Martha's Vineyard Report: Barack Obama Superjock


Walter Shapiro

Senior Correspondent
MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass. -- Barack and Michelle Obama will lose almost a day of their island vacation when they fly to Boston late Friday night for Ted Kennedy's funeral mass on Saturday. Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, will remain behind on Martha's Vineyard, said White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton in his Thursday afternoon briefing. Unless tropical storm Danny -- southeast of the North Carolina coast as of Thursday -- interferes, the Obamas will briefly return to the Vineyard after the funeral before flying back to Washington as a family Sunday.

The truncated vacation means that Obama has needed to make every second count in his fast-paced drive to slow down. "I think he has had a chance to spend some time with his family, play some tennis, play some basketball, dig in on his books a little bit and do a little relaxing," Burton said. Thursday morning the Obama family went bicycling on Aquinnah (traditionally known as Gay Head) on the southwestern tip of the island with the president boldly inviting controversy by not wearing a helmet. Then Obama headed off to the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown for 18 holes, his third stop on his links tour of the island.

Obama's rigorous athletic regimen since he arrived Sunday suggests that he is every bit as addicted to exercise as George W. Bush. In addition to the three golf outings (totaling 45 holes) and cycling, Obama has played tennis with Michelle, gone swimming with his family and kept up his morning workout routine. Whoops -- there was also half-court pickup basketball game at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, where the First Family is staying. As Burton put it in his briefing, "We were out on the basketball court yesterday and he was talking as much trash as he usually does." In fact, about the only athletic activities that Obama has somehow missed on the Vineyard are water skiing, polo and hang gliding.

For those of us whose idea of an island vacation consists simply of sand, saltwater and reading, the Obama double triathlon is exhausting enough to invite nostalgia for the slow-moving presidency of 300-pound-plus William Howard Taft.

UPDATE: Friday afternoon as sprinkles dotted the island, Obama returned the Vineyard Golf Club for -- yes -- another afternoon of trying to place a small ball in a small hole. It is enough to make you wonder whether Obama is planning to erect a caddy shack in the White House Rose Garden.