Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

August 22, 2010

OF ALL THE THINGS TO WHINE ABOUT.... I'm embarrassed to admit, I didn't see this line of attack coming. It just seemed too ridiculous, even for Republicans, but I'm reminded why low expectations are rarely low enough with these folks.

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.

I haven't the foggiest idea whether the public will actually hold a 10-day break against the president, but this even being a subject of discussion is bizarre.

George W. Bush presided over two recessions, two wars, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina -- but he still managed to take more time off than any president in modern history. While Bush was in the White House, he tended not to work too hard -- he was known for scheduling plenty of time for exercise during the day, and liked to knock off early -- but Bush also spent time away from the White House with a frequency unseen in generations, taking more and longer breaks than any of his 20th-century predecessors.

Before 2000, the president with the most vacation time in the modern era was Reagan. Bush not only beat Reagan's record, he did so with 17 months to spare. Spanning his two terms, Bush spent 487 days at Camp David, and 490 days at a ranch in Crawford. That's a total of 977 days -- about a third of his overall presidency.

And Republicans are going after Obama's down time? Seriously?

Consider the tale of the tape. Estimates vary slightly, but the Washington Post, citing data from CBS's Mark Knoller, the unofficial keeper of such things, said Obama has taken 48 days off since his inauguration. At this point in Bush's presidency, he'd taken 155 days off. (An AP estimate puts both numbers slightly higher.)

Note, Bush took all this time off during a period that included the attacks of 9/11 and the launch of a war in Afghanistan. Hell, a terrorist tried to blow up an American passenger jet in December 2001, and Bush not only stayed on vacation, he didn't even mention the incident for nearly a week.

Does the GOP really want to start a discussion about who qualifies as "The Clark Griswold president"?

Steve Benen 9:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

Bookmark and Share

Obama should buy Bush's Crawford ranch, spend all his vacation time there and just quit worrying about the right's objections to the president taking time off from his job.

Posted by: Bill on August 22, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

George also required a daily afternoon nap as I recall.

Posted by: Tbomb on August 22, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Off the top of my head, I seem to remember GW rarely stayed in town on weekends.......worked only 40 hour work week....went to bed at 9PM.

Posted by: avahome on August 22, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

I'm embarrassed to admit, I didn't see this line of attack coming.

Really Steve? Then you should be embarrassed. Obama can't take his morning constitutional without GOP criticism.. "Obama's bowel movements have too much fiber! Or not enough."

Posted by: ckelly on August 22, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Dumbya took so much time off that when he had friends over, he showed them slides of work.

Posted by: navamske on August 22, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

to paraphrase, nobody ever went broke underestimating the shortness of the American memory. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 22, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

LAME! NOBODY has seen those movies in a thousand years. If you had not told me, I would never have caught the reference.



Posted by: KurtRex1453 on August 22, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

No doubt this will be a two-pronged attack: First they will criticize Obama for taking a vacation, and then they will castigate him for taking it in Massachusetts, which isn't even part of the "real" America.

Posted by: navamske on August 22, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

This has been building for several weeks on talk radio. First Michelle's vacation to Spain, then the vacation to the Gulf Coast now the vacation to Mass .All on the public dime.

Fer God's sake, Man, those people do nothing but vacation. Lazy and shiftless, welfare cheats is what they are. And flaunting it in front of hardworking unemployed 'mericans.

Yeah, should have seen it coming.

Posted by: martin on August 22, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

I GIVE UP. Meanwhile we have another EXCLUSIVE on Meet the Villagers with lapdog David Gregory. Mitch McConnell ! Exclusive ! You know how hard it is to corner him for a comment. And I know David will pester him with probing questions on his position. Gol Durn Librul Press

Posted by: John R on August 22, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

That was the trouble with Hilter/Stalin/Pol Pot. Taking vacations instead of killing Grandma with death panels and forcing Christians to bow to Mecca.

Posted by: walt on August 22, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

The interesting thing to me about this line of attack is that the basic charge (Obama takes too many vacations) will be quickly repudiated. Everyone who thinks will know that it just isn't true.

