President Obama's summer vacation is only three days old and already the trip has provided some incidents that his critics are highlighting to embarrass him and stir things up.
One potential problem, critics say, is a photo of Obama's family dog Bo emerging from a military helicopter en route to joining the first family at their summer retreat in the posh seaside community of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. The dog apparently wasn't given the ride solo--he was transported along with Secret Service agents, luggage, equipment, and basketballs for the president to use while on his holiday. But that didn't stop the Drudge Report, a popular conservative web site, from making Obama seem extravagant. Drudge quoted The Telegraph, a British newspaper, saying, "Rooms have to be found for dozens of Secret Service agents, someone has to carry a selection of presidential basketballs, and of course the family dog needs his own state-of-the-art aircraft."
The second morsel was a photograph, taken by news photographers, showing Obama playing golf in khaki shorts, a white casual shirt and baseball cap, and looking somewhat goofy as he reacted to a missed putt with one knee in the air. This image was derided as unbecoming and undignified Monday night on Greta Van Susteran's Fox News TV show. Overall, Bill O'Reilly, another Fox commentator, said Obama was wasting too much taxpayer money on the trip.
White House officials say President Obama deserves his week-long vacation because he works hard and needs a break. They add that he never can fully escape from his official duties, receives briefings on national security and other important topics each day, and is ready to handle a crisis if one arises.
Bo, the Obamas' Portuguese waterdog, departs a Marine helicopter Saturday in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
President Barack Obama lines up his putt as White House Senior Policy Advisor on Nutrition Sam Kass, center, and White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson watch on the first green at Farm Neck Golf Club on Sunday in Oak Bluffs, Mass.
Obama joins a long list of presidents who have been criticized for their vacation habits, which I describe in my book "From Mount Vernon to Crawford: A History of the Presidents and Their Retreats." But he has taken far fewer vacations than his predecessor, according to CBS News' Mark Knoller, who chronicles presidential travel. Obama had taken 14 vacation trips for 92 days before his current vacation started. At a similar point in George W. Bush's presidency, he had visited his Texas ranch on 50 trips for 323 days, and that number doesn't include several weeks on other vacation trips. Some critics say Obama has a taste for more expensive jaunts than Bush did, but the government has not given a full accounting of the costs.
Obama's trip has caused some criticism locally because of road closures and traffic delays. But crowds have reacted positively to him when he has appeared in public. As he arrived to pick up some takeout seafood at a local restaurant Tuesday, bystanders cheered. He shook hands and greeted about 40 people who gathered outside the restaurant.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.