Republicans question whether President Obama deserves a vacation

A look at some of the vacation spots visited by the Obama family.
By Scott Wilson
Sunday, August 22, 2010

VINEYARD HAVEN, MASS. -- For the second straight year, the first family has landed on this island of quaint seaside towns, second homes and working farms for a late-summer getaway.

But this year, more so than last, political opponents are trying to hang a question over the visit: Does President Obama deserve a vacation?

The Republican National Committee has taken to calling Obama "the Clark Griswold president," a mocking reference to the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon's "Vacation" movies. With unemployment claims climbing again, the GOP was hoping its criticism would have a certain national resonance. And maybe it will.

One potential complication: Obama has spent far less time on vacation than his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, had at this point in his presidency.

Veteran CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, a fastidious keeper of presidential statistics, has kept count. By his tally, Obama has embarked on nine "vacations" since taking office, bringing his total days off to 48. Some of those trips lasted a day and some, like his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, more than a week.

By comparison, Bush had visited his ranch in Crawford, Tex., 14 times at this point in his administration and spent 115 days there. And yes, Democrats let him have it, too, complaining that he was a chronic vacationer.

White House advisers made clear in the days leading up to this getaway that a president, especially a wartime president overseeing a country in the grips of economic distress, is never really on vacation.

Obama will see his family more over these nine days. He'll likely read more fiction than briefing books. He'll play more golf and wear fewer ties.

And everyone other than his family will see him less; on Saturday, he remained out of sight, even to the press pool that accompanies him.

But the result of the enormous logistical effort to take the president on the road is that the White House, at least as much of it as he wants, goes with him. As do the problems he's contending with.

Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, the distinctly unlaid-back former CIA senior official John Brennan, briefs him every morning here. Obama is also receiving regular economic briefings between beach picnics (like the one the family took late Saturday morning), town excursions and visits to the links.

"Communication systems are very robust," Brennan, dressed in a dark suit, tie tight against his throat, told reporters here Friday. "We can move information at the speed of light. We can get to him very easily here."

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