Back in 2001, after spending nearly 30 days on vacation in Crawford, Texas, President Bush returned to Washington on the Friday before Labor Day, rather than on Labor Day itself. Why? Because he got hammered in the polls by Americans who thought he had taken too much time off: 55 percent of Americans said his vacation was too damn long. After having been inaugurated only several months earlier, Bush decided to spend an entire month at his Texas estate, on his way to a record-shattered total of 977 days at either Crawford or Camp David.
When it was announced that Bush would be returning a couple of days early, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote, “By going back to Washington early, Bush is surrendering to the psychological demands of the permanent government, particularly the press corps.” Goldberg continued by denouncing the myth “that America is ‘driven’ by the president, and when he’s not at the wheel the whole country might smash into a light pole or a slow-moving cow.”
Generally speaking, this is true. It’s actually a rare bit of honesty and consistency from the writer who coined the ridiculously contradictory phrase “liberal fascism.” Indeed, if you’re interested in less government and if you’re actively suing the president because he’s abusing his executive power, wouldn’t you want the president to stay as far away from governing as possible? In other words, the Republicans should’ve been cheering for President Obama to remain at Martha’s Vineyard, thwacking away at golf balls where he wouldn’t be as inclined to take away their guns and religion.
So, sure, if the Republicans really want Obama back at the White House ruining everything in the world ever, then by all means continue to badger him about it. But at the end of the day, voters don’t care all that much. A new poll from YouGov indicates that only 31 percent of voters think it’s “fair to criticize the president for playing golf,” while only 30 percent “say that President Obama ‘plays too much golf.'”
By way of comparison from a recent PPP poll, 37 percent of Americans think global warming is a hoax. 28 percent “believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order.” Likewise, 28 percent incorrectly believe “Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.” 36 percent of Americans seriously believe Obama is trying to take away all guns. And 26 percent believe Muslims are secretly implementing Sharia law in the United States.
This is precisely how fringe the anti-presidential-golf crowd is. In spite of all the noise on cable news and via social media, the rest of the country really doesn’t give a flying rip about this president’s vacation habits. Why? Possibly because we remember the previous guy. The contrast between 140 days and nearly 1,000 days is difficult to forget, no matter how much the GOP wants us to forget.
By the way, pointing out vacation days taken by previous presidents is a useful means of educating those who seem to be oblivious to presidential history, traditions and routines — generally speaking, it’s the same people who are furious about teleprompters and shirt-sleeves in the Oval Office. The truth is, presidents take vacations. Some more than others. And to single out the current guy, whose vacations are on the low end of curve, is completely ignorant of context. It’s like criticizing Obama for riding on the Marine One helicopter or using a motorcade. If he was excessively abusing his resources compared with other chief executives, then we should talk. But if he’s doing these things within the general boundaries of White House precedent, then arguing against him on these points is dishonest and just plain stupid.