Don't shame Obama's vacation
Sitting on a deck chair on the family-friendly boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, typing into my digital tablet, I am wondering why people are giving President Obama such a hard time for taking a vacation.
I can understand why citizens would be upset if, say, a big-city mayor didn't rush home from a tropical paradise to oversee reaction to a mid-winter blizzard.
I fully understand why a governor is expected to hurry home after a major flood has swept away half of a town.
But the president?
I mean, it's not like he's got a real job, or anything.
Seriously, most of us who have jobs don't have jobs that come with us when we go on vacation. Or at least, they shouldn't.
The president's job always does. Even on genteel Martha's Vineyard, the digital communications and heavy security of the White House travels with the Obamas like a big, wired cocoon.
Nevertheless, ever since presidents began to take vacations, there have been spoil-sports who complain about it.
Critics claim the president is ignoring the sluggish economy, the Mexican border crisis, chaos in the Middle East, the crisis-of-the-moment between Russia and Ukraine and countless other burdens on the lives of struggling Americans who can barely dream of cooling their heels in the Vineyard.
Team Obama's push back echoes past administrations: A president's vacations are always working vacations.
Sure. When is there not a crisis somewhere that demands a president's attention? Crises always are with us. But vacations? Hey, you use 'em or lose 'em.
Besides, it always has seemed ironic to me when the people who detest a president's very presence in the White House complain when that same president won't spend more time in it.
That's why I appreciated the candor of Dennis Miller's response when Fox News' Bill O'Reilly asked the irreverent radio talk show host and comedic rant-master about Obama's vay-cay: "I say he should take more."
"Listen, I got enough things-- I've got enough problems with Barack Obama," he explained. "I don't have to start faking them." Fair enough.
Yet even a mainstream reporter-pundit like the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, under the ominous headline "Obama vacations as the world burns," questions the optics of Obama photographed on vacation while bombs explode across the Middle East.
Public perception does matter in politics. But, according to CBS News reporter Mark Knoller, the widely-acknowledged go-to authority on how presidents spend their days in office, the notion of a constantly vacationing and golfing Obama has been greatly exaggerated.
By Knoller's count, this president has left the White House for vacations a total of 125 partial or complete days since he took office in 2009. By comparison, President George W. Bush spent 381 partial or complete days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and another 26 days at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
And Dwight Eisenhower leads the pack as a duffer, logging in more than 800 rounds of golf in eight years, way more than Obama's 104 rounds from January 2009 through Aug. 4 of this year, the last time he played before heading to the Vineyard.
That's OK. I have long maintained, regardless of whether the guy in the White House was my choice or not, that we should give a rest to the "vacation shaming," as Huffington Post writer Akbar Shahid Ahmed recently labeled this ritual.
In this age of wireless technology, where even little kids (like the little girl I just heard on the hotel elevator) complain immediately if the Wi-Fi isn't fast enough, it sounds so last century to forget that every presidential vacation is a working vacation.
I think the complaint is based on an American notion I wish we would discard, the notion that vacations are somehow a waste of time. Every year, more medical studies provide evidence that people who take at least a week and preferably two weeks of vacation a year live longer and better than those who don't. Take a break, folks.
The presidency is stressful enough. Overwork, exhaustion and general unhappiness isn't good for any of us, especially presidents.
E-mail Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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