IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Presidential breaks aren't 'startling'

Obama went golfing over the weekend. For reasons that still don't make sense, Republicans appear worked up about it.
President Barack Obama walks on the second hole green at the Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on January 2, 2014 in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
President Barack Obama walks on the second hole green at the Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on January 2, 2014 in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
President Obama occasionally takes a breather because, well, humans in stressful jobs sometimes need a break. For some reason, Republicans seem to find this fascinating.

While Russia beefed up its forces in Ukraine and the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up slightly, President Obama was criticized for spending the weekend on vacation with his family at an ultra-exclusive private community in the Florida Keys.... The Obamas combined their excursion with a stop at a high school in Miami to promote the president's education agenda. "Only President Obama would deliver a brief speech about education and then have the nerve to jet over to the posh Ocean Reef Clubs -- an exclusive members-only resort for the wealthy -- for a quick vacation," said RNC spokesman Jahan Wilcox. "As President Obama enjoys the Florida Keys and Vice President Biden vacations in the Virgin Islands for the weekend, their economic policies are still leaving millions of middle-class Americans and young adults struggling to get by in the Obama economy."

To be sure, the Republican National Committee is supposed to launch silly lobs at Democratic administrations, but the RNC's talking points appear to have been embraced by some media conservatives. Fox News' Chris Wallace, for example, asked former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates yesterday if "it's helpful for President Obama to take the weekend off in the middle of what you call a crisis to be playing golf in Florida."
Peggy Noonan added, "He's sort of off for the weekend in a way that startles me in the middle of a crisis."
First, Friday's jobs report was actually pretty good, and even if it had been a disaster, there's nothing the president could have done about it over the weekend anyway. Second, Obama taking a short break in Florida didn't stop him from working the phones on the crisis in Ukraine, and if the circumstances warranted it, the president could have left anytime.
But even putting this aside, all of this handwringing wouldn't be quite so annoying if Republicans weren't conveniently ignoring the president's immediate predecessor.
Every president chooses to spend some time away from the White House, but some take more time than others. Ronald Reagan, for example, set the record for most vacation days for a sitting president -- a record that stood until George W. Bush shattered Reagan's seemingly unbreakable benchmark.
Obama practically lives in the Oval Office compared to the last couple of two-term Republican presidents.
Indeed, Bush at times seemed preoccupied with not going to work. When Russia went to war with Georgia, Bush was on vacation. When the Nigerian underwear bomber tried to blow up a plane over Michigan, Bush was on vacation (which he refused to cut short). When Hurricane Katrina hit, Bush was on vacation. After Bush launched an invasion of Iraq on a Thursday, he took a break at Camp David just 48 hours later.
No president has ever spent more time away from his office than George W. Bush, making it that much harder to believe that Republicans are worked up about Obama going golfing over the weekend.
If we're going to talk about excessive breaks, perhaps the political world can take a comparable interest in the congressional calendar -- the House is taking another week off next week, followed by a two-week break in April. With all Congress could be working on, some might even see this as "startling."