Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sam Kass Joins Obamas On Martha's Vineyard

Day 1 pool reports for the Vineyard Vacay
White House assistant chef and Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass traveled with President Obama aboard Air Force One today for the start of a ten-day vacation on Martha's Vineyard. Kass wasn't announced in advance by the White House as one of the policy advisors who would be on the trip, but Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security John Brennan, who were also aboard AF1, were.

>UPDATE: Kass and POTUS played basketball during the vacay

Kass joined the First Family last year during their vacation on the Vineyard, and made headlines when he golfed with the President. First Dog Bo was also on board AF 1 today, once again having the run of the Flying White House. First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters arrived separately on island. Daughter Malia is newly reunited with the family after summer camp. (Above, the President arrives in Cape Cod en route to the Vineyard; inset is Kass and President Obama golfing at Mink Meadows in 2009)

Spokesman Bill Burton and Marvin Nicholson also arrived with the President, who had no public evens scheduled today, although he made remarks about the small business bill before departing Washington, and later announced recess appointments, including Dr. Elisabeth Hagen as USDA's food safety chief. (Above: Bo arrves in Cape Cod)

Related: Day 3, First Family has a beach picnic. Day 2, Literature & Links is here; the First Lady's ice cream run is here; pool reports are here. Day 1 activities are here; the President made a recess appointment for the food safety chief for USDA as he started his vacation. White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford is touring Asia, while assistant chef Sam Kass is on island with the First Family. A pre-vacay report is here. pool reports are here. More on Day 1 events are here; the President made a recess appointment for the food safety chief for USDA as he started his vacation. White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford is touring Asia.

Pool reports and transcript of AF1 press gaggle, below.

Pool report of departure
Marine One landed on South Lawn at 12:49. POTUS walked out alone in dark
slacks and a light-colored shirt with a collar and waved to the assembled
crowd. He was followed by Valerie Jarrett and her daughter, Bill Burton,
Marvin Nicholson and John Brennan, who were carrying luggage. They lifted
off at 1:02.

Obama's wife and daughters are traveling separately.

Travel pool report #1
Andrews AFB
Aug. 19, 2010

Marine One was wheels down at Andrews AFB around 1:10 p.m.

President Obama exited at 1:14 p.m., having changed out of the suit and tie from his stmt and into vacation attire. He's wearing navy slacks and shirt, no tie.

POTUS was followed by Bill Burton, Marvin Nicholson, Valerie Jarrett and her daughter.

No FLOTUS or Obama sisters on AF1. They'll be meeting POTUS in Vineyard.

POTUS does have first pup Bo on board. He was already on the plane. Pool saw him when he wandered back to the kitchen off of the press cabin to sniff around for food.

AF1 wheels up shortly.

Travel pool report #2
Cape Cod
Aug. 19, 2010

AF1 was wheels down in Cape Cod at 2:11 p.m.

Burton gaggled at the start of the flight:

* Economy: "There's no doubt that we have not done everything that we can to keep moving the economy in the right direction. That's why he was out there pushing for the small business bill as soon as the Senate gets back."

Burton said POTUS will continue to put pressure on Republicans about the bill when he gets back from vacation.

* Iraq: Burton pointed pool to the Pentagon about whether it's correct to say the last combat brigade has left Iraq, but said there still are more than 50,000 troops there. "There are more troops that will be leaving Iraq over the course of the next couple of weeks," he said.

* Pew poll showing the number of Americans who believe POTUS is Muslim has gone up: burton said most Americans aren't reading in the news about what religion POTUS is, they're focused on other issues like the economy, jobs, Iraq and Afghanistan

"The president is obviously - he's Christian. He prays every day. He communicates with his religious advisor every single day. There's a group of pastors that he takes counsel from on a regular basis. His faith is very important to him but it's not something that's a topic of conversation every single day."

Burton said POTUS has talked "extensively" about his faith in the past and "you can bet he'll talk about his faith again." But "making sure Americans know what a devout Christian he is" is not POTUS's top priority.

* Consumer agency head: Burton said don't expect announcement "any time soon."

* Still no POTUS vacation reading list.

Other newsless gaggle topics: Pakistan aid, Middle East peace talks, the allure of Martha's Vineyard for POTUS.

Pool is waiting to exit AF1 for POTUS exit and moving to helos.

Travel pool report #3
Cape Cod
Aug. 19, 2010

POTUS stepped off AF1 around 2:15 p.m.

Greeting him on tarmac: Rep Delahunt - POTUS gave him a big smile and put his arm around his shoulder - Capt. David Throop, Col. Christian Faux and Lt. Col. Shawn Smith.

After shaking their hands POTUS walked a few paces to greet about a dozen people who were standing behind a barricade in the middle of the tarmac.

Marine One wheels up to Martha's Vineyard around 2:20 p.m.