But the point is not the truth of the charge, it is the churning of deceit. All Republicans have to do is get the toxins out there. People inclined to dislike Obama will add to their litany of complaints that Obama is lazy as well as being a socialist and Muslim)

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 22, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

> While Bush was in the White House, he tended not
> to work too hard -- he was known for scheduling
> plenty of time for exercise during the day, and
> liked to knock off early --

I'll criticize Dubya for a lot of things, but not for this. And senior executive job has the potential to get out of control and kill its holder if he/she does not seize control of his/her own schedule and impose discipline and limits; see "Clinton, Bill, Health Before and After White House" for a perfect example. Dubya was without doubt inattentive and stupid when he was at his desk, and did IMHO spend too many days at the phony "ranch", but maintaining and iron grip on his daily schedule and ensuring he had time for exercise was one of the few smart things he did.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on August 22, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

The substance of complaints against Obama is completely irrelevant. If it's not vacations, it will be the fact that he uses "French's" mustard on his sandwiches, or that he once read a novel written by a known communist, or that his barber has a brother who's married to a woman whose brother dated a woman who was Iranian. Or the fact that he mentioned the word "Ramadan", or that daughter Malia's collection of silly bandz conspicuously lacks one in the shape of an American eagle.

The point is not that any of the charges make sense, it is that there be no let-up to the drumbeat of anti-Obama messages.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on August 22, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

An enterprising journalist might question, during an interview with said republicans, how many days they've taken off since the recession began. A real enterprising journalist might even go so far as to ask the republicans why congress shouldn't do any work (aka take a vacation) during the lame duck session.

Posted by: Oh my on August 22, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

I second what PTate in MN said. They're just adding this to their list of grievances, it doesn't matter how "truthy" any of it is-- Obama threw his grandmother under a bus, he's a secret muslim with close ties to a racist pastor, he wants to kill your grandmother, he's a socialist/marxist/commie/fascist, etc.

Dems should be ready to counter this with a pretty basic talking point, ie., "in the history of recent presidents Obama has taken less down time than anyone in the past X number of years. End of this non-story." (The "x" needs to be researched. I'm not sure how much vacation time Clinton took.) Yes, it's absurd on its face, but if the GOP all starts parroting it, well, it's stupid to not shoot it down.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on August 22, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I've no doubt Steve was being facetious, since he has spent years covering Rove's playbook which consisted largely of attacks against the strengths of his opponents, especially if those he was defending were particularly weak in comparison, e.g. Bush & Cheney avoided military duty so he attacked Kerry's heroic participation in Vietnam.

Of course, even before him, good ol' Lee Atwater (of whom Rove was a protege) did this to great effect as well when shaping public opinion through false controversies, e.g. The Southern Strategy and Willie Horton ad.

Posted by: Kiweagle on August 22, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's not how much time the president takes off that matters.

It's how much the media talks about the time s/he takes off.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on August 22, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Not to mention that a presidential "vacation" still has a lot of work getting done. That crowd of people he drags around isn't just security, and I'm sure he doesn't chunk his Blackberry into the sock drawer for the duration.

Posted by: steverino on August 22, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

It is propaganda, thrown out there to disparage the president,this weekend's bone. It is only stupid factually, not politically. Of course it's a lie, but the base will take it to heart and add it to the other slurs to further fuel their dislike of Obama. The charge is not directed to sensible people like you.

Posted by: Mudge on August 22, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Obama will be charged with equivalents to nearly every complaint lodged against Bush and the Republicans, simply to blunt the power of accurate complaints against the Republicans and to make the waters of public discourse even murkier. That way, everything gets reduced in the public mind to "they all do it".

Also, just wait for the new depths we will reach for personal attacks once one of Obama's daughters does something that falls into the general category of stupid teenage rebellion.

Posted by: N.Wells on August 22, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

And how many days does the Senate and House work? Four day work weeks, and a week or two or three for every known holiday.

Posted by: Tigershark on August 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

The chatter on Obama is worse than on Carter--which took me aback when it began from day one of his presidency.

Michelle paid her own way in Spain, by the way; the Secret Service coverage would have been the same anywhere she goes.

They won't let up, and they do the same damage that Goebbels did with the Jews...keep repeating lie after lie until it becomes 'truth'...

