- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CHILMARK, Mass. | President Obama played tennis with his wife and golf with his buddies Monday, starting his first vacation in office on Martha’s Vineyard, a picturesque island known as a refuge for the wealthy and privileged.

Mr. Obama began the day with a workout at his rented retreat, then tennis with first lady Michelle Obama, White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters traveling with the president. Mr. Obama later played golf with UBS Investment Bank President Robert Wolf and Chicago physician Eric Whitaker, both friends. White House aide Marvin Nicholson was also in the foursome.

White House officials have stressed that the president is on a private vacation and very little is planned. But the White House continued governing at full pace, and with tremendous interest in All Things Obama, officials have trickled out a few personal details here and there.

For instance, Mr. Burton told reporters that the president’s reading list includes “The Way Home” by Washington-based mystery writer George Pelecanos; “Hot, Flat and Crowded” by columnist Tom Friedman; “John Adams” by historian David McCullough; and novels “Lush Life” by Richard Price and “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf.

But the trip was clearly designed to limit exposure for the first family. White House aides have asked journalists not to tail the first daughters when they are not with their parents. And journalists were taken to the first hole moments after Mr. Obama’s first drive but in time to capture him walking down the lush green fairway at an Oak Bluffs golf course.

“Good to see you,” Mr. Obama said to a cheering crowd as he walked past an impromptu crowd. “Hey, man, how are you?”

Mr. Obama’s sister, Maya, flew with the Obamas from Washington, as did first pooch Bo, who wandered through the press cabin during the flight. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and counsel to the president, joined the flight aboard Air Force One and the dinner table on Sunday night hours after arriving.

Other midlevel aides were on the island to assist the president if needed, a reminder the presidency does not allow for complete breaks from the job.

But Mr. Burton joked that even some of those aides were in vacation mode with the president.

“He’s obviously worked very hard this year, as have some members of the staff. I don’t know about all of them; I know Tommy’s in flip-flops today,” the spokesman joked, pointing to assistant press secretary Tommy Vietor standing at the side of the room with a football and sandals.

White House officials continued to say Mr. Obama has no plans to visit ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at his home in Hyannis Port on nearby Cape Cod. A visit with the Massachusetts Democrat, who has brain cancer, could provide a rallying point for Democrats as Mr. Obama seeks to achieve one of Mr. Kennedy’s career goals - overhauling the nation’s health insurance system to provide near-universal coverage.

Martha’s Vineyard, a playground for the rich, was a vacation spot for former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant.

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