In my 2005 book From Mount Vernon to Crawford: A History of the Presidents and Their Retreats, I looked at presidential vacations over the years and concluded that Americans generally understand the need for their president to take a break from the White House. But that understanding erodes if a president appears to be living it up when the country is suffering.
It turns out that Obama's vacation predicament is similar to the one that George H.W. Bush faced in the summer of 1991 as he was preparing to run for re-election. Bush spent much of that summer at his seaside estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, prompting criticism that he was frolicking—riding his speedboat, playing golf—even though the country was mired in a recession. It fueled a perception that Bush was disconnected from the country, and that perception grew. He lost his bid for a second term the following year. [Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]
Obama, however, is working hard to avoid that image. He just completed a three-day bus trip through the Midwest to demonstrate his concern for everyday people, and he promises to announce a new job-creation plan next month.