How to spoil a president's Martha's Vineyard vacation

When Bill Clinton vacationed on Martha's Vineyard, the Republican National Committee bought up all the ad space on the local cable channels. Will President Obama get the same treatment?

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Barack Obama arrives at Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station in Bourne, Mass., Thursday, en route to a family vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

President Obama began a ten-day vacation with his family yesterday on Martha's Vineyard, an island off Cape Cod. It's the same island where they vacationed last summer – and a favorite vacation spot for President Clinton.

In fact, from the annals of yesteryear’s political hijinks, Republican communication strategist Mark Pfeifle brings Decoder readers, a tale of how to make sure the president never forgets his political opposition - even when on vacation:

Buy up all the television advertising you can get your hands on … in Martha’s Vineyard.

That’s what Pfeifle did as a member of the Republican National Committee’s communications staff in 1999, when then-President Bill Clinton was headed for some time off to play golf (pictured above), among other activities, in the exclusive Massachusetts enclave.

“I called up the local cable access network and I bought every single [television advertising placement], down to $1 a spot,” Pfeifle said. “I knew that the reporters were going to be sitting in their hotel rooms and are going to have to watch [cable news] - and when they weren’t [watching the news] I bought ESPN.”

While the president probably had a satellite dish, I figured his staff weren’t in as good of accommodations so every time they turned on the TV, there was my message.”

Later, word trickled back to Pfeifle through an acquaintance who visited the Clintons during that time that he had been at least partially successful. Clinton reportedly said that every time he turned on the TV, RNC chair Jim Nicholson was looking back at him.

What’s perhaps more fascinating is what the advertisement was about: Social Security.

And Republicans were fighting to put Social Security surpluses into a “lockbox” to prevent Democrats from using them to help fund spending increases or tax cuts.

Yes, that “lockbox” that became a linchpin of then-vice president Al Gore’s 2000 presidential run. And those Republicans who currently have entitlement spending like Social Security firmly within their budget-cutting sights.

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IN PICTURES: Obama family vacations

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