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First Family Won’t Leave Controversy Behind on Vacation First Family Won’t Leave Controversy Behind on Vacation

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White House / WHITE HOUSE

First Family Won’t Leave Controversy Behind on Vacation

President Obama and his daughter Malia ride bicycles along a state park track in West Tisbury, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard last August.(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

August 17, 2011

President Obama and the first family arrive on Martha’s Vineyard Thursday for their annual summer vacation, but they’re not leaving controversy behind.

The country’s continued economic problems—and eight Republican presidential candidates reminding the Democrat about them—may leave Obama yearning for the singularity of the issue he faced last year: the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill.

A year later, domestic problems like the S&P credit-rating downgrade, and international concerns including a spike of violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, have sharpened criticism of Obama’s decision to take a 10-day vacation in what can be seen as an elite playground.

 

(PICTURES: Obamas on the Vineyard)

“If I were president today, I wouldn’t be looking to go spend 10 days on Martha’s Vineyard,” Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner, said today during a call to WLS-AM in Chicago.

“Now, Martha’s Vineyard is in my home state of Massachusetts, so I don’t want to say anything negative about people vacationing there. But if you’re the president of the United States, and the nation is in crisis—and we’re in a jobs crisis right now—then you shouldn’t be out vacationing,” added Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

Despite the criticism, Romney himself will visit the Vineyard during Obama’s stay, attending an August 27 fundraiser in Edgartown.

(RELATED: Romney Stays Course Despite Perry Run)

The White House dismisses such questions, noting the president travels with a full communications suite and will be little more than an hour’s flight from Washington should there be a need for him to return to the White House.

“I don’t think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the president would spend some time with his family,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week. “The presidency travels with you. He will be in constant communication.”

A muted anticipation has already taken hold among island residents and visitors.

Most of Obama’s vacations have been overshadowed by similar concerns or weighty matters.

(RELATED: With ‘Listening Tour,’ Warren Tests Waters for a Senate Run)

His first visit to Martha’s Vineyard, in 2009, was marked by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy. The president and first lady Michelle Obama left the island overnight to attend the Massachusetts Democrat’s funeral in Boston.

The president also undertook one piece of official business, announcing he was renominating Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Obama’s first trip to his native Hawaii for a holiday vacation, in December 2009, was marked by the Christmas Day attempted terrorist bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner.

Last summer, Obama was criticized for choosing to return to Massachusetts rather than trying to promote the spill recovery with an extended stay along the Gulf Coast. He tried to defuse with a 26-hour, pre-vacation visit to the Florida Panhandle.

Once Obama arrived on Martha’s Vineyard, he was neither called away nor held an official news conference, but the middle of his vacation was marred by heavy rain.

(RELATED: Romney Calls for Common Ground, Hails Tea Party)

Things brightened by the end, before Obama flew south to commemorate an event that once prompted questions about President Bush’s decision to remain on vacation in Texas: the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

For more news from the Boston Globe, go to boston.com.

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