Vacation, all I never wanted…

19 Aug

There’s been a great deal of discussion about President Obama’s vacation this week to Martha’s Vineyard, specifically whether Michelle would drive on the way there or back and if the Bidens would take the fold-out sofa or the room with the bunkbeds.

Opponents of the president, who also thought he should not have celebrated his birthday, believe it is inappropriate for him to take 10 days off while the U.S. economy is in peril. It’s possible he might completely forget about the financial crisis while away and have to rely on the tattoos on his chest (“U.S. BROKE” and “BUY GOLD”) and polaroids of himself with Ben Bernanke to get back up to speed.

Mitt Romney claims that if he were the president, he would recall Congress, which is on recess, to Washington to resolve the economic crisis (“Resolving the Economic Crisis in 10 Days” is also the name of a TLC reality series Romney is pitching).

“The first thing I’d do is go back to my office immediately,” Romney said in response to a question about what he would do if he were in the White House. “If  I were president today, I wouldn’t be looking to go spend 10 days on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Remembering that he was at one point the governor of Massachusetts, where Martha’s Vineyard is located, Romney quickly added:

“Now, Martha’s Vineyard is in my home state of Massachusetts so I don’t want to say anything negative about people vacationing there… But if you’re the 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. This action of somehow this is campaign time and vacation time is exactly the wrong dose of medicine for the American economy.”

Oh yeah, the GOP would also prefer that Obama not do anything remotely related to campaigning for re-election (part of its “Obama rolls over and plays dead” strategy).

The criticism did not alter Obama’s plans but he did offer to substitute a blow-up doll in his image that the GOP leadership could ignore, walk out on, and demonize on FOX News until he returned.

Sarah Palin, demonstrating her usual level of self-awareness, questioned Obama’s work ethic.

“You know, economies are crashing — markets are crashing — there’s a lot of turmoil right now. And he just seems so extremely absent from the reality that  the rest of us are facing in this country today,” she said. “And that’s illustrated by his desire and now his action to go on vacation again, this time for 10 days  . . . where the rest of us are kind of shaking our heads saying: Really? At this time? Perception being reality in politics, why in the world would he do this?”

What makes Palin uniquely qualified to criticize Obama is that she is arguably a victim of his economic policies. Obviously, his election cost her a potential promotion to vice president. She was then forced to quit the job she had for reasons that are still unclear even after repeated viewings of her resignation speech. Since then, she’s been as gainfully employed as a Kardashian with reality show appearances and her current role as Shirley Partridge, traveling the country on a PAC-funded bus tour where instead of performing songs, she just sort of shows up.

Palin might also have issues with metaphor comprehension: “I don’t know why our president bothers even making promises at this point or spewing those platitudes. One in particular: He said he promised to not rest
until every American who wanted a job got that job.” Her literal reading of the president’s statement might qualify her for the Amelia Bedelia of Alaska Award. She also suggested he invest in adult diapers rather than wasting the nation’s time on frivolous bathroom breaks.

Supporters of the president point out that most Americans with means take summer vacations. In New York, for example, it’s not unusual for executives to work from their Hamptons houses on Fridays because they desire a more pleasant view that the homeless guy outside their window urinating on Broadway. No one demands that businessmen not vacation until the economy recovers. Moreover, vacations are a critical part of the economy for many towns where summer tourism is their chief industry. They are like farmers whose sole crop are overpriced Bud Lights they claim are “local” drafts and crappy souvenir t-shirts.

Ronald Reagan — shortly before calling forth Lazarus — took 25 days vacation when unemployment was at 9.5%. George W. Bush was on vacation “42% of the time” during his first seven months in office. Bill Clinton took just 28 days off during his eight years as president, which reinforces why most people are distrustful of workaholics who can never find time away from the office. They are usually involved in some sort of complex embezzlement scheme or are having an affair with a colleague.

The presidential vacation as political PR stunt hit its nadir with Clinton, who —  taking the advice of Dick Morris, his Faust with a foot fetish — dragged his family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1996 based on a poll Morris conducted. It’s still uncertain if the public didn’t play a prank on the Clintons. Anyway, the idea was that it would appear less elitist than previous trips to the Vineyard. I think my vote at the time had been for the Clintons to climb into a station wagon and drive cross-country to Wally World.

It’s all rather silly and reflects the less-benign bull-fighting match that modern politics have become. Ardent foes of Obama do not stop to question the logic of thinking he’s doing a terrible job while resenting his spending a few days not doing a terrible job. Not that anyone should expect Palin to question her own logic:

“… (Obama’s) ideology is one of big, centralized government that can plan an economy and make decisions for our businesses and for us as individuals,” Palin said. “So I think that he is not the one to provide that inspiration and that empowerment that is so desperately needed today to get us out of this really chaotic situation that we’re in.”

It’s like the line from “Annie Hall”: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible” “Yeah, I know, and such small portions.”

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Political Theatre


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