August 24, 2009

President urges media shutterbugs to respect daughters’ privacy

The Obama White House, like administrations before it, has gone to great lengths to accommodate the press corps traveling with the president on his first official vacation in office. Staffers arranged for a filing center at a local school, assembled “pools’’ of reporters to tail the president if he goes out, and promised to brief the press daily.

But the real message to those hoping to cover the president’s vacation is: really, we wish you wouldn’t.

Unlike recent presidents, Obama has two young children, and the first couple is adamant that the girls be left alone. That means no approaching, cameras in tow, when Sasha and Malia are trying to get ice cream, or perhaps ride on the island’s famed carousel.

Aside from wishing a good time for all, in fact, the president had one clear message yesterday for reporters, said Bill Burton, the deputy White House press secretary: “The first family would very much appreciate if you respect the privacy of the girls while they’re out here on vacation.’’

That was before Burton even got to the matters of whether the president would be conferring with advisers while on vacation (yes, some) or how he felt about the recent elections in Afghanistan (looking forward to hearing the results along with everybody else).

“I asked him if he had a message for the press corps, and that’s what it is,’’ Burton told those of the press that traveled to the Vineyard on the White House charter.

Further, added press aide Katie Lillie, there will be no tolerating reporters using cellphones to call or text friends with the president’s latest movements on the island. Since the Vineyard has relatively few roads - and it’s easy to figure out how Obama would travel from one venue to another - those in the press pool must agree not to telegraph where he’s going.

Violators, she said, would be thrown out of the pool.

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