Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

You might not have known that; it wasn’t exactly headline news. I went camping with my sister and a couple of friends in Missouri. I visited my family for a few days and attended a block party in my cousin’s neighborhood. I spent plenty of money on gas, snacks, camping equipment, and a dinner out for my family.
 
Pretty all-American, right? I took the vacation days that are a benefit provided by my employer and put money into the economy. And I didn’t feel guilty about having a good time while doing so, even though members of my family are out of work or underemployed. Even though unemployment is at 9 percent. 
 
Republicans are having a lot of fun criticizing President Obama for doing the same thing I did: taking a vacation. Here are my responses to their most common talking points:
 
1. It “looks bad” Obama is on vacation while the country is in a recession and so many people are unemployed. However, economists think it will take years to bring unemployment below 8 percent. Is Obama not supposed to take another day off until the economy fully recovers? If Republicans are so concerned about out-of-work Americans, they should be busy crafting a jobs bill (one that doesn’t rely on tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations to create jobs) instead of attacking women’s health and weakening union regulations.
  
2. The Obamas are having fun on the taxpayers’ dime. The president and first lady can’t go anywhere without spending taxpayer money. They require security everywhere they go. How do we determine what destinations are acceptable and which aren’t? Put it to an opinion poll? It’s OK to vacation in the Rockies but not in Spain? They can go only within 100 miles of Washington, D.C.? I’m sure the Obamas would prefer to vacation just the four of them. It can’t be fun to have a huge entourage everywhere you go. It’s just part of the job description.
 
And consider:
 
1. Obama has taken only 61 vacation days so far, compared to 180 for Bush for the same amount of time. Remember that Bush was dealing with 9/11 and its aftermath in that period of time. Does that make him more or less entitled to three times as much vacation has Obama has taken? Obama has arguably the toughest job in the world. Why are we begrudging him time off with his family, especially since there’s no such thing as a president leaving his job entirely behind? Even while he’s in Martha’s Vineyard he’s getting updates and staying on top of breaking news developments. If Hurricane Irene devastates the East Coast this weekend, do you think he’ll say “I’m on vacation, Joe Biden can deal with it”? Another good point from this Star Tribune column is that even if Obama never took any vacation days, he wouldn’t be able to solve every problem that came across his desk.
 
2. Congress is in recess. That means — gasp — that Republicans are on vacation as well. Where’s the outrage about that? Moreover, what is Obama supposed to be doing when the Capitol is deserted? Obviously there are things Obama could be working on, but there will always be things he could be working on, and I’m sure he can work on some of them just as well from Massachusetts as he can from D.C.
 
3. There is no good time for a president to take a vacation. There will always be a conflict somewhere; turmoil on the other side of the world; people here and abroad who don’t have the luxury of food and water, let alone a vacation. Should he — should we — do without until everyone has the same standard of living?
 
4. I’m sure the president has people whose sole job is to determine how his actions play in public. He knows exactly how this “looks” to ordinary Americans, and apparently he doesn’t care. I can’t say I blame him.
 
I don’t think any president or elected official should get carte blanche when it comes to time off. If s/he sets a record for the number of days of vacation taken while in office, that’s a legitimate criticism for anyone. But everyone is entitled to take vacations. I want everyone to take vacations. I want my doctors and emergency responders and bosses and political officials to get time off to relax, recharge and refresh themselves so they are at their best when they do their jobs.
 
Including my president.
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Comments on: "I went on vacation this year" (1)

  1. Uncle Dave said:

    Very well said, Molly. Everyone needs time to recharge and spend time to rest and relax.
    Our Presidents work very hard and are under great pressure day in and day out.
    They need time off and the critics are just being nasty again.

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