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“Meanwhile, Back In The Oval Office”: Why It’s So Idiotic To Complain When The President Takes A Vacation

There are a lot of stupid ways people attack presidents from the other party, but there can’t be that many as stupid as the complaint that he takes too many vacations. Since Obama is now on Martha’s Vineyard, despite the fact that there are things going on in the world, the volume of these complaints has grown, like the inevitable rise of the tide. Conservatives are in full on mockery mode (did you know he plays golf!!!), and the press is getting into the act as well. For instance, the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank took on the vacation issue in a piece colorfully titled “Obama Vacations As the World Burns,” explaining that “Even presidents need down time, and Obama can handle his commander-in-chief duties wherever he is. But his decision to proceed with his getaway just 36 hours after announcing the military action in Iraq risks fueling the impression that he is detached as the world burns.” That pretty much sums up the problem with how the press discusses this issue. There’s no substantive reason why it’s a problem, it just “risks fueling the impression” that there’s a problem. But nobody’s holding a gun to any reporter’s head demanding that they write not about substance but about which impressions are being fueled. And what really fuels that impression? Why, articles like that one.

As everybody acknowledges, when the president goes on vacation, it’s not like he’s out of touch. He travels with a significant staff, is in communication with the White House constantly, and of course has close access to the nuclear “football,” should it become necessary to end all life on planet earth at a moment’s notice. And when it comes to giving himself vacations, Obama has been rather parsimonious. George W. Bush is the recent record-holder, and it’s not even close. He spent 879 days away from the White House during his eight years in office, including 16 full months at his “ranch” in Crawford, Texas.

At this point we should acknowledge that liberals used to talk plenty about Bush’s vacations when he was president. And it was ridiculous then too, not because we don’t want the president to be devoted to the job, but because of who was making the complaint. None of the things liberals didn’t like about Bush would have been improved had he spent more time toiling away in the White House. Nor would conservatives be happier with the policy choices Barack Obama makes today if he stayed away from Martha’s Vineyard or didn’t play golf as often.

And that’s the real reason the vacation complaint is so absurd. No one—not the opposition party, and not reporters—actually believes that the quality of a presidency has anything to do with how many hours the president logs in the Oval Office. Yes, it now seems weird that with the most important job in the world, Ronald Reagan worked basically 9 to 5 and didn’t come in on weekends. But was the sheer quantity of hours he worked the cause of his disconnection from the details of governing? No, it was just his style. There has never been a president about whom you can honestly say, “If he had pulled a couple of all-nighters, everything would have been different.”

The problem, I think, is that on some level Americans have a presumption that vacation is basically sinful, that the moment you leave work you’re indulging your selfishness and shirking your responsibilities. This assumption can be found throughout American society, but it’s particularly acute in Washington, where people believe that that the amount you accomplish is directly correlated with how late you stay at the office. I’ve encountered this in any number of workplaces, and I’m sure you have too. But there’s almost no reason to think it’s true.

As you may know, Americans take fewer vacation days than anyone else in the developed world, both as a matter of practice and as a matter of law. In pretty much every other advanced country, employers are required to give paid vacation and holidays, in quantities that ensure that their employees have the time to recharge, relax, and have a life. Here’s a graph from the Center for Economic Policy and Research comparing mandated paid vacation and holidays in OECD countries:

Paid Vacation and Holidays

That’s us over on the right, at zero. If you lived in Germany, for instance, a country with a high standard of living and extremely productive workers, you’d have 20 days of paid vacation and 10 paid holidays mandated by law. That’s 6 weeks off per year. Paid.

Of course, most Americans get some paid vacation and paid holidays. But it’s entirely up to the generosity of your boss. Incredibly, many workers don’t use the vacation days they have — as much as half of Americans’ vacation time goes unused. And the people who could use it the most—lower-wage, hourly workers—usually get little or no paid vacation or holidays at all. And most workers who do take vacation end up working while they’re vacating, like the president does.

So the next time you see someone criticize the president for taking a vacation — whether it’s a conservative criticizing this president, or a liberal criticizing the next Republican one — the question you have to ask is, “Do you think that if he were back in the Oval Office he’d be making the right decisions, but because he’s away from Washington he’s making the wrong decisions?” When the answer is no, as it inevitably will be, the logical response is: So what the hell are you complaining about?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 13, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Media, Presidential Vacations | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right’s Criticism of Obama On Japan And The Budget Ring Hollow

President Obama’s not acting as a leader. That’s what the right will tell you. On Saturday, the president talked about women’s history month and the need for women to receive the same on the dollar as a man. (Note to self: we obviously haven’t come a long way baby, Gloria Steinem better keep that bra handy to be burned again). And then, the president had the audacity to go golfing! And select his picks for the NCAA tournament! The shame of it!

Those on the right will argue that the president is not leading this nation, nor his Congress because he didn’t speak on the budget, hasn’t presented himself before Congress on the budget and didn’t address Japan or Libya in his Saturday radio address. And of course, how dare he take a day off during all of this that is going on in the world! 

 What they won’t tell you is how that radio address is usually prerecorded, often days before. What they won’t tell you is how the president met with Democratic leaders in the Senate regarding the budget last week. What they won’t tell you is that just 24 hours before this radio address, the president spoke of Japan and of Libya. What they won’t tell you is how the United States has sent money, resources, and our Navy, arguably the best in the world, to assist Japan at this time. What they won’t tell you is how the president has a leader in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is discussing along with our allies internationally, the U.N. and NATO our next steps in Libya; which even a Republican Senator, Richard Lugar, stated we must approach very cautiously or we end up in a longterm military problem in Libya, which we clearly can’t afford being involved in two wars already.

What does the right want from this man? If the president had spoken about Japan on Saturday as well as Friday would that have stopped their nuclear power plants from having four explosions, two fires, and leaking radiation at 400 times the level a human should be exposed to it? Would he have stopped the 140,000 people in a 20 mile radius who were told to stay home, work, please don’t go outside? Maybe if he had spoken about Japan a few weeks ago he could have single handedly stopped the earthquake and tsunami, right!?!! And of course, speaking about Libya, he could stop the madman at the helm, their leader, their dictator!?!

Nah, he can’t do that. He’s just the president folks; although with the enormous responsibilities the right lay upon his shoulders you’d think he was God; who I am told, took the seventh day off. The question is, did he go golfing?

By: Leslie Marshall, U.S. News and World Report, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Democrats, Disasters, Economy, GOP, Ideologues, Japan, Libya, Nuclear Power Plants, Obama, Politics, Qaddafi, Republicans, Right Wing, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Repeal 2010

Gail Collins-Photo:Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

This has been a bad summer for almost everybody — celebrities, shrimpers, Washington insiders, Tea Party outsiders, people who prefer pleasant weather. So far, my list of who did well only includes the Spanish soccer team and Paul the prophetic octopus. Plus, according to Senator Jim Bunning, George Steinbrenner. The Kentucky Republican praised the Yankee owner in the Senate Finance Committee for being “smart enough to die in 2010,” when the estate tax is temporarily suspended.

Oh, that Jim Bunning — always looking on the bright side. Why aren’t there more people like that in government?

This week, Congress passed the huge reform of the financial industry that it had been working on for nearly two years. You’d think there would have been cheering from coast to coast, but the left was disheartened to discover that contrary to all previous precedent, Congress had passed a bill that was imperfect.

“Ending debate on the bill is finishing before the job is done,” said Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the only Democrat to vote no.

Great idea. I think I speak for us all when I say that there is absolutely nothing I would like better than additional talking in the Senate. It always seems to make things better. Meanwhile, down in the House, John Boehner, the Republican leader, raised the ante, calling for repeal.

Who says that Boehner just hangs out at bars and tanning parlors and doesn’t work hard? The man is tireless! Everybody else was exhausted, but he wanted to start over.

“There are common sense things we should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system … and to bring more transparency to financial transactions. Because transparency is like sunlight and sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he said.

This is an exciting new analogy for Boehner. Just a couple of weeks ago he was leading the opposition to a bill that would require groups that pay for political attack ads to reveal their true identities. Boehner called it a “back-room deal to shred our Constitution.” In this case, transparency was a dangerous concept that would strip away all protective covering and allow vicious ultraviolet rays to stream through the window and burn away our precious freedoms.

Most Republicans are not joining Boehner in his call to repeal the financial reform bill because they are too busy calling for the repeal of health care reform. “The bill should be scrapped and replaced with much better ideas,” said Mario Rubio, the Republican Senate candidate in Florida.

Rubio’s own idea is to eliminate the requirement that healthy people have insurance, but keep the part that says insurance companies have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. This sounds like the ideal solution — no one would have to buy insurance until they got sick, and then they could make the companies sell them a whole bunch of coverage. I don’t know why nobody thought of this before.

With all these great ideas around — debate more, start over, don’t clean the windows — it’s a wonder that Washington hasn’t become the image of Athens in the age of Pericles. But instead, all Barack Obama’s critics have been able to do is make the country feel gloomy about Barack Obama. He’s passed more major legislation than anybody since Franklin Roosevelt and he’s got popularity ratings that look more like Martin Van Buren’s.

This week, there was an enormous outcry at the news that the president was going to take his wife and children to Maine for the weekend. This is the third time he and his family went away for a weekend since the gulf oil crisis. Three weekends in three months!

“Presidents are certainly entitled to vacation, just like everybody else, but there is a fine line as to when presidents should do it, what they should and where they should do it,” a former member of George W. Bush’s staff told CNN. The staff member in question, Brad Blakeman, was in charge of appointments and scheduling. Surely there is nobody better qualified to discuss this important subject than the man who helped the previous president get out of town for a third of his entire time in office.

The Republicans have now set up a site called “Golf or Gulf” that lists all the things Obama has been doing for the last three months when he could have been sitting around worrying about the oil spill. He had Paul McCartney over to the White House. And he played golf 10 times!

Let’s repeal the oil spill and start all over. The right way to handle the disaster, it appears from the many, many critiques, would have been to:

— Call all the oil company executives together to come up with a plan.

— Denounce all the oil companies.

— Apologize to the oil companies.

— Tell Paul McCartney he cannot sing in the White House until all the pelicans are clean.

Published: July 16, 2010

July 17, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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