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Smerconish on politicians' vacations: 'Let them relax'

By Michael SmerconishFollow @smerconish Let me finish tonight with this.

By Michael SmerconishFollow @smerconish 

Let me finish tonight with this.   

By now you have seen the photograph of Mitt and Ann Romney on a jet ski on Lake Winnipesaukee. It has prompted some political analysis including an interesting piece in today's Boston Globe by Joan Vennochi. She wrote:  

The last thing Mitt Romney needs is a John Kerry moment that conjures up F. Scott Fitzgerald's description of the very rich: "They are different from you and me."

I get the sensitivity after the way the Kerry windsurfing photo was used. And I understand that politicians need to constantly be portrayed as "the everyman." That may be why the President isnt returning to Martha's Vineyard this summer, and it applies to a wealthy businessman who made his money in private equity at a time when income disparity is of increasing concern.  

But the fixation on presidential leisure has gone a bit too far. I say: let them relax in what ever way they choose.

The President's opponents like to call attention to his golfing. Well, I want him to golf, or shoot hoops or whatever else he needs to do to maintain his mental edge. After all, as Mark Knoller, the White House correspondent for CBS News, once told me, "The president is the president wherever he is."

And Knoller should know. He maintains lists of literally everything the Commander in Chief does — from bill signings, pardons, and vetoes to Air Force One flights, Marine One trips, and vacation destinations. Knoller spends an hour at the end of each day updating his searchable database of presidential activities. As of Father's Day, Obama had played 100 rounds of golf.

Then there is the subject of vacations. George W. Bush spent all or part of 490 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas over his eight years in office. Not to mention the 487 days he spent at Camp David, according to Knoller.

Over the course of his eight years in office, Ronald Reagan spent almost a year at Rancho del Cielo near Santa Barbara. Those trips were a top-down directive. In her book Reagan: An American Story, Adriana Bosch recounts a conversation between the Gipper and deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver early in their time at the White House. Deaver entered the Oval Office to find Reagan at his desk inspecting his schedule — which, the President lamented, didn't include "any ranch time." Deaver told him that was because the press had been critical of Reagan's spending so much time outside of Washington.

Reagan's answer: "You can tell me a lot of things to do, and I'll do them, but you're not going to tell me when to go to the ranch. I'm convinced that the more often I get out to the ranch, the longer I'm going to live, and I'm going to the ranch. So you might as well put it in right now."

Being "on vacation" doesn't mean the same thing to a president, or presidential candidate, as it does to the rest of us. To have the job is to always be plugged in and ready to take a call or make a decision. The black briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes is never more than a few steps away.

Which is why no one should begrudge Mitt Romney jet skiing, or the President golfing.  

The health of the country is in some part a function of the physical and mental health of its commander in chief. If jet skiing or blowing off some steam with a couple of bogeys and a beer in the clubhouse keeps him sharper when the red phone rings, we're all better off for it.

Now everybody: get in the pool!