Secret Service Visits Kennedy Compound,Will Obama See Ailing Senator?

Obama family settles in on Martha's Vineyard, amid rumors of visit with Kennedy.

August 23, 2009, 12:50 AM

Aug. 24, 2009 — -- President Obama came to Martha's Vineyard for his first full week of vacation since taking office, but with the controversy and debate over health care reform still churning, he may not get much rest and relaxation.

ABC News has learned that the Secret Service visited the Kennedy family compound on Cape Cod several times on Sunday, for what could be a possible presidential meeting with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who is battling brain cancer.

A Kennedy family source said a visit might be in the offing, depending on the senator's health, and said he has good days and bad days.

Kennedy has been advocating health care reform for decades, but has been absent from the fiery debate that continues in Washington and around the nation.

President Obama's rival in last year's presidential election said he has been missed.

"It's huge that he's absent, not only because of my personal affection for him, but because I think that health care reform might be in a very different place today," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

President Obama may be out of town, but the debate over health care rages without him.

"I think it's a real mistake to try and jam through the total health insurance reform, health care reform plan that the public is either opposed to or of very, very passionate mixed minds about," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

While the Obama family is expected to spend some quality time together, Obama may not be able to avoid members of the Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a leading group on the right that opposes the president's health care proposals. Some members have followed the president to the Vineyard by airing local television ads chastising him for taking time off now.

"The beach is nice this time of year, but while President Obama vacations, concerns mount about his health care plan," the ad says.

Vacationers in Oak Bluffs, a town on the north coast of the island, were nearly unanimous in their belief that Obama deserves time off with his family. One Republican said that while he doesn't support the president's health care policies, he does support his getting away and recharging his batteries.

Obama and his family will do that on a 28-acre private estate in the town of Chilmark. The property rents for about $35,000 a week, and the Obamas are picking up a portion of the bill. But that may not matter to critics who consider it inappropriate for the president to vacation during tough economic times.

"It's seen as a liberal enclave filled with swells and elites," said presidential historian Doug Brinkley. "That gives additional fodder to the right … to show that this is a celebrity president out of touch."

Obama aides say the president will call members of Congress throughout the week to discuss health care reform, but insist that this is a family trip, not a working vacation.

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