It's become a rite of summer—bashing the president for going on vacation. The criticism erupts regardless of the president's party, ideology or personality, and no chief executive is immune.
With President Obama scheduled to leave today for a family holiday on Martha's Vineyard, the Republican National Committee is using the occasion to raise money. In a "Dear Republican" fund-raising message e-mailed to potential contributors this morning, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said, "He sure needs a break after a long year criss-crossing the country raising money to save his job—all the while over 14 million Americans are out of work and even more are suffering because of his policies."
And Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called on the president to cancel his vacation and stay in Washington to work with Congress to create jobs. "The first thing I'd do is go back to my office immediately," said Romney in an interview with WLS-AM in Chicago. "If I were president today, I wouldn't be looking to go spend 10 days on Martha's Vineyard." The former Massachusetts governor added: "If you're president of the United States, and the nation is in crisis, and we're in a jobs crisis right now, then you shouldn't be out vacationing. Instead, you should be focusing on getting the economy going again. And yeah, go back to the office yourself, pull back members of Congress, and focus on getting the job done." [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]
Romney, however, is scheduled to attend a fund raiser on the Vineyard Aug. 27.
President Obama has been the target of escalating criticism for leaving Washington on vacation. The problem, say the critics, isn't so much that Obama is skipping town. After all, Congress is away on vacation, too. Rather, the problem is "the optics"—how the vacation looks. And visiting a summertime playground for the rich, famous, and elite isn't the best image for a president who wants to come across as sensitive to the hardships Americans are facing at a time of high unemployment, a weak housing market, soaring national debt, two wars, and widespread concern about the future.
Martha's Vineyard is an island off the Massachusetts coast. The Obamas will be staying at Blue Heron Farm, a 28-acre estate that the family is leasing. Similar properties rent for $50,000 a week but White House officials won't say how much Obama is paying. [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]
Taking some of the edge off the situation is the fact that Obama isn't a particularly frequent vacationer compared with his predecessors. He has taken 61 vacation days so far, which is expected to reach 71 after his current holiday, This compares with 180 days at a similar point for George W. Bush at his Texas ranch and 112 days for Ronald Reagan at his California ranch, according to CBS Radio's Mark Knoller, who compiles records of presidential vacations. At this point in his presidency, Bill Clinton had taken only 28 days off.