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Dumbest GOP Meme Yet: Does The President Deserve A Vacation ?

As silly season in Washington continues, the Republican Party has decided to make it even sillier:

VINEYARD HAVEN, MASS. — For the second straight year, the first family has landed on this island of quaint seaside towns, second homes and working farms for a late-summer getaway.

But this year, more so than last, political opponents are trying to hang a question over the visit: Does President Obama deserve a vacation?

The Republican National Committee has taken to calling Obama “the Clark Griswold president,” a mocking reference to the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies. With unemployment claims climbing again, the GOP was hoping its criticism would have a certain national resonance. And maybe it will.

One potential complication: Obama has spent far less time on vacation than his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, had at this point in his presidency.

Veteran CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, a fastidious keeper of presidential statistics, has kept count. By his tally, Obama has embarked on nine “vacations” since taking office, bringing his total days off to 48. Some of those trips lasted a day and some, like his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, more than a week.

By comparison, Bush had visited his ranch in Crawford, Tex., 14 times at this point in his administration and spent 115 days there. And yes, Democrats let him have it, too, complaining that he was a chronic vacationer.

White House advisers made clear in the days leading up to this getaway that a president, especially a wartime president overseeing a country in the grips of economic distress, is never really on vacation.

Obama will see his family more over these nine days. He’ll likely read more fiction than briefing books. He’ll play more golf and wear fewer ties.

And everyone other than his family will see him less; on Saturday, he remained out of sight, even to the press pool that accompanies him.

But the result of the enormous logistical effort to take the president on the road is that the White House, at least as much of it as he wants, goes with him. As do the problems he’s contending with.

Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, the distinctly unlaid-back former CIA senior official John Brennan, briefs him every morning here. Obama is also receiving regular economic briefings between beach picnics (like the one the family took late Saturday morning), town excursions and visits to the links.

“Communication systems are very robust,” Brennan, dressed in a dark suit, tie tight against his throat, told reporters here Friday. “We can move information at the speed of light. We can get to him very easily here.”

The issue of whether presidents deserve time off appears to appeal only to the most vociferous partisans on either side.

That is fairly obvious, of course, considering that it is only the vociferous partisans that seem to bring this issue up time and time again when Presidents engage in the most inane types of leisure activities. Steven Taylor put it best, I think, when he talked about the golf meme back in June:

First, presidents deserve some down time.  Do we really want them to have no rest and relaxation?

Second, conservatives in particular, who argue that we should recognize and accept the limitations of government should recognize that having a president work 24/7 is an inefficacious desire.

Third, such criticism are transparently partisan and ultimately content-free.  Not surprisingly, Republicans tend to criticize Democrats for their vacations and golf (or whatever) and vice versa.  It is almost to the level of self-parody boilerplate for anyone who been paying attention to politics for any amount of time.  In sum, it is cheap and easy to play the golf/vacation card.

Fourth, does anyone actually believe that any president engaging in any activity (golf, clearing brush, riding horses in Santa Barbara, walking around Martha’s Vinyard, etc.) is actually off the clock?

So let the President golf, let him go to Martha’s Vineyard.

One can argue about the President’s performance in office, and I largely think he’s done a pretty bad job so far, but to criticize him for stuff like this is petty and stupid. Additionally, wasting blog posts criticizing the President’s leisure activities isn’t solid political analysis, it’s the political hackery no different from what we saw on the left during the Bush Administration. It tells the world that you have nothing of substance to say other than I hate that guy because he’s a Democrat/Republican. Then again, this all started with a post at the RNC’s blog, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Pete says:

    I agree Doug, it is pointless to complain. His policies are working pretty much as he intended them. What, me worry?

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Depression averted.
    Financial system meltdown averted, TARP being repaid.
    Recession at least flatlined if not ended.
    Health care reform passed.
    Financial reform passed.
    Combat troops out of Iraq on schedule.
    Anti-terrorist war ramped up and effective.
    GM saved and about to go public, hopefully cashing us out.
    Israeli-Palestinian negotiations restarted.
    Chinese-US relationship strengthened.
    Afghanistan surge under way.

    Elapsed time? 20 months.

    Did he perform miracles and accomplish all of this without cost? No. But when you’re given a very deep hole about all that can reasonably be hoped for is that the hole gets filled. Expecting the hole to be filled and a mountain to be built in 20 months, in the face of opposition nihilism, is unrealistic.

    In the previous president’s first 20 months we had a tax cut that created zero jobs and piled up massive debt, the most serious terrorist attack in US history, launched one war that made sense and another one that didn’t and set the stage for dragging both wars out interminably.

    The alternative to Mr. Obama was John McCain, who has set new standards for erratic behavior and attempted to foist on us a Vice Presidential candidate now almost universally recognized as a dangerously stupid buffoon.

    I give Mr. Obama a “B.”

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  3. rodney dill says:

    One can argue about the President’s performance in office, and I largely think he’s done a pretty bad job so far, but to criticize him for stuff like this is petty and stupid.

