By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama's fourth summer vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard is humming along with the usual golf games and basketball. But the family vibe is different. For the first time, daughters Malia and Sasha are missing, away at summer camp.
White House officials say only that the girls will reunite with their parents later in the week, without giving a specific date.
"When they get here, we'll let you know," spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
Michelle Obama arrived Saturday with her husband and family dog, Bo. Obama returns to Washington on Sunday.
In the meantime, the president is staying at a 5,000-square-foot, $7 million Chilmark home rented from Chicago friend David Schulte and engaging in many of the pastimes that kept him busy during previous family stays on the picturesque island: golf, dining out and basketball.
One sign of the girls' absence is that Obama has yet to drop by the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. He typically takes them there on his first full day of vacation to pick up summer reading.
That his daughters are not here is another reminder of the years that have passed since their father became president. They are older now — Malia is 15 and Sasha is 12 — and increasingly leading lives more independent of their parents and with schedules as hectic as their mom's and dad's, their parents have said. Both are into sports: Malia plays tennis and runs track, while Sasha plays basketball. She sings and dances, too.
Obama spent Saturday night indoors after arriving by helicopter from the Coast Guard station on nearby Cape Cod, Mass.
Every day since, his motorcade has driven him from Chilmark on the island's western tip to the eastern towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven and back.
There were back-to-back days of hourslong golf outings, including a round in the rain Monday at Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown with Washington power broker Vernon Jordan, former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Allison Davis, another Obama associate from Chicago. Obama returned to the club Wednesday to play with Kirk, World Bank President Jim Kim and Comcast executive Brian Roberts.
Afterward, he and the first lady headed to Roberts' waterfront home in Vineyard Haven, spending nearly two hours there before they went to the contemporary American State Road Restaurant for dinner.
On Sunday, the playground of choice was Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs with White House aides Marvin Nicholson and Sam Kass, a chef, and Robert Wolf, a Wall Street consultant and Obama campaign fundraiser. Wolf sits on Obama's export council; he previously served on the president's jobs council and economic recovery advisory board.
Sunday night also had the president and first lady dining out at Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs, a contemporary French-American restaurant they've eaten at on previous vacations here.
They attended a cocktail party Monday at the home of campaign adviser Broderick Johnson and his wife, NPR journalist Michele Norris.
Obama spent most of Tuesday in Oak Bluffs. He picked up a to-go meal of fried oysters, shrimp, onion rings and french fries from Nancy's Restaurant and took it to the nearby rental home of senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who also vacations on Martha's Vineyard. He burned it off by playing basketball at an Oak Bluffs school with Nicholson, Kass and Eric Whitaker, the president's close buddy from Chicago, before picking up Mrs. Obama and heading west to Menemsha for a return visit to the Beach Plum Inn, voted the island's most romantic getaway by Martha's Vineyard magazine. The restaurant is also known for its sunset views.
Mrs. Obama, who leads a nationwide effort to encourage everyone, though mostly kids, to eat better did not join the president for Tuesday's fried-food lunch.
In contrast to President Bill Clinton's vacations here in the 1990s, when he often was seen around the island, such sightings of Obama generally are limited.
The White House took the unusual step Sunday of allowing reporters and photographers to watch Obama tee off on the first hole; his golf outings generally are off-limits to media coverage. He also mingled with well-wishers and staff during the stop at Nancy's.