Fighting Words

Let’s Not Pretend Obama’s Golfing Vacations Are So Egregious

U.S. President Barack Obama was back on the links this week in Martha’s Vineyard, providing cheesy golfing photos and a heyday for the conservative press.

Right-wing publications and websites ranging from the Drudge Report to the Washington Times have kicked into high gear, slamming the commander-in-chief for yet again kicking back on the Massachusetts island rather than manning the Oval Office.

Obama Golfing President Obama golfed on Martha's Vineyard on Sunday.  Reuters Larry Downing

“While President Obama played golf again on vacation, the White House criticized the latest crackdown in Egypt on Wednesday,” read the lede on a Wednesday Washington Times story on the subject.

The implication -- implicit here and much more explicit elsewhere -- is that Obama is slacking on the job and adding more firepower to the right’s growing case for why he’s supposedly unfit to be president.

But let’s take a step back and look at the reality of the situation. Yes, Obama has taken a vacation at a sensitive time -- but then again, when could he find time to get away during this tumultuous time without it being perceived as dereliction of duty? No, the situation certainly is not perfect. But his actions aren’t out of line with modern presidents, and in fact he takes off far less time than establishment Republican darlings Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did while they were president.

Here are the facts. This is the Obamas' fourth vacation to Martha’s Vineyard since taking office, as they skipped a Vineyard trip last year due to the run-up to the presidential election, according to MSNBC.

Mark Knoller, White House correspondent for CBS News and a self-described unofficial White House statistician, has compiled a wealth of statistics on presidential vacations.

He told MSNBC that as of four days ago, Obama had taken 14 trips spanning all or part of 95 days during his time as president. To be fair, at the same point in his presidency, Bill Clinton had taken just 11 trips totaling 84 days.

Taking into account some of Obama's most recent predecessors’ vacation logs, those numbers are actually very low. As of this point in his presidency, Reagan had taken 29 trips to his California ranch totaling 180 days -- or about the length of an American public school year. And, correspondingly, George W. Bush had taken a whopping 50 trips to his Crawford, Tex., ranch Texas totaling 323 days (nearly a full calendar year). He went on to spend a total of 490 days there during his entire presidency, allowing the property to live up to its “Western White House” nickname.

So let’s not pretend that Obama is failing to live up to his duty as president by taking a few trips to the Vineyard. It’s all a part of the job -- a job that Obama actually dedicates a lot more time to than some of the men who previously filled his shoes.

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