    Obviously you thought it was a waste of time for President Bush to be criticized for his alleged pattern of too many vacations. (… and I’m not trying to insinuate that you didn’t). President Obama’s response has been pretty much the same as Bush’s. with the connectivity the President has too day he’s always on the clock and at least always available to work. This is pretty much payback for all the attacks Bush took from the liberals over his vacations. Consequently I don’t have much problem in reminding the public that Obama’s taking more vacations than Bush, who also was unfairly criticized.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. ratufa says:

    Has Obama really taken more vacation than Bush? This article would seem to indicate that he hasn’t:

    http://www.factcheck.org/2010/01/president-obamas-vacation-days/

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  5. Steve Plunk says:

    The problem for this president is the type of vacations. Ostentatious versus clearing land on a ranch. That’s the impression whether true or not. To make matters worse he’s living large while the average American is cutting back. Tone deaf is an understatement.

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  6. The problem for this president is the type of vacations. Ostentatious versus clearing land on a ranch. That’s the impression whether true or not. To make matters worse he’s living large while the average American is cutting back. Tone deaf is an understatement.

    Unlike President’s Reagan and Bush 43, the Obama’s don’t own a ranch they can go away to that is largely outside the prying eyes of the press.

    Unlike President Bush 41, they don’t own a seaside home in Kennebunkport Maine.

    So, they’ve got to vacation in more public places.

    That doesn’t mean they deserve more criticism for it, though.

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  7. Tim says:

    Poor Obama. He doesn’t have a ranch or seaside home to go to. I suppose he could afford one if he used the millions he made from his 2 autobiographies written before he’d even done anything (kinda like his Nobel prize). Nice cheap shot against the evil rich Republicans, though.

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  8. This is pretty much payback for all the attacks Bush took from the liberals over his vacations. Consequently I don’t have much problem in reminding the public that Obama’s taking more vacations than Bush, who also was unfairly criticized.

    First, just to be clear, I thought it was silly to criticize Reagan for going to his ranch at Santa Barbara, Bush 41 for going to Kennebunkport, Clinton for going to Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere and Bush 43 for going to Crawford.

    Second, if we say that payback is okay, we are going to be stuck with this for the rest of time (which, I will allow, is likely what is going to happen).

    Still, it would be nice if, at some point, we would just admit that this is all silly and stop doing it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. reid says:

    Steve, that’s the impression that the Republicans and rightwing blogs (and you, apparently) are trying to push. Reasonable conservatives such as Doug (and most non-partisan Americans) see it as a stupid non-issue and the hypocrisy it is compared to Bush. But hey, anything to tear down Obama, yay politics!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. reid says:

    Gee, Tim, the Obama-hate was dripping on that one. Better have the blood pressure checked. (And there was no cheap shot against Republicans, he was just stating facts.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****I should write more adult character-driven stuff and stop writing for kids. ****

    ****Depression averted.
    Financial system meltdown averted, TARP being repaid.
    Recession at least flatlined if not ended.
    Health care reform passed.
    Financial reform passed.
    Combat troops out of Iraq on schedule.
    Anti-terrorist war ramped up and effective.
    GM saved and about to go public, hopefully cashing us out.
    Israeli-Palestinian negotiations restarted.
    Chinese-US relationship strengthened.
    Afghanistan surge under way.

    Elapsed time? 20 months.

    Did he perform miracles and accomplish all of this without cost? No. But when you’re given a very deep hole about all that can reasonably be hoped for is that the hole gets filled. Expecting the hole to be filled and a mountain to be built in 20 months, in the face of opposition nihilism, is unrealistic.

    In the previous president’s first 20 months we had a tax cut that created zero jobs and piled up massive debt, the most serious terrorist attack in US history, launched one war that made sense and another one that didn’t and set the stage for dragging both wars out interminably.

    The alternative to Mr. Obama was John McCain, who has set new standards for erratic behavior and attempted to foist on us a Vice Presidential candidate now almost universally recognized as a dangerously stupid buffoon.

    I give Mr. Obama a “B.”***

    Well done Harry :)

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  12. Rock says:

    I think it’s fantastic that President Obama is on vacation. Congress is out of town too, off on their summer recesses enjoying their junkets abroad and hiding from their constituents. If they would just stay away until mid November the less damage they would do to the Republic. What could possible be better than that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. TG Chicago says:

    This post boils down to “it’s okay for all Presidents to take vacation”. And of course that is true.

    What is not mentioned is that Bush broke all records for Presidential vacation days. He beat Reagan’s record with 17 months left in his Presidency. He spent about a third of his time in office on vacation.

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_08/025323.php

    Surely while reasonable people can agree that all Presidents should be allowed to take vacations, we can also agree that there exists a point at which too much vacation time is being taken. Whether or not Bush exceeded that point is a reasonable topic of debate.

    This post seeks to make that topic of debate seem unreasonable and purely partisan. However, it remains perfectly legitimate.

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  14. Marvin says:

    I hope the Republican’s obvious pettiness backfires on them. If there is anything right in this world – it will.

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  15. sam says:

    Dumbest Anti-Obama Comment Thread yet. And if Plunk thinks Martha’s Vineyard is more ostentatious than Kennebunkport, it’s obvious he’s been to neither.

