Every time President Obama does anything, literally anything at all, he is criticized for it. Tan suit? Should have been gray. One food critic in a small circulation local paper actually criticized the Obamas for serving American caviar to the French president. The attacks over the most petty things have been non-stop. But nothing sets the right into a fit like the thought that this president, like any president, needs some time away from the White House and Washington DC, so he can unwind a bit.
Right wing media, who sat silent when George W. Bush spent the entire month of August at his Texas ranch, every year he was in the White House, is in an uproar every time President Obama leaves the building. Here are a few examples:
- President Obama’s February 2014 Palm Springs, California, and March 2014 Key Largo, Florida, golf outings cost the taxpayers $2,952,278 for flight expenses alone. –Judicial Watch (A search of the site using the term “Bush vacations” yields 6 results, none of them about a Bush vacation.)
- Obama’s Next $2 MILLION Vacation – Plus 10 Other Expensive Obama Vacations-Mr. Conservative
- Obama’s Endless Vacation-National Review Online
Even ABC News has gotten into the act: “Check Out Obama’s Multimillion-Dollar Martha’s Vineyard Vacation Pad,” screams an ABC headline from July 11. However, ABC ignores this simple fact: the Obamas do not own multiple homes. So when they go on vacation, they have to stay at locations such as that. The right might claim that they would be fine with the Obamas staying at a Motel 6, but you can bet that as soon as they did, they would be criticized for “cheapening the office of the president.”
Last month, FactCheck.org, perhaps the most even-handed and unbiased fact checking site, answered the question “Is it true that George W. Bush took more vacation days than Barack Obama?” Their answer is the same that other news organizations have been reporting for months: George W. Bush took far more vacation days than has President Obama.
Fact Check gets their information from CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who has covered every president since Gerald Ford. Knoller leaves time at Camp David off his vacation count, because those trips are often used to host foreign leaders. Without Camp David time in the mix, Knoller comes up with the following numbers:
- On August 8, 2014, President Obama had spent 125 days on vacation. At the same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had spent 381 days at his ranch, plus another 26 days at his parents’ house in Kennebunkport, Maine.
- With time at Camp David added in, Obama’s total to date is 233. Less than Bush’s time on vacation, not counting his time at the presidential retreat. Over his full time in office, Bush spent 491 days just at Camp David.
The truth about presidential “vacations.”
Fact Check points out, correctly, that no president is ever truly on vacation. The job goes where the president is, and there is no place on earth where he can fully escape his duties.
The other thing the right likes to complain about is the cost of President Obama’s vacations. Of course they ignore the fact that because of the security and other factors, whenever the president travels anywhere, it is expensive. The Washington Post offers “Five Myths About Presidential Vacations.” Myth #4, titled “Taxpayers foot the bill for presidential vacations” says:
Presidents pay for their own and their families’ lodging, food and incidentals while on vacation, which may be why they generally prefer to stay at properties they own, as guests of wealthy friends or at the official presidential retreat at Camp David.
But since presidential vacations are always working vacations, taxpayers cover what it takes to keep the commander in chief working. Lodging and meals are an extra cost, but taxpayers pay the salaries of White House staffers and Secret Service agents whether the president stays in Washington or not, so a presidential vacation does not significantly increase personnel costs.
The biggest additional expense is the use of Air Force One and the support aircraft needed to haul all the equipment and ground transportation the president needs. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the cost of operating Air Force One is nearly $180,000 per hour. Ultimately, a presidential vacation can cost taxpayers an additional $1 million or considerably more than if the president had just stayed put in the White House. How significant this is within a $3.5 trillion federal budget is something voters can decide for themselves.
Well, we know the answer to that. The concern over the cost of a presidential vacation increases when the president is a Democrat, and increases even more if that president is black.