Obama back at White House after summer ‘vacation’

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WASHINGTON — The “va­ca­tion” is over and it’s back to the White House for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama, who re­turned to Wash­ing­ton late Sun­day af­ter two weeks on the Mas­sa­chu­setts is­land of Martha’s Vine­yard, will have to de­cide whether the re­cent be­head­ing of an Amer­i­can by Islamic State mil­i­tants is rea­son enough to take a step he has long re­sisted tak­ing.

Mr. Obama has avoided in­ter­ven­ing mil­i­tar­ily in Syria for three years de­spite the ris­ing death toll in the coun­try’s civil war, the gov­ern­ment’s use of chem­i­cal weap­ons against ci­vil­ians and the rise of the Islamic State group amid the chaos there.

The pres­i­dent’s own mil­i­tary lead­ers and some of his crit­ics in Con­gress are pres­sur­ing him to go into Syria in an ef­fort to de­feat the group.

White House of­fi­cials have sug­gested that mil­i­tary air­strikes in Syria are an op­tion, though the of­fi­cials say spe­cific mil­i­tary pro­pos­als have yet to be pre­sented to the pres­i­dent.

Mr. Obama’s at­tempt at rest and re­lax­ation was largely over­taken by events in­volv­ing Islamic State mil­i­tants in Iraq and Syria, in­clud­ing the vid­eo­taped kill­ing of a U.S. jour­nal­ist they had been hold­ing hos­tage. The un­rest in Fer­gu­son, Mo., af­ter the fa­tal po­lice shoot­ing of an un­armed black man was an­other ma­jor source of con­cern for Mr. Obama and his ad­vis­ers.

Crit­i­cized for be­ing away from Wash­ing­ton un­der the cir­cum­stances, Mr. Obama broke from his va­ca­tion to de­liver state­ments on Iraq, Mis­souri and jour­nal­ist James Fo­ley on four oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing one de­liv­ered dur­ing two days he spent at the White House in the mid­dle of the get­away. The un­usual mid­va­ca­tion re­turn to Wash­ing­ton had been sched­uled be­fore those is­sues came to dom­i­nate the news.

Still, in the midst of daily brief­ings, tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions with world lead­ers and other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, Mr. Obama squeezed in nine rounds of golf on an is­land he has turned into his sum­mer pres­i­den­tial re­treat while shrug­ging off the crit­i­cism about how he was spend­ing the time.

Mr. Obama was briefed Sun­day on the re­lease of an­other Amer­i­can who was be­ing held hos­tage in Syria by an al-Qaida linked group, as well as an earth­quake in Cal­i­for­nia. Be­fore leav­ing the is­land, he and his wife, Michelle, went hik­ing with friends the White House did not iden­tify.

Mr. Obama also tele­phoned Darold But­ler, man­ager of the Jackie Robin­son West All Stars Lit­tle League team from Chi­cago. The pres­i­dent praised the young base­ball play­ers for the way they rep­re­sented his home­town in the Lit­tle League World Ser­ies. Chi­cago lost to South Korea in Sun­day’s cham­pi­on­ship game.

Mr. Obama will not spend much time at the White House in the com­ing weeks.

He is sched­uled to ad­dress the Amer­i­can Le­gion con­ven­tion on Tues­day in Char­lotte, N.C., and help raise money for Demo­cratic can­di­dates at fund­raisers Fri­day in New York and Rhode Island.

Travel to Esto­nia and at­ten­dance at a NATO sum­mit in Wales be­gins im­me­di­ately af­ter La­bor Day. The trip is ex­pected to fo­cus on U.S. and Euro­pean con­cerns over Rus­sia’s prov­o­ca­tions to­ward Ukraine.


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