Righties have been going crazy about President Obama taking some vacation time this month. As if nearly everyone hasn’t.
The Daily Show and Colbert Report were off for over 2 weeks. Late-night talk shows have taken their vacations. Most people I know have taken at least a week off this month. It’s August, the Dog Days, when everyone wants to lie back and enjoy the last days of summer. Presidents are no different. Except that they don’t so much vacation as go somewhere else.
President Obama spent his 2-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, a popular spot for many, rich and not-so-rich. His stay there included: 9 rounds of golf, a jazz concert, a beach outing, a bike ride, a birthday party… the sort of thing most people do on a vacation.
But most people do not also deliver four statements or more to the media per day, phone foreign leaders, declare disasters, or issue addresses. Because, let’s face it, the President is never really away from his job, it’s with him everywhere he goes. Think of checking your e-mails on the beach times a thousand.
As Nancy Reagan famously quipped:
“Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery.”
That doesn’t stop the right from attacking Obama about his vacations, though. They have been harping on his golfing, as if every president since Truman hasn’t used golf as a stress-reliever and for networking. They complain about the cost, ignoring the fact that presidents pay for their own and their family’s lodging, food and incidentals while they are on vacation.
Taxpayers only foot the bill for the costs of keeping the president working; White House staffers, Secret Service and so forth cost the same no matter where the First Family is spending their time. So costs aren’t the problem.
The actual “vacation” problem is Congress.
The actual problem is hidden behind the right-wing smokescreen. The actual problem is Congress. Have you seen the Congressional calendar for this year? Congress has worked an average of 2 weeks a month since January, as little as 3 days a week. In August, they worked two days. TWO days! This was just before they took off for an incredible five weeks! Now, the urge to blame John Boehner is overwhelming but it’s actually not his fault. Back in 1970, Congress enacted a five-week break for itself as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act. Of course, no Congress since has taken this up or even mentioned changing it. So we can assume they all enjoy it.
While I’m at it, let’s compare presidential vacation days. So that the next time you come across a comment from a rightie complaining about Obama’s measly 150 days “off,” you can counter with the numbers. According to The Washington Post:
During his eight-year presidency, [George W.] Bush did take 879 days of vacation, including 77 trips to his Texas ranch. No modern president took less vacation than Jimmy Carter (79 days), while Ronald Reagan spent 335 days at his beloved California ranch. President John F. Kennedy spent nearly every weekend of his shortened presidency at one of his family’s several properties. FDR made 134 trips to Hyde Park and spent an additional six months of his presidency in Warm Springs, Ga., where he treated symptoms of his polio.
Here’s a handy chart:
As usual, the criticism of President Obama about vacations and golfing is just so much noise from the right-wing echo chamber. They don’t care for facts, not when they can whine and bitch about Obama. But the complaints are misplaced. We should all be complaining about Congress and their very short work schedule. We should be pointing out that, while Congress carps about Obama’s vacation, they are enjoying one that neither the President nor we will ever be able to enjoy. And, consequently, getting nothing done.