The politics of Presidential vacations

If we want to go away for a long weekend, Bob and I just pick the place and book a place to stay or more likely, just tell my sister we are coming up to Vermont.  No politics involved.  But where and for how long a President vacations becomes grist for the political mill.

The Obamas walked along a trail with their daughters Sasha, left, and Malia on Cadillac Mountain.

The first family picked Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park.  But the big flap is that they didn’t go to the Gulf.

In a New York Times “White House Memo”, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote

Mr. Obama arrived here Friday for a summer weekend getaway with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9 — a precursor to a longer family vacation they are planning next month on Martha’s Vineyard. But what sounds like a much-needed family escape from the literal and political heat of Washington to some sounds like hypocrisy to others, given recent statements by both the president and first lady urging Americans to spend their vacation time and money along the shores of the oil-stricken Gulf of Mexico.

“Michelle Obama: Take your Vacation in the Gulf, America — If You Need Us, We’ll be In Maine,” blared the headline on the Web site of Michelle Malkin, the conservative commentator, on Monday, the day Mrs. Obama toured the gulf. ABC News served up similar, if more muted fare: “First Lady Encourages Americans to Vacation on Gulf — But Obamas Head to Maine Instead.”

A trip to the Gulf Coast, of course, would hardly be much of a vacation for Mr. Obama, whose political fortunes were undercut by the spill. But the flap does point up how politically fraught the modern presidential vacation — or, for that matter, presidential leisure time in general — has become.

Of course, if they did go to the Gulf Coast for a vacation scheduling no public events, everyone would be upset by their not having helped clean up a beach or visiting fishermen who are not working because of the spill.  It would not, as the Memo points out, have been a vacation.  This is a trip with their children, Ms. Malkin.  Remember family values?   Both the President and First Lady have gone often to the Gulf and they will be returning many times, I’m sure.

The Memo continues

Bill Clinton and his family traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo., in the summer of 1996 after polling showed that Americans viewed Martha’s Vineyard as too elitist. George W. Bush caught so much flak for spending a month at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., in the summer of 2001, said his former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, that his staff printed T-shirts listing all the work-related side trips he had taken. Mr. Fleischer may disagree with Mr. Obama’s policies, but he said he was protective of the president’s right to “recharge his batteries” wherever it suited him.

“I just think that people should leave the president alone and not make a political issue of where he takes vacation or how he takes vacation,” Mr. Fleischer said. “He and his family are perfectly entitled to do whatever works for them.”

President Obama greeted people after walking along a trail on Cadillac Mountain.

One thing I have noticed is that President Obama likes ice cream.  He seem to gravitate to ice cream shops wherever he goes.

Once last thing:  While looking through  pictures of the trip to put in this entry, I kept  spotting Reggie Love.  Does he ever get to go on a vacation by himself? 

The pictures are from the Boston Globe and the New York Times.

2 thoughts on “The politics of Presidential vacations

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