Posted by: jjm on August 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Of course they don't want start a discussion about it. They want to inform the people that Obama takes too much vacation, and count on a lazy press corps and a populace with the long-term memory of a crack-addled gnat that no one will try to introduce facts to the contrary into the discussion.

Posted by: dob on August 22, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Rove. Accuse your opponents of doing what you yourself do or did. EVERY TIME. Next: Obama is going to waste tax money on making a family dog Christmas video.

Posted by: Sparko on August 22, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Obama has taken 1/3 the vacation days of Bush. And it doesn't seem like too much at all.

But saying, "your guy was worse!" sounds like an infantile response. It might work against any press critics making the charge, but they aren't largely the ones making it.

Republicans: "mom, Obama is hitting me!"

Democrats, "nu'uh, he hit me first!"

Posted by: flubber on August 22, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK
But saying, "your guy was worse!" sounds like an infantile response.

I don't think that's the point. I think the point is to ask where their outrage was when "their guy" was being "worse". I.o.w., to highlight the hypocrisy.

Posted by: noncarborundum on August 22, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter GOP: Damn, these n!ggers are lazy.

Posted by: The Answer Was Orange on August 22, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

@flubber: Your example would be more accurate if you changed it to the following:

Republicans - "Mom, Obama is hitting me with a chopstick!"

Democrats - "Nu'uh, he was hitting me with a baseball bat first!"

Posted by: Kiweagle on August 22, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the President, this one or any President, taking any vacation time at all?

After all, at the end of the term, former Presidents will be on a permanent vacation for the rest of their lives, complete with continuing Secret Service protection, a Presidential library, a budget for staff and ghost writers for their inevitable book, etc., etc.

They'll never work again.

Vacation, my fat fanny.

Posted by: Steve on August 22, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

[...] Bush spent 487 days at Camp David, and 490 days at a ranch in Crawford. That's a total of 977 days -- about a third of his overall presidency. -- Steve Benen

Yes, but the rest of the time he spewed enough hot air and gas to power the Air Force One to take him on those trips. So it doesn't count; it was his version of cap-and-trade and very PC ecologically-wise.

Posted by: exlibra on August 22, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's part of a pattern to level against Obama every criticism that was ever applied to Bush (they started with "worst president ever" pretty much from Day 1.) The purpose of this is not to have these attacks seen as legitimate, but to transform the completely accurate criticisms of Bush into "just politics," and therefore remove the millstone that Bush became for the GOP without ever having to argue that he wasn't dreadful, or even remind voters of his existence at all.

Posted by: Redshift on August 22, 2010 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

But, but, but ..but Booooossssshhhh! Waahha whaaaa whaaa!

Posted by: dualdiagnosis on August 22, 2010 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Just remember, the audience for GOP talking points is one for which reality is irrelevant.

Posted by: mfw13 on August 22, 2010 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just watched a Brian Williams special on Katrina revisited. Boy Howdy it was riveting.....America sure looked like a third world country. Kinda reminded me of what is going on in Pakistan right now with flooding.

Posted by: avahome on August 22, 2010 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

By continuing to compare Obama to Bush, it has the effect of legitimizing Bush's term in office and set a rather low bar for competence and efficacy.

It's sort of like the Republicans saying that the Muslim community center can't be built because Saudi Arabia is governed by a bunch of religious fanatics who won't allow non-Muslim places of worship.

We can't set our standards by the lowest common denominator.

Just say "we're better than that" and have done with it.

Posted by: Dubya on August 22, 2010 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

New York Times chimes in, on the subject of presidential (specifically: Obama) vacations. Or, as the NYT says, "vacations":

It's August... Nothing interesting going on :)

Posted by: exlibra on August 22, 2010 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should buy Bush's Crawford ranch, ...
- Bill @ 9:16

You forgot one key detail, that is to invite all the good 'ol boys from previously FAILED administration over for hunting. Don't want any animosity brewing. I'll kick in for some LoneStar.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on August 23, 2010 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

That's all well and good, Steve, but keep in mind that every day Bush spent away from the White House was a mitzvah for the American people.

Whereas for Obama, it's just the opposite.

So they have a point. Not the point they think they're making, but a point. :)

Posted by: Nancy Irving on August 23, 2010 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly