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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama returned to Washington just after midnight Monday for a two-day break from a summer vacation, 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 remained unclear, though it appeared aimed in part at countering criticism that Obama was spending two weeks on the Massachusetts resort island of Martha's Vineyard in the midst of multiple crises. His 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.
Obama had meetings on both matters scheduled for Monday. The president was scheduled to return to Martha's Vineyard Tuesday night.
The president spent a leisurely Sunday on the island before his late-night departure. He played a round of golf — his most frequent vacation activity — then attended a jazz concert and dinner with first lady Michelle Obama.
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.