Buzzkill: politics and vacations

Rob Wilber

Presidents live their lives under an enormous microscope. Nearly every decision they make is scrutinized by an entire country, and rightfully so.

Unlike most of the people society obsesses over, the president’s decisions actually affect nearly 300 million people. I believe our leaders should be diligent and committed to their job, but one common complaint about our leaders drives me insane. 

Every summer since I’ve been remotely aware of politics, the president has been bombarded with criticism for taking too much vacation time. Former President George W. Bush was infamous for his time spent clearing brush on his property in Crawford, Texas. After his first two years in office, Bush had spent almost 200 days on vacation. Unsurprisingly, his political opponents used this as ammunition in the media, questioning his audacity to vacation while issues such as the War on Terror were yet to be resolved. 

Even President Obama, the master of media and public relations, is not immune to criticisms of his time spent on vacation. For the past two summers, the current First Family has spent over a week in Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod. A recent commercial aired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee chronicled the underwhelming success of Obama’s “Summer of Recovery,” with emphasis on America’s shaky economy and employment rates. After about 30 seconds of negative imagery, a graphic appears that states: “At least Obama had a nice summer.” 

It is humorous that both Republicans and Democrats publicly condemn their opposition for doing the same exact thing. For some reason, each party seems to have an extremely limited and selective memory when using vacation time to judge the president. 

However, the fact that people actually take either side’s argument seriously is a little ridiculous. Do people really think the president devotes the entirety of his vacation to doing nothing? My father spends about 47 percent of every family vacation on his iPhone and laptop. If he cannot completely leave the office behind on a trip, I doubt the leader of the free world does. 

Even Obama’s choice of vacation locale was seen as questionable in the eyes of the media. Some believed selecting the Vineyard sent a negative message to most of America, as the island is known for its ritzy and somewhat snobbish environment. In an article on, journalist Ken Walsh recounted how Bill Clinton understood the public’s interpretation of vacation sites. 

“He took polls to figure out where Americans want the president to go,” Walsh said. “Well [it was] national parks, so President Clinton went to national parks.” 

Honestly, I don’t understand why anyone cares where the president chooses to vacation. As long as he isn’t spending it doing something like clubbing with Amy Winehouse or rebuilding Versailles at Camp David, I’ll allow him the freedom to pick his own itinerary. People who expect Obama to vacation at a “Joe the Plumber” destination like the Motel 6 in Orlando should probably appreciate the fact that the president is one of the most powerful men in the world. The amount of smoke blown by media figures over these sorts of issues is absurd. Rather than splitting hairs on how many rounds of golf one president played versus his predecessor, people should look at the big picture and realize how ridiculous they sound.