- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2011


Unemployment is at 9.1 percent. Every week, the number of jobless rises — 14 million and climbing. Economic growth is anemic. America’s credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in history. The stock market hits new lows almost every day; the global markets are even worse. Just one in 10 Americans are satisfied with “the way things are going.”

And where’s President Obama? On a 10-day vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, lounging in a multimillion-dollar, 26-acre compound that rents for more in a week than most Americans make in a year.

“I don’t think the American people begrudge the president,” said White House flack Josh Earnest (no word whether the earnest young man brought his surfboard like other staffers did on Mr. Obama’s Christmas vacation to Hawaii last year).

But check in with just about anybody else, say, outside the White House, and, yeah, they are, in a word, begrudging. Some, it seems, find it a bit unseemly that they’re paying for the president’s vacation on the tony summer playground for the rich and famous while they enjoy a “staycation” and another dinner of Hamburger Helper.

Now, let’s get something straight right out of the chute. The president is never on vacation, ever. Dozens of aides travel with him — in fact, a mini-White House is set up, complete with makeshift Situation Room — and, to paraphrase former President George W. Bush, the world’s most pressing problems have a way of finding the president wherever he is. It’s not like The Most Powerful Man in the World unplugs for 10 days, turns off his BlackBerry and returns to D.C. to find his lawn overgrown and the mailbox overflowing.

(For the record, I’ve been saying this for 15 years, through Democratic and Republican presidencies, and through all those breathless Politico and CBS News stories about Mr. Bush taking 972 days off during his first week in office.)

But let’s also keep one thing in focus: Mr. Obama wanted the nation’s top job; in fact, he traveled America for 18 months making the case for why he was the best man for the job. Now, he’s president, which means at least four years of nearly nonstop work. It was all right there in the job description — 3 a.m. phone calls, blame or credit for an economy you don’t control, worldwide crises, increasingly gray hair, bags under the eyes so big they’d cost $50 to check on any airline. (See Addendum K: “Things You Don’t Want Or Deserve But Also Get When President.”)

And this isn’t the salad days of the 1990s, when money flowed, the Internet exploded, Bill Clinton cashed in the peace dividend and the Republicans balanced the budget. Then, Mr. Clinton took two-week vacations on the same island, but most Americans didn’t mind a bit because they were on vacation, too.

No, the optics of this year’s trip could not be worse, especially as the defiantly arrogant Mr. Obama ramps up the rhetoric about those bad old millionaires and billionaires and corporate jet owners — all three heavily represented on the Vineyard and soon to be funding his re-election campaign.

What’s more, the getaway comes just days after the president took a tour through Iowa (on a million-dollar bus far better than the beach house you couldn’t afford this year, complete with full kitchen, bathroom and bedroom suite) to commiserate with those folks in flyover country who don’t have jobs anymore under the burgeoning Obama Recession.

And if that weren’t enough, the White House made a massive blunder in saying, while Mr. Obama was washing his golf clubs, that the president would offer his solution to the economy after he returns from holiday. Oh, he’s got a plan, and he’ll tell you all about it — when he gets off the golf course.

As usual, unfortunately, one must turn to the British papers for a proper read, this time to Nile Gardiner in the Telegraph, who likened the vacation to “an act of presidential hara-kiri.”

“At the end of the day, Barack Obama is in a serious state of denial if he believes the U.S. electorate won’t care if their president acts with impunity at a time of tremendous economic turmoil and uncertainty. I suspect that when he returns to Washington in September, Mr. Obama may get a rather nasty shock in the polls from angry voters who wont take kindly to their president going AWOL in the lap of luxury during a major financial crisis.”

Better, check in with Mr. Obama from his Saturday weekly address: “Thanks, and have a great weekend.” Unless you’re working. Or looking for a job.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at jcurl@washingtontimes.com

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