Vacationing Obama can’t escape nation’s economy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 2010

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — President Obama biked and golfed under a brilliant New England sun Friday, yet he couldn’t escape the cascade of dour news on the economy as his vacation neared its end.

The Commerce Department reported the economy grew at a much slower pace this spring than previously estimated, a mere 1.6 percent. That followed reports earlier in the week on badly slumping home sales and tapering business spending on manufactured items.

Obama has conferred with his economic team on the phone while vacationing. And before his latest round of Martha’s Vineyard golf Friday, he met for about 15 minutes in the clubhouse with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss the economy.

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‘‘The president and Mayor Bloomberg took the opportunity to discuss plans for short- and long-term economic growth at a pivotal point in our recovery,’’ said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. He said Obama invited the mayor to the island about a week ago.

Cherlin said the conversation was not about a Muslim cultural center and mosque proposed for a site near ground zero.

Bloomberg supports the mosque and Obama has said he believes Muslims have the right to build it, though he has pointedly said he was not commenting on the wisdom of that decision. Critics contend the site is too close to the prime target of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which were launched by Islamic terrorists.

The economic news brought renewed criticism for the administration

Republicans seized on the bad economic news, declaring in a news release: ‘‘The sun sets on Obama’s ’summer of recovery,’’’ — the phrase the White House has tried to use to promote projects getting under way thanks to the economic stimulus bill.

But with cloudless skies over Martha’s Vineyard after rain earlier in the week, the president did what he could to seize some downtime.

After their clubhouse chat, Obama and Bloomberg, along with Washington powerbroker Vernon Jordan and White House trip director Marvin Nicholson, went to tee off. The outing marked the president’s fifth round of golf during his 10-day vacation, eclipsing the four rounds he played during a shorter vacation to the island last year.

As he did in 2009, the president hit all three island courses: Mink Meadows (once), Farm Neck (once) and Vineyard (three times).

Earlier Friday, the president and first family went biking in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, a 5,100-acre preserve boasting 15 miles of bike trail.

‘‘Hello. How are you?’’ asked a casually dressed Obama as he rode by a couple of bystanders. Spotting members of his traveling press corps, he then said, ‘‘Hi guys.’’

The president rode with his eldest daughter, Malia, just behind first lady Michelle Obama, who rode with the couple’s younger daughter, Sasha. Everyone wore biking helmets, unlike last year, when the president did not during a ride in Aquinnah and was criticized by bike-safety advocates.

They finished a six-mile trip along a trail called the State Forest Loop before returning to their rented farm complex little more than an hour after they left.

Obama capped the day with a dinner visit to the fishing community of Menemsha, where some of the scenes from the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster ‘‘Jaws’’ were filmed. The president ate at the Beach Plum Inn Restaurant with his wife and a group including White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The Obamas return to Washington Sunday, after the president and his wife first make a stop in New Orleans to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.