The mini-brouhaha over the President’s vacation and golf schedule among conservative media over the last few days has been remarkable for its pettiness even by Washington standards.
After the awful murder of journalist James Foley in Syria, The New York Post and other conservative standardbearers started attacking President Obama for continuing to take a vacation and go golfing.
Never mind that President Obama has taken only about a third as many vacation days as George W. Bush at this point in his presidency. No matter a President’s work ethic or how few vacation days they’ve taken, there are times that require such fierce urgency that vacations must be cut short.
The murder of James Foley is simply not one of those times. It was a brutal, evil despicable act by a group of horrible human beings. But it’s not a national security crisis. The United States was well aware of the situation for months. A rescue operation was meticulously planned and executed but failed to reach him before he was moved to a different location. Per its policy, the United States did not pay a cash ransom. Probably as a response to the rescue attempt and as blackmail to encourage the United States to pay for the next prisoner, Foley was barbarically executed.
Everything about that situation is awful, and the perpetrators must be punished accordingly. But it doesn’t constitute a national crisis that demands a world leader cut short precious time being used to recuperate and relax from a very stressful job. The situation with ISIS is terrible now, and it’s going to remain terrible for the foreseeable future. Foley’s murder does nothing to change that, unless it alters the calculus for other hostages being held—in which case I would expect military and civilian leadership to make those changes as quietly as possible.
The conservative press knows this. It defended President Bush for taking vacation time during legitimate crises for which the Bush Administration was utterly unprepared. It also knows that no persuadable voters will remember this kerfuffle a month from now.
But they just can’t help themselves. The cheap opportunism is reflexive at this point.
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