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Obama heading back to DC in rare vacation break

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Aug. 17 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

First lady Michelle Obama, left, bikes rides with President Barack Obama and daughter Malia Obama on the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest bike path, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, outside of West Tisbury, Mass., during the Obama family vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Jacquelyn Martin, AP

EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama is getting off the island.

In a rare move for him, the president planned a break in the middle of his Martha's Vineyard vacation to return to Washington on Sunday night for meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers on the U.S. military campaign in Iraq and tensions between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

The White House has been cagey about why the president needs to be back in Washington for those discussions. He's received multiple briefings on both issues while on vacation. The White House had also already announced Obama's plans to return to Washington before the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq began and before the shooting of a teen in Ferguson that sparked protests.

Part of the decision to head back to Washington appears aimed at countering criticism that Obama is spending two weeks on a resort island in the midst of so many foreign and domestic crises.

Yet those crises turned the first week of Obama's vacation into a working holiday. He made on-camera statements Iraq and the clashes in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb. He also called foreign leaders to discuss the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Israel and Hamas.

"I think it's fair to say there are, of course, ongoing complicated situations in the world, and that's why you've seen the president stay engaged," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Obama is scheduled to return to Martha's Vineyard on Tuesday and stay through next weekend.

Even though work has occupied much of Obama's first week on vacation, he still found plenty of time to golf, go to the beach with his family and go out to dinner on the island. He hit the golf course one more time Sunday ahead of his departure, joining two aides and former NBA player Alonzo Mourning for an afternoon round.

Earlier in the week, Obama attended a birthday party for Democratic adviser Vernon Jordan's wife, where he spent time with former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That get-together between the former rivals-turned-partners added another complicated dynamic to Obama's vacation. Just as Obama was arriving on Martha's Vineyard, an interview with the former secretary of state was published in which she levied some of her sharpest criticism of Obama's foreign policy.

Clinton later promised she and Obama would "hug it out" when they saw each other at Jordan's party. No reporters were allowed in, so it's not clear whether there was any hugging, but the White House said the president danced to nearly every song.

Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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