President Obama is on vacation. Should he be?


President Barack Obama follows through on a swing while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

In a column Tuesday morning, WaPo's Dana Milbank lays into President Obama for taking a two-week vacation amid American airstrikes in Iraq, criticism of his foreign policy by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a variety of other conflagrations around the world and domestically including the controversy over the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri. Writes Milbank:

Obama was doggedly sticking with his plans to go on vacation — a decision that, if not in the category of stupid stuff, could fit under the heading of 'tone deafness.'.... Obama stood on the South Lawn on Saturday updating Americans on the new bombing campaign in Iraq — and then he boarded Marine One for a two-week trip to Martha’s Vineyard. There, half an hour after arriving at his vacation home, he was already on his way to a golf course. He played again Sunday, then had a beach outing Monday followed by a political fundraiser.

The striking contrast between Obama's vacation and the situation in Iraq was on display in the president's remark at the fundraiser that Milbank mentions above -- a cash-gathering event for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Here's Obama in the 4th paragraph of his remarks as delivered:

First of all, it’s really wonderful to be at Martha’s Vineyard, especially when the weather is this good.  And Michelle and the girls are having a wonderful time.  And we were hanging out with some seals this afternoon who came by and said hello.  I found, as somebody from Hawaii, the water is still a little cold.  But it couldn’t have been nicer.

And here he is in the 8th paragraph:

We also are seeing around the world incredible challenges, many of them all coming to a head at the same time.  The Middle East is just one of the major challenges we have.  And before I came here, I had a chance to speak to the Prime Minister-designate of Iraq.  I’m hopeful that now we have the opportunity to form a government in Iraq that can be an effective partner for us, but, more importantly, can form the kind of broad, inclusive government that serves as a basis for them to repel the terrorist movement, ISIL, that has been sweeping across the country.

The juxtaposition of bombs falling in Iraq and Obama interacting with seals on an affluent island is one that has enraged conservatives who spent Tuesday morning tweeting a video of Obama before he ran for president saying that "if you seek [the presidency] you have to be prepared to give your life to it."

Conservative outrage aside -- and remember that liberals reacted the same way to George W. Bush's vacations on his Crawford, Texas ranch -- there has not been any real blowback among the public about President Obama's vacation plans in the past. Almost one year ago to the day, Fox News Channel conducted the only polling we could find on the topic of Obama's vacations. The Fox sample split 48 percent to 48 percent on whether Obama had been "working hard to enough to deserve" an August vacation. By contrast, just 14 percent said Congress had worked hard enough to deserve a vacation while 82 percent said they had not.  In 2010, Fox asked whether people felt "resentful" of the number of vacations the Obamas were taking. Just one in five said they did.

Of course, that polling doesn't take into account the current situation, which is forcing Obama into a somewhat awkward split screen presidency -- a beach day and a statement on Iraq in the same afternoon, for example. Still, it's hard to see how Obama's decision to stay on vacation amid the Iraq operation becomes an issue outside of the conservative base, which -- breaking news! -- doesn't like much of anything he does.  Vacations are still sacred, it seems.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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