Kevin Cullen

Our title? First Pests

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / August 20, 2009

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CHILMARK - Cue the theme from “Jaws.’’

It’s been 35 years since Steven Spielberg filmed the ultimate shark flick on Martha’s Vineyard. But the species of predator that will invade the island over the next few days is far more insatiable and dangerous than an underfed great white.

It’s . . . it’s . . . the news media!

Soldiers and Marines are dying in Afghanistan daily. Then there’s that guy with nukes in North Korea who looks like Roy Orbison in a bad suit. And, of course, there is the debate over health care reform, which, after seeing how Barney Frank’s session in Dartmouth went the other day, belongs not in town halls but the studios of “The Jerry Springer Show.’’

But why cover any of this boring stuff when you can spend millions of dollars and countless hours covering . . . the first family’s vacation!

It’s been many years since Bill Clinton gummed up the Vineyard, but having traversed this magnificent island, it is obvious that this is going to be much bigger and far nuttier.

By the time Clinton waltzed around the links at Farm Neck with Vernon Jordan, he had been president for a while. And let’s be honest: He’s no Barack Obama.

This is like Mick Jagger, Bono, and The Boss getting off the ferry from Woods Hole all at once.

The president will stay in Chilmark, but when he wades into Oak Bluffs, it’s going to be like Springsteen walking down the boardwalk in Asbury Park.

Islanders are alternately excited and terrified at the prospect of Obama coming here.

Excited because, well, it’s pretty cool to think the president of the United States wants to vacation on your island.

Terrified because, well, it’s hard enough to get around the island when the only thing you have to worry about is some family from Maryland stopping their SUV every 100 feet to snap pictures of South Beach.

But it isn’t the first family and the Secret Service agents everybody’s worried about.

“It’s you people,’’ a nice man from New York named Michael Joyce said, bouncing his finger off my chest at The Wharf in Edgartown.

We have met the enemy, and it is us.

Media interests tried to sneak a fast one by the Chilmark townies, never a smart or easy thing to do. Up-island cellphone reception is notoriously lousy. But when media types showed up a couple of weeks ago looking for a new cell tower on Peaked Hill, the selectmen, led by the great J.B. Riggs Parker, told them to take a hike.

J.B. didn’t blink when somebody claimed the White House wanted the tower. J.B. is 76 years old, used to be a lawyer in Philly, and is not easily conned.

“We told them no,’’ J.B. said. “End of story.’’

If only J.B. was doing the stand-ups we’re going to have to endure the next week. Get ready for ubiquitous shots of The Black Dog T-shirts and cutesy references to Bo, the First Dog. There will be obsequious interviews with members of the African-American intelligentsia, who have summered here for generations and who will be tugged at by producers from the various cable networks like mail-order brides at a “Star Trek’’ convention.

FOX News can do remotes from outside any number of the 29 nursing homes on the island, hinting broadly that the president might convene a death panel to bump off some grannies taking up beds better used by fawning anchors.

Thinking about enjoying a romantic sunset with your honey and a bottle of wine out at Menemsha? Be prepared to be assaulted by some guy with a microphone asking how it feels to be on the same island as the most powerful man in the world.

“Hi, we’re live from Aquinnah and we just startled some people into falling off the cliffs. Film at 11.’’

This is going to be awful. A train wreck.

I can’t wait.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at