Reporting from Providence, R.I. -- President Barack Obama heads to the island resort of Martha's Vineyard today for a family vacation likely to be interspersed with talk of -- and work on -- his drive to pass a health-care overhaul this fall.
The president, First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters are set to spend the week at the well-appointed Blue Heron farm, a private estate which they are renting from a family of Republican political donors.
The 28-acre spread affords the Obamas access to the sand and surff, along with something else they don't get much of when they travel as a foursome: privacy.
But the health-care debate won't pause this week. And signs are that the president, and his White House -in-residence, will keep working, if at a slightly more relaxed pace.
Aides to Obama say he is planning to keep in touch with lawmakers, especially members of the Senate Finance committee, by telephone. Advisors haven't entirely ruled out the possibility of a "town hall "-styled meeting before the family's vacation ends on Aug. 30.
Also, the island retreat is not far from the Cape Cod home where Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) has been spending a lot of time this summer, raising the possibility that Obama could pay a visit to the ailing senator, a longtime advocate of health-care reform who is battling brain cancer. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview on ABC News' This Week today that the absence of Kennedy, a master negotiator, has had an impact on the health-care debate.
Today, the first family was making their way to the island a little later than earlier planned, out of concern for the weather -- with the passage of Hurricane Bill, a tropical storm warning was lifted from the island.off the south shore of Cape Cod.
The president also sent word via his press secretary that he hoped people would respect the privacy of his daughters.
"It is our strong hope and desire that you all, during this family vacation, will respect the privacy of Sasha and Malia Obama," spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "This is a strong request by the first family."
The trip is the first full week of vacation the Obamas are taking this summer, their first in the White House, and the staff has been working for months to make sure it is a quiet, private one. The family is expected to be joined by longtime friends from Chicago, including presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett and physician Eric Whitaker.
Asked if the White House was worried about how the public might view the president taking a break at such a "tony" vacation spot, Gibbs said he didn't think so.
"I don't think the American people begrudge the president taking some time with his family," he said, adding that the time off is "well-deserved, well-earned" -- and only set to last a few days.
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