Opinion: Obamas rent Martha’s Vineyard vacation home from McCain supporter

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President Obama, his family and their dog are all going to Martha’s Vineyard this month for their summer vacation, and word is they’re renting a luxury estate -- from a Republican.

The White House won’t confirm the rental location for security reasons. That hasn’t stopped the Vineyard Gazette, the resort island’s journal of record since 1864, from reporting that the Obamas have chosen the 28-acre bucolic Blue Heron Farm, in Chilmark.


The owners: William and Mollie Van Devender, who bought the property in 2005 for $20.35 million. A Mississippi timber executive, William Van Devender gave $2,300, the maximum financial donation allowed under federal law, to Arizona Republican John McCain in last year’s campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Both Van Devenders contributed to Tennessee Republican (and actor) Fred Thompson during his unsuccessful run in the presidential primary.

Insiders say the rental agreement includes three separate leases: one for the Obamas -- who insisted on paying out of their own pockets -- one for the Secret Service and a third for the large White House entourage accompanying the president.

Locals say the Obamas initially focused their holiday research on Oak Bluffs, a Vineyard neighborhood where they’ve vacationed before and where a number of wealthy African American friends have summer homes, including Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Gates is the Harvard professor whose arrest after breaking in to his own house in Cambridge, Mass., led Obama to say the police ‘acted stupidly,’ a remark he later softened by inviting Gates and arresting Sgt. James Crowley to the White House for a much-photographed beer ‘summit.’

But apparently everyone decided that a presidential stay in Oak Bluffs would cause traffic jams.

Instead, although First Lady Michelle Obama and the girls might come earlier and stay with friends elsewhere on the island, they’ll meet up at Blue Heron when the president arrives.

Likely attractions for the president: a swimming pool, private access to Squibnocket Beach, a private dock with kayaks and a yacht, a golf practice range and, if that weren’t enough, a basketball court.

-- Johanna Neuman

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