Obama's 'vacation from hell' mixes business with pleasure

President Barack Obama is back at the White House today for a round of meetings on Iraq and the protests in Ferguson, Mo. It's a brief interruption of his two-week vacation, a break that has mixed rounds of golf and parties with handling domestic and international conflicts.

President has played golf and attended parties while handling domestic and international conflicts

President Barack Obama sits in a golf cart at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard on Aug. 17, 2014. In a rare move for him, the president planned a break in the middle of his Martha's Vineyard vacation to return to Washington Sunday night for unspecified meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

U.S. President Barack Obama is back at the White House Monday for a brief interruption of his two-week summer vacation, a break that so far has mixed rounds of golf and parties with the handling of conflicts at home and abroad.

The president is scheduled to meet with Vice-President Joe Biden and National Security Council members on the situation in Iraq, and with Attorney General Eric Holder on the violence and protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death of  unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Obama landed in Washington after midnight Sunday and will return Tuesday to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, the swanky and picturesque island where he was vacationing with his wife and two daughters.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, left, meet with members of the National Security Council, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at the White House in Washington. Obama is briefly interrupting his two-week vacation to meet with his officials. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

The break in his vacation was scheduled from the outset, it's not in reaction to airstrikes ordered in Iraq over the weekend or the National Guard being called in to handle security in Ferguson. White House officials have had trouble explaining exactly why they planned for the president to return to Washington in the middle of his trip, other than to say it's for meetings.

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said he doesn't anticipate any major news developments out of Washington, and the spokesman stayed put on Martha's Vineyard, another indication Obama's jaunt back is low-profile.

In the absence of a more specific explanation for why it's necessary for the president to meet in person with officials, questions are being raised about the mysterious interruption. The Hill newspaper speculated that perhaps a foreign leader would be stopping by or that Obama might be taking off on a foreign trip.

Family reason for return to D.C.?

Or could it be a local trip to the DMV? The Hill notes that Obama's daughter Malia, who turned 16 earlier this summer, accompanied her father back to Washington so they might be paying a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The White House could simply be trying to fend off any criticism that Obama shouldn't be away for two full weeks and to physically show he's working even while he's supposed to be on vacation.
President Barack Obama bike rides with daughter Malia and first lady Michelle Obama, on Aug. 15, 2014, outside of West Tisbury, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Obama has been mixing business with pleasure during his two-week break. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

But his summer holiday on Martha's Vineyard hasn't exactly been restful. One CNN commentator, Jeffrey Toobin, dubbed it “the vacation from hell” because of what Obama has been dealing with while away.

The U.S. has been targeting ISIS fighters in Iraq with airstrikes, a significant military intervention in a country that Obama pulled American troops out of in 2011. The president has also been keeping on top of the situation in Ukraine and its conflict with Russia as well as the fighting in Gaza.

Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9, the day Obama began his vacation, and days of unrest in Ferguson have followed. The pressure to do and say something about it swiftly mounted on the president. He ordered the department of justice to conduct an independent investigation and the FBI is also involved.

Obama made two televised statements last week, speaking about Iraq and Ferguson, and according to readouts from the White House the president spoke with multiple world leaders by phone, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Clinton criticism

He was also faced with headlines about his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, criticizing his foreign policy approach and his handling of the conflict in Syria in a recent interview. Clinton called Obama to smooth things over.

The president also made time to issue a statement on the death of actor Robin Williams last Monday.

However, it hasn't been all work and no play. Obama has hit the golf course a few times, gone for a bike ride and enjoyed the beach for a few hours. He attended a birthday party – Clinton was also on the guest list -- and a fundraiser, he's eaten at local restaurants and he attended a jazz concert Sunday evening before hopping on Air Force One.

Once Obama gets back to Martha's Vineyard he will have a few more days to hit the links and soak up some sun. It's not a vacation full of rest and relaxation, but at least the forecast is looking good.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.