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Do presidents get vacations? The annual debate heats up as Obamas head to the Vineyard

President Obama and Malia riding bikes in Martha's Vineyard last year. (Jewel Samad/ Getty Images )

Time for the annual vacation debate: The president heads off for some R&R and his critics find reasons why it’s a bad idea. It’s a time-honored tradition in Washington, regardless of party, and gives pundits stuck at their desks something to write about.

The White House confirmed Wednesday the Obamas will spend 10 days in Martha’s Vineyard starting next week. It’s their third vacation on the Massachusetts island famous as a summer playground for the rich and powerful, and therefore a fat target in this roller-coaster economy.

“I don’t think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the President would spend some time with his family,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

Of course they wouldn’t — if the Obamas inflated a kiddie pool and cooked hot dogs on the South Lawn. Once the first family leaves Washington, someone always starts whining.

The first lady and her daughters on vacation in Oak Bluffs, Mass. (Alex Brandon/AP)

It’s the exactly same tune liberals played when George W. Bush headed to his Crawford ranch every year: Too much vacation, he should be in D.C., blah blah. Bush always sprinkled folksy photo-ops into the vacation mix. This year Obama is hopping on a bus for a short Midwest tour before headed east.

The most common getaway is a mix of business and pleasure: On an official trip to South Africa in June, Michelle Obama took both daughters and her mother along. (Both Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton brought their daughters along on foreign visits.) This week, the first lady slipped out of town with one of the girls and her mother for a visit to Oregon to see her brother, Craig Robinson and his family. The White House released no information about the private trip, but critics complained about the cost of military transport and security. (The Secret Service doesn’t let the first family fly commercial.)

The Obamas will be on the Vineyard from Aug. 18-27; they’ll return to D.C. for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial on Aug. 28.

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