A tale of two storms: this weekend's hurricane, and the turmoil in Washington
The Obamas return to Washington, D.C., on Friday, after cutting their Martha's Vineyard vacation short because of Hurricane Irene. (AP Images)
Chilmark, MA--The Coast Guard cutter that was moored calmly off our beach on Martha's Vineyard is gone. So is the man it was protecting, our quiet neighbor, the president of the United States. He left two days ago, after a tranquil week of fair skies and moderate winds and a largely private family vacation.
Today, we confront a new visitor who is brusquely making her presence known. As hurricane Irene storms into New England, the sea is already a foaming white fury; the wind is whistling through the eaves; the rain is slanting like descending spears: the barrier beach separating the pond and the ocean has disappeared under crashing waves; and tall trees are bowing down to the gods of nature. And the worst is yet to come, with winds on the east side of the storm, where we are, intensifying throughout the day.
As they have for the past three years, the Obamas stayed at Blue Heron Farm that is about half a mile down South Road from our house, where we have spent the summers for more than three decades. And, even more than in the past, the president was as unobtrusive as is possible despite scores of Secret Service agents and a multi-car cavalcade whenever he ventured from home. A trip to a bookstore, several dinners out with his wife, a few quiet parties with old friends, golf not with the glitterati but primarily with White House buddies—and lots of family downtime. Of course, in a era of high unemployment and economic distemper, keeping a low profile makes political sense. But it seems obvious that the president also needed personal shelter from the storms of Washington and the world.