The Magazine

Don't Go There

Martha's Vineyard is not the best presidential vacation site.

Aug 17, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 45 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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With this in mind, the White House went into a panic when the Clintons were asked to the Vineyard for a celebrity wedding in the fall of 1995, just as the reelection campaign kicked off. "I groaned when I heard," Morris recalled, and he started conniving with Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and others to keep the First Couple away. He and George Stephanopoulos began plotting to limit the Clintons' time on the island; Panetta suggested "it was hurricane season, and maybe the president wouldn't be able to fly." The First Couple did go, but Morris lucked out when a storm arrived, and pushed the event off the front pages. "Coverage of the wedding was all but drowned out by the focus on Hurricane Opal," as Morris gloated. "The storm didn't stop the Clintons from going, but it did force their early return."

And then there was the 1998 Vacation From Hell, just days after Clinton's speech admitting his intern-al affair. It kicked off with the Clintons' walk across the White House lawn to the helicopter, watched by soap opera addicts everywhere, followed by reports of who said what to whom on the flight to the Vineyard, and then reports through the week: Was Bill in or out of the doghouse, and did they look at each other, and were they smiling, and did they talk to each other yet? Suffice it to say that one does not want to start a family holiday with a confession on television of fooling around with a college-age intern. Suffice it to say, too, that the Vineyard hasn't been good to the Clintons, and is a place a president might really want to avoid.

Really, Mr. President, do you need all of this karma, all of this agita, and all of these bad vibes? Back in the day, as the Washington Post's Al Kamen reminds us, Bill himself got "positively hammered in the press" for turning his back on his home-boy persona to kick up his heels with the privileged. ("Clinton Among the Swells," the New York Times scolded.) And the Clintons went to this glitzy, blue-state, and celebrity playground during good times and not a recession, didn't throw money around in a mogul-like manner, and weren't recently on the wrong end of a town-v.-gown drama, with one of their friends (on the gown end of the fracas) summering on the Vineyard himself. On the other hand, the Clintons' poll numbers also were falling, and they were also in the midst of a huge fight on health care, which they ended up losing.

Morris suspects the Vineyard frolicking played a part in this loss. You could do worse than to call up Dick Morris and ask him to run polls on voter-friendly vacations, voter-friendly locations, and recreational sports that appeal to swing voters, of the kind you are losing. Forget Massachusetts, and think of Ohio. Forget Chilmark, Oak Bluffs, and the Vineyard; the people who summer there love you already. Michigan is less "in," but it is much more important. Macomb County is lovely at this time of the year.

But if you insist on defying the odds and the gods with your Vineyard fixation, Morris still has some words of advice. As he wrote later about the contentious celebrity wedding, "We did succeed in limiting the time they were on the Vineyard and arranged to follow the visit with a trip to the Boston area and .  .  . a statement about protecting police." Police! Where have we heard that word lately? The perfect idea. Stop off at the Cambridge police headquarters, and talk to the folks there. Call on your new friend James Crowley, and bring your old friend Skip Gates with you. He's just been to your house, so it's only expected. Sit in his garden. And you bring the beer.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and a columnist for the Washington Examiner.