Travel pool report #4
Martha's Vineyard
Aug. 19, 2010

Marine One was wheels down at 2:36 p.m. POTUS exited and presumably got in one of the waiting SUVs on the tarmac. Pool was held too far away, standing near its giant, canary yellow tour bus, to actually see POTUS.

John Brennan, Bill Burton, Valerie Jarrett and her daughter went to separate non-motorcade vehicles.

WH chef Sam Kass is also on the trip, flew in pool helo.

Bo heloed with staff and was walked to a motorcade van.

At 2:40 p.m. motorcade was rolling to POTUS's rental home. Some well wishers appeared here and there along the roadside. A couple of them had small American flags. One woman in a floppy yellow hat flashed a double thumbs down.

Holding near the home awaiting word on any POTUS activities.

Hopefully pool's sweet bus will be able to keep up for the next 9 days.

Lid called at 3:15 PM.

Pool was Carol E. Lee of Politico

Press gaggle aboard Air Force One, en route to cape Cod:

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release August 19, 2010


Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cape Cod, Massachusetts

1:28 P.M. EDT
MR. BURTON: Thank you for joining us on our trip to Martha’s Vineyard. For starters, I just wanted to ask, and for folks who read the transcript of this, that the privacy of the First Family is respected. And, you know, the girls will obviously be out and about and the First Family will be doing things -- you know, it’s just like last year. We appreciate the hospitality of the folks at Martha’s Vineyard. And the First Family had such a great time, they’re looking forward to a great time again. We just hope that the local and national reporters respect the privacy of the girls, especially.

So with that, I’m happy to take some questions.

Q The economy, the numbers this morning were very bad. I know the President has come out and made a statement, but how bad does the White House think this is? I mean, is the economy -- did the economy really hit a wall in August, as it looks like? Do you think there’s a real risk of a double-dip recession?

MR. BURTON: The President’s view is that there are going to be a lot of indicators that show some movement in different directions, but there’s no doubt that we have not done everything that we can to keep moving the economy in the right direction. That’s why he was out there pushing for the small business bill as soon as the Senate gets back. We’ve been able to make some progress but the President isn’t satisfied with the pace. And that’s why he’s doing everything that we can to get the economy moving at a strength that is going to keep -- that is going to get Americans back to work.

Q But, I mean, how bad do you think the outlook is for the economy? I mean, how high would you rate the risks of a double-dip recession?

MR. BURTON: I’m not an expert economist, but I will say that if you’re an unemployed family right now you’d think that the economy is in pretty bad shape, and those are the kind of folks that the President is out there fighting for every single day to try to create jobs and create a stronger economy.

Q Did those numbers surprise you -- 500,000 jobs?

MR. BURTON: You know, these indicators -- there’s economic indicators that come out every single week and you don’t know what they are before they’re announced, so what do you know what the numbers would be.

Q Bill, how effective do you think the President’s statement is going to be, because he’s giving it -- he’s going today, he’s going away for 10 days. The Senate isn’t coming back obviously until after the August recess. I mean, that’s a lot of time in between now and when the Senate is actually going to take this up, or when the pressure is really going to need to be on. Are we going to hear more from him? And how effective is what he did today?

MR. BURTON: The President has been trying to -- has been applying pressure on this issue for a while now, and it’s been Republican obstruction that’s stopped it from going forward. So he’s talked about it out on this trip that we took previously, he talked about it today, and he’s going to continue to when he gets back because it’s critically important that we create an environment where these small businesses can create jobs and make America’s economy stronger.

Q The Pew poll came out today and there’s some numbers on there that are interesting -- one showing that the number of Americans who believe that the President is Muslim has gone up, while the number of Americans who believe the President is Christian has gone down. What do you guys make of that?

MR. BURTON: Well, I think you have to understand that for most Americans, they’re not reading a lot in the news about what religion the President is and anything other -- what they’re focused on is, you know, what you guys are focused on, which is important issues like what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, what’s going on in the economy, what are we doing to create jobs -- all these different issues.

And so the President is obviously a -- is Christian. He prays every day. He communicates with his religious advisor every single day. There’s a group of pastors that he takes counsel from on a regular basis. And his faith is very important to him, but it’s not something that is a topic of conversation every single day.

Q So why do you think the American public has got these opinions of him that he’s a Muslim and not a Christian?

MR. BURTON: I just think people are focused on other issues and not paying all that much attention to exactly what the President does with his spirituality. But as you all know and have covered extensively, he is Christian and his faith is very important to him.

Q Could the White House have -- could the President speak more about his religion to counter this perception that he isn’t Christian? He has talked about his faith in the past. Could the White House have him come out and talk about it more?