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  16. Tlaloc says:

    “Additionally, wasting blog posts criticizing the President’s leisure activities isn’t solid political analysis, it’s the political hackery no different from what we saw on the left during the Bush Administration. ”

    It’s a false comparison. You’re trying to say that it being okay for Obama to get 48 days of vacation means it must be okay for Bush to have taken 115, but that’s not so. There’s a real quantifiable difference between the two that vastly favors Obama. 115 days vacation in a year and a half means bush was on vacation over 20% of the time. That’s a hell of a lot. Especially for a man who was supposed to be managing a crumbling economy and the immediate post-9/11 events. Obama’s been on vacation 8% of the time which is a lot more reasonable. Again- false comparison.

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  17. An Interested Party says:

    “Nice cheap shot against the evil rich Republicans, though.”

    And you certainly know about taking cheap shots, as that is all your comments boil down to…

    “Tone deaf is an understatement”.

    Indeed, why couldn’t the president and his family just vacation in Steve Plunk’s basement and backyeard and take their meals at the local McDonalds…

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  18. Dutch says:

    - Who Is Barack Obama? Who is Barry Soetoro? Why is there no Birth Certificate? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCmpyQO6bbw

    - Is Barack Obama Really A Saudi / Muslim “Plant” in the White House? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Jhx_2TqffE&feature=player_embedded

    Referance:

    http://actforamerica.wordpress.com/

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  19. Rick H. says:

    The number of people who absolutely whore themselves out to defend anything this president does is kind of remarkable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. reid says:

    No one’s buying that hateful nonsense, Dutch. Really, who do you think you’re fooling?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. reid says:

    Rick: Change “defend” to “attack” and I think you have a very good description of reality. Clearly, anything Obama does is evil or wrong or tone deaf to some people.

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  22. Steve Plunk says:

    Boy, the apologists are out in full force on a Sunday. I especially like the idea of Obama’s vacationing in my basement (I don’t have one). They are welcome to the spare room and a backyard BBQ where I could introduce them to a common working American businessman. That would be a working vacation where they could learn and have some good food. It’s even cheaper than the Vineyard.

    I would suggest those who think things are just hunky dory with President’s image to understand poking at me doesn’t help him. I’m just telling you what the average American thinks. Not what academics or RINOs or East coast Republicans think, just the rest of us unwashed masses that will be at the polls in November.

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  23. john personna says:

    Obviously you thought it was a waste of time for President Bush to be criticized for his alleged pattern of too many vacations.

    I’m pretty sure I was in favor of Mr. Bush taking more vacations. I guess it’s a funny commentary on these Obama critics that they can’t quite think it through.

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  24. Pete says:

    These blog sites enable people to express themselves in similar fashion to the angry driver in his/her little cocoon of an automobile who feels so safe they can flip the bird to any perceived injustice. It would be really cool if the denizens who throw around their snarks and insults could meet face to face and attempt to make civil arguments.

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  25. [...] Doug Mataconis: That is fairly obvious, of course, considering that it is only the vociferous partisans that seem to bring this issue up time and time again when Presidents engage in the most inane types of leisure activities… [...]

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  26. An Interested Party says:

    “I’m just telling you what the average American thinks.”

    Not really, as you only speak for yourself…

    Beware of anyone who claims to know what the “average American” thinks…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Tom Human says:

    > it’s the political hackery no different from what we saw on the left during the Bush Administration.

    According to various reputable sources like CBS, ABC and the New York Times, in eight years George W. Bush took 487 days of vacation at Camp David and 490 days at his ranch in Texas – that’s 2 and 2/3rds *full years* of vacation in 8 eight years.

    Question: do you feel that this is reasonable? If you employed someone, would you be happy if he was out of the office for over 100 days a year (and that’s not including weekends!)

    If you feel this is unreasonable, why was it hackery for us to complain about this?

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  28. Question: do you feel that this is reasonable? If you employed someone, would you be happy if he was out of the office for over 100 days a year (and that’s not including weekends

    But, of course, a major part of the point is that no President is ever truly off the clock, whether they are in Santa Barbara, Crawford or Martha’s Vineyard.

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  29. Juneau: says:

    @ AIP

    “Beware of anyone who claims to know what the “average American” thinks…”

    You’re right. That’s what polls are for… and your views almost always poll as being decidedly below average.

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  30. sookie says:

    While I agree, criticizing the prez for taking a few days off is silly. His kids are small and are out of school right now… but it does seem he has been on vacation all summer long….

    It was silly when the Dem’s did it while Bush was in office, But I’m sure when, we have another republican in the WH, it will once again be fair game to slam him/her because of their time away from WH (cause they are really never off).

    Turn around, is fair play as they say.

    Additionally he seems to have no problem telling us what’s best for us, but we’re not to have expectations about how or what he’s doing? I’m sure there are lots of idled oil field workers and those in all kinds support or ancillary industries who’d love to go back to work from their enforced vacation.

    BTW I don’t think this is their dumbest… :)

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  31. [...] Doug Mataconis: That is fairly obvious, of course, considering that it is only the vociferous partisans that seem to bring this issue up time and time again when Presidents engage in the most inane types of leisure activities… [...]

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