public two decades after his retirement, Rodgers said.

“I would find if people knew two or three things about the project, one of them would be that it was the one Walter Cronkite changed his mind on,” he said.

George M. Woodwell, the scientist who founded the Woods Hole Research Center in 1985, wrote to Cronkite at the time of the ads, describing the seriousness of climate change and telling him that Cape Wind could produce three-quarters of the base-load energy needs of the Cape and Islands without any emissions. Cronkite called Woodwell and asked a series of thoughtful questions.

“He’s a very reasonable person,” Woodwell recalled yesterday. “He was one of the great reporters of all time, and everyone loves him or loved him and everyone respected him, and that was one of the reasons that it seemed to be so important that he realized the seriousness of the issue.”


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Riders grab rings from a post in Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. Riders who grab a brass ring get an additional free ride. The nation’s oldest platfrom carousel is still just $1.50 a ride; fun for all ages.


Walter Cronkite and Sailing

Tom’s Sailing Blog

By Tom Lochhaas,

Sunday July 19, 2009

At age 80, still sailing, Walter Cronkite in an interview summarized his voyages this way:

They’re kind of the middle-area sailing trips. I don’t go transoceanic. But we do a lot of offshore sailing. Sailing the boat down to the Caribbean in the winter and back in the spring. In the summertime we sail off of our home in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and around the northeastern part of the United States, which is very challenging sailing. I have a group of friends with whom I sail—mostly pirates out of Annapolis.

In his 1996 autobiography A Reporter’s Life, he wrote eloquently about the sailor’s inner life:

Sailing for me has satisfied many urges. For one thing, it feeds the Walter Mitty in me, that inner heroism with which James Thurber endowed his unforgettable character.

I never sail from harbor without either having a load of tea for Southampton or orders from the admiral to purse that villain Long John Silver and his rapacious crew. I love the challenge of the open sea, the business of confronting Mother Nature and learning to live compatibly with her, avoiding if possible her excesses but always being prepared to weather them.

There is nothing more satisfying than dropping anchor in an otherwise deserted cove just before sunset, of pouring that evening libation and, with a freshly roasted bowl of popcorn, lying back as the geese and ducks and loons make your acquaintance and the darkness slowly descends to complement the silence.


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Related Previous Post:

The Dog Days Of Summer: Stray “Blue” Dogs, A Summer Breeze, And Painting With Your Eyes

Related Links:

Martha’s Vineyard Insider’s Guide (Videos)

Wiki: Martha’s Vineyard (History)

Martha’s Vineyard Times

Summer White House 2009


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