President Obama weighed in Monday afternoon on the police shooting that has sparked combative protests in Ferguson, Mo. He trumpeted U.S.-backed efforts to curtail the Islamic State’s gains in Iraq. What he didn’t do, however, is clarify why he returned to D.C. at all.
The White House scheduled Obama’s unusual break from vacation well in advance of the violence in the St. Louis suburb and before the U.S. launched airstrikes in Iraq.
Those speculating that Obama halted his vacation to make a bombshell announcement will have to wait a few more hours before the president’s scheduled return to Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday afternoon.
Some wondered whether Obama had a major personnel announcement up his sleeve. Maybe he was meeting with a major world leader? Perhaps his long-awaited plan to take executive action on immigration reform? But the White House already ruled that out.
The only surprise gathering Monday was at the home of Obama’s longtime personal chef, Sam Kass. White House deputy chief of staff Anita Decker Breckenridge was also at the dinner.
That event hardly satisfied the White House press corps, which has been guessing for days about how Obama would spend his time in the nation’s capital.
When Obama’s predecessors interrupted their vacations, it was usually to respond to breaking news or for a campaign-style event to promote a certain initiative. That doesn't appear to be the case this time.
Some critics wondered whether Obama scheduled the time in Washington to hit back at claims that he was asleep on the job.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an optics thing,” said one House GOP leadership aide. “Gotta squeeze in a photo-op or two.”
Obama held meetings Monday with his national security team to discuss Iraq and with Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about the developments in Ferguson. Photographers were briefly given access to those sessions, but not reporters.
The president then came out later Monday afternoon for a press conference devoted to those issues.
Unfortunately, at least for amateur sleuths, no reporter asked Obama why he took a break from his vacation.
The presidential daily briefing and a meeting with his economic team are the only items on Obama's public schedule Tuesday before heading back to Massachusetts.
But reporters might be overthinking it.
First lady Michelle Obama and their older daughter, Malia, joined the president on the first part of the Martha’s Vineyard vacation. Thirteen-year-old Sasha Obama, their youngest, was absent.
Obama returned to Washington Monday with Malia. Sasha is expected to join the Obamas at some point this week on vacation.
There you have it — it’s a simple kid swap. At least that’s the theory for the next few hours.