President Obama pauses vacation, returns to Washington

BY Julie Pace, Associated Press  August 18, 2014 at 10:18 AM EST

 President Barack Obama and oldest daughter Malia return to the White House on August 17, 2014 in Washington, DC.Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and oldest daughter Malia return to the White House on August 17, 2014 in Washington, DC.Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Taking a two-day break from summer vacation, President Barack Obama returned to work at the White House Monday, replacing images of him bicycling and golfing on an island resort with those of him at the White House huddling over current crises with top advisers.

Obama interrupted his family getaway on Martha’s Vineyard, during which airstrikes in Iraq and violent clashes in a St. Louis suburb intruded on his golf and beach plans.

The exact reason for Obama’s return shortly after midnight remained unclear, though it appeared aimed in part at countering criticism that Obama was spending two weeks on the Massachusetts island in the midst of multiple crises.

After a week of photos depicting the president golfing or riding his bike with his family, the White House was making sure that press photographers would get pictures Monday of Obama in meetings with national security aides discussing Iraq and with Attorney General Eric Holder for an update on the federal response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old.

Obama’s brief return to Washington was planned even before the U.S. military began striking targets in Iraq and before the standoff between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.Still, Obama’s brief return to Washington was planned even before the U.S. military began striking targets in Iraq and before the standoff between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. The president was scheduled to return to Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday night.

The meetings come as conditions in Ferguson deteriorated overnight and after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to step in. Holder over the weekend ordered a federal medical examiner to perform a third autopsy on the teenager, Michael Brown.

In Iraq, Iraqi and Kurdish forces reported gaining back control of the country’s largest dam from Islamic militants after two days of airstrikes.

While Obama has had plenty of downtime since arriving in Martha’s Vineyard a week ago, he also made two public statements about the situations in Iraq and Ferguson. The president had ordered the Iraq strikes days before leaving for vacation, while the tensions in Ferguson that stem from the shooting death of an unarmed teen boiled over during his vacation.

“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’s vacation has also been infused with a dose of politics. He headlined a fundraiser on the island for Democratic Senate candidates and attended a birthday party for veteran 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 arrived 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.