An Open Letter to President Obama: Martha’s Vineyard?
Tom Swick: Contemplating and celebrating travel
07.24.09 | 10:24 AM ET
Dear Mr. President,
Martha’s Washington Elite Camp Vineyard?
I know. People are getting on you about the economy, health care, Afghanistan—the last thing you need is criticism about where you choose to spend your vacation.
But ... Last year at this time you were running for president on a platform of change. We were told that if you got into the White House things would be different. Your candidacy represented something new, something unique, something never before seen.
Bill Clinton vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard. That was two administrations ago. The American people have not forgotten. The residents of Martha’s Vineyard have not forgotten.
But it’s not just an unoriginal choice of a vacation destination—it is a politically unintelligent one. I’m no strategist (though I do have a blog), but it seems to me that, in a country that fancies itself as egalitarian, you don’t want spend your vacation on an exclusive island off the coast of Massachusetts that every summer becomes a kind of tank-top think tank inhabited by people who live inside the Beltway and/or have high level positions at large media corporations. You need to show you’re one of the people, not part of the establishment. (That we know.)
Also, I don’t think the White Sox jacket is going to go over all that well in Oak Bluffs.
Clinton could pull off a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard because, as an Arkansan, he was like an American tourist in Florence. You, Mr. President, know all about islands, and yours are more verdant, sensuous, geographically diverse and culturally interesting than any you’re going to find in New England. Compared to Oahu, Martha’s Vineyard is southern Illinois with surf. And Sasha and Malia are going to find the water awfully cold.
I can understand that you want a vacation by the sea, and that, in these days of foreclosures and unemployment, you don’t want it to look luxurious. But there are many places—on the Eastern Seaboard—that can meet your needs. Here are just three:
Ocean City, NJ—What better way to show your solidarity with the suffering than to spend your summer vacation in New Jersey? Ocean City is a dry town, founded by Methodists, so it’s not the sort of place where you’ll be tempted to sneak a smoke. Here in “America’s Greatest Family Resort” the four of you can have good wholesome fun walking the boardwalk, playing miniature golf, eating Fralinger’s salt water taffy and searching for the boyhood home of Gay Talese.
Saint Helena Island, SC—It is an inescapable fact that you bring publicity wherever you go. So why not, instead of spotlighting the cocktail circuit in Edgartown, focus attention on the Gullah culture of the coastal southeast? Americans will learn, as your family learns, about the slaves who were brought to these islands from west Africa and, due to their isolation, held on to many of their traditions and developed a unique language and way of life. Not only will you be educated, you’ll be fed some of the finest food in the United States. I mean, why settle for clam chowder when you can have Frogmore Stew?
Hollywood, FL—During your campaign, much was made of your ins with Hollywood. Here’s your chance to play a little joke on your detractors. Florida’s Hollywood is as far in style from California’s as it is in miles. Situated between Miami Beach and Palm Beach, it has neither glitz nor riches. (Making it an ideal destination for a recession president.) What it does have is a diverse population of residents and visitors—French Canadians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics, drifters—and something of a bohemian feel. The girls can work on their Spanish and you can practice diplomacy at the Russian supermarket and the Middle Eastern restaurants. And for all the people who still think you’re too young and inexperienced for the job, nothing will demonstrate that you can take the heat like an August vacation in Florida.