U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and his family walk to board Air Force One after cutting short by a day their vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts August 26, 2011. Obama and his family will cut short their vacation and return to the White House on Friday, before Hurricane Irene hits the U.S. East Coast, the White House said. (via Photo from Reuters Pictures)
When I see pictures of the president and First Lady with their young daughters, it really puts into perspective how ridiculous the debate about presidential vacations is. Sure, he’s the leader of the Free World. He’s also a father of young children who probably sees them far less often than they’d like. So he had a lighter schedule of public events for a few days so he could see his family a little more than he does the rest of the year. Is that too much to ask? Especially when you consider the amount of work that he still had on his plate this week.
The controversy over the President says a lot more about our thoughts about executive power than it does about any particular President’s vacationing habits.
First of all, it’s a fake controversy. The left was angry about George W. Bush when he went on vacation. The right is angry when Obama takes a vacation. This is particularly absurd when we consider that neither side seems to like anything the opposing side’s Presidents do. When Bush was on vacation, the left could have been all, “At least he’s not there to screw up the country.” Instead, they were like, “Get back to Washington and do things we hate!” It’s the same way with Obama.
I think it’s more interesting that we’re concerned that the country will somehow collapse if the President is out for a few days. It’s true that the President has enormous power and influence—but the position was explicitly designed to keep the President from being a king. The guy’s job, theoretically, is to shake a lot of hands, sign things, and appoint qualified people to do the day-to-day work of running the country
Realistically, of course, if the President were to go AWOL, it would be a catastrophe. Nevertheless we have a system set up to run itself without a lot of active management by the President. Have we given up on the limited Presidency?