The President flew into town last weekend to play a round of golf at the Floridian in Palm City. If you were around you probably heard the roar of the fighters overhead as they kept the skies clear and helped search for errant golf balls. I’m going to guess that Obama slices left, way left, very far left.
As usual whenever the conversation of President Obama and vacations come up you will hear two competing thoughts. Obama, it seems, is always on vacation; or George Bush took more vacation than Obama.
If you’re an Obama supporter you point to articles such as the one issued by the Huffington Post Obama vs. Bush: Who Took More Presidential Vacations?, just as Eve Samples did last week. Eve is Scripps’ protector of all things liberal. (Which is why she was promoted to head our local paper’s opinion page.) She very well could have been on vacation and phoned this one in, as she parroted talking points from the HuffPo’ piece. The HuffPo’ article refers to research done by FactCheck.org . I have other issues with FactCheck, but I’ll put them to the side for now. Let’s assume that they are correct for the moment with the number of days. The day count is nothing but a statistic and you know what they about statistics. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. The question remains, are all days created equal, or are all vacation days created equal.
As the article states, the POTUS is never really on vacation. I agree with that. The job of President has to be the most difficult in the world, and for the most part when you travel the job travels with you. Certainly not unique in this day and age where your computer, email, phone, contact database and everything you need to conduct business slips easily into the pocket of your Bermuda shorts. I disagree with the premise of the article. The writer is doing nothing but counting days away from the White House. If you have an office and an office in your home, not being in your ‘official’ office doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on vacation.
When Bush went on vacation he went to his ranch, his home in Texas. You and I would call it working from ‘home’. It’s not the same as being in the office, but is it a vacation day? As Bush called it, the western White House. Once secured it was always secured. The public was neither involved, nor imposed upon. There was also Camp David, a secure location. Probably a few days in Kennebunkport, the elder Bush’s family home in Maine. Again, once secured always secured, away from the public.
Obama never vacations in his Chicago home. When Obama vacations he vacations among the public. Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii, etc. Although he was born in Hawaii, he has no home there, nothing to go back to, nothing besides an entry on his birth certificate.
When the POTUS travels it goes without saying he does not travel alone. Massive amounts of time and money are spent on security. When he travels to public locations there is a massive upheaval of the locals. Imagine your town on near lock down for 2 weeks. The more public of a location the more the secret service must do to protect the President. While the President might pay for his own vacation, the taxpayers pick up the tab of protecting him.
Not only the President but the entire first family, and it is well known that Michelle Obama and daughters like to get there early and leave late. They’ve taken numerous trips without the POTUS, and the Secret Service must perform the same functions as they do with the President. I don’t recall if Laura Bush took lavish trips on the public’s dime as we have seen from the Obamas. When Bush was at the Crawford ranch he was at the ranch, not souvenir shopping, not taking his girls to get ice cream cones. Was it a vacation in the traditional sense?
Is it fair to tell the POTUS, a father, that he cannot get ice cream cones with his daughters? Is it fair to tell a family that the vacation they’ve saved years for has been canceled because the hotel they book 14 months ago just happens to be the same favored by the First Family and half the hotel has been taken over by aides, entourage and secret service?
You know what the job is before you run for it.
When asked early in his presidency why neither he nor his family ever attends church services, why they never selected one of many local churches in the DC area to belong to Obama said that he didn’t want to impose upon other parishioners by making a spectacle of the service through their attendance. I guess the same does not hold true for vacations. Public be damned. Most recently a wedding was scrapped at a golf course because Obama was playing through. Months and months of planning canceled at the last moment. This is understandable when circumstances are unavoidable, but this was just a round of golf. One of about 200 or so. Obama needed to get in his round of golf. In my opinion that doesn’t come under the heading of unavoidable.
As POTUS you know, or should know, exactly what your movements do to those around you. Obama understood this when it came to going to church, but it ended there. While you are not to be expected to be a prisoner in the Oval Office you need to show some discretion and concern for the little people. I don’t think you’d see this from Bush or Laura Bush, they served with a bit more humility and respect for others and respect for the office.
Bush stopped playing golf in 2003 because it looked bad to have a president play golf while his troops were in battle. Jimmy Carter became prisoner of the Rose Garden during his term due to the 444 day Iranian Hostage crisis. I’m not a Carter fan but even he understood public perception.
Optics also plays into the equation as well. When ISIS beheaded an American journalist, Obama made an off the cuff comment, saying not much more than “oh well” added bringing these people to justice to the list of things he was going to ‘get to the bottom of’ but never has. Then he was off once again to get in a round of golf. It looks bad. It looks awful. Everything in Obama’s campaigns was planned to the n-th degree, one would think that someone in his administration would have the sense to say, ‘this looks very bad’. It looks as if ‘my time off is more important than American lives.’
So let’s stop counting days away from the White House and look at total money spent, total inconvenience to the general public and public perception
As they say, perception is reality.