MR. BURTON: He has spoken about his faith extensively in the past. You can bet that he’ll talk about his faith again. You could always play the “would-of, could-of, should-of,” but the President’s top priority here isn’t making sure that Americans know what a devout Christian he is, it’s making sure that we’re getting the economy on track and we’re creating jobs in this country.

Q Is it frustrating to him though that so many people have this misperception? Did he have a reaction to these poll findings, do you know?

MR. BURTON: I didn’t talk to him about it, so I don’t know what his reaction was. But I can’t imagine that he is all that focused on some poll like this.

Q It suggests that the Americans -- the American people don’t really know him. I mean, is that something that bothers him?

MR. BURTON: I think that’s extrapolating too much from one poll, one day, and one of its questions.

Q Do you have any update on the CEA head or the consumer agency head coming out during the vineyard trip? Any meetings coming up at the White House with potential heads -- Warren?

MR. BURTON: I don’t have any update on timing. I would say that you shouldn’t expect anything any time soon.

Q Like in the next two weeks or any --

Q That’s soon.

MR. BURTON: I’ll keep you posted on any new timing. I’m not trying to be coy about saying that it’s like right around the corner, but it’s not in the immediate future here.

Q Can you give an idea of who they’re looking at for the CEA?

MR. BURTON: I don’t have anything new for you on that.

Q And on Iraq last night, can you clarify what happened? Was that indeed the last combat brigade brought out of Iraq last night? I mean, 50,000 troops is still a considerable amount to have there anyway.

MR. BURTON: Right, well, there’s significantly more than 50,000 troops still in Iraq. And as we move towards the end of the combat mission in Iraq, there are a lot of reporters who are embedded in with units that are leaving Iraq, and more will be leaving over the course of the next couple of weeks.

And the President obviously thinks our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have served there and have achieved the objectives of the United States. We’ve decreased violence there. We’ve got the Iraqi army in a place where they can take care of their own security. And politics has broken out all over the country, and that’s what people are using to solve their differences.

So as we get to the end of the mission on August 31st, September 1st we’ll begin a new one. There will be a change in command there and you’ll see the United States move to a new role, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces.

Q There were reports that those were the last troops. Were those incorrect last night?

MR. BURTON: There are more troops that will be leaving Iraq over the course of the next couple of weeks.

Q So were they wrong in reporting the last combat brigade was leaving the country?

MR. BURTON: I think that you should talk to the Pentagon about the specific troop movements and who is where. I can’t say that I saw every report that was out there on this. But I can tell you that there are more troops that are going to be leaving the country over the -- leaving Iraq over the course of the next couple of weeks.

Q Can I change -- stay with foreign affairs?


Q There’s some talk that there may be movement on the Middle East peace talks. Is there a possibility that during the course of the Martha’s Vineyard holiday, there may be some news from the White House on progress to direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

MR. BURTON: I saw those reports, and as you all know and have covered, George Mitchell, Secretary Clinton and the President have all been working very hard to make progress and get to a place where there are direct talks. I don't have anything to announce for you on that. If there’s any change, then I will let you know as soon as possible.

Q Any update on Pakistan aid?

MR. BURTON: I went through this yesterday quite a bit. Today Secretary Clinton and the USAID administrator Rajiv Shah are at the United Nations, talking about what we’re doing, what else can be done to help the people of Pakistan. This is an ongoing crisis and we don't know exactly -- hold on one second -- what we can do to help them mitigate some of the problems that they’re facing as a result of these floods and the rains.

We’ve already given tens of millions in assistance. American helicopters and C-130 planes are helping in the effort. We’ve delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and medical supplies, and we’re going to continue to help as requests come in through the Pakistani government.

Q Bill, could you say something about what the appeal is that Martha’s Vineyard has for the President -- like what is so great about it?

MR. BURTON: Well, it’s a beautiful part of the country. It has really nice beaches and the folks are really great. The food is terrific. And it’s some place that the President went before he was President and likes to go back because it’s a comfortable place where he can rest and recharge the batteries a little bit.

Q Can you talk a little bit about his workload? I mean, he’ll get his daily briefings, but anything else scheduled?

MR. BURTON: Well, he’ll continue to get his intelligence briefings, and he’ll also be getting briefings on the economy and other issues as they come up. But as any of you guys who have covered these vacations before know, there’s other things that come up and he’ll obviously attend to those as necessary.

Q What’s he reading?

MR. BURTON: Still don't have that for you. I know, it’s crazy.

Q I’m going to jump back to one another topic, and that is, does the President think that the use of the word “mosque” in the whole controversy down there near 9/11, is it being reported fairly, is it being treated fairly, or is -- or are people overplaying the use of the word “mosque”?

MR. BURTON: I haven’t heard him say that.

Okay, thanks for the good times.

END 1:38 P.M. EDT

*AP photos of arrival; Reuters photo of golf