Snapshots in time:
1) In August 2001, President George W. Bush received a memo entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US.” He then went fishing and brush clearing on a 32-day vacation on his ranch in Crawford, Texas—the longest vacation period ever recorded by a U.S. President. The next month, terrorists flew jetliners into the WTC and the Pentagon, killing thousands.
2) On April 8, 2004, Condoleezza Rice testified in front of the 9/11 Commission. Her testimony, which included much questioning about the August 2001 memo, competed for media time with a troubling escalation of violence and unrest in Iraq. During these events, President Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Don’t you just love the symmetry of it? Granted, taking potshots at the President for his vacation time can seem like a cheap shot. Even the POTUS needs some time to unwind, right? But one look at Bush’s vacation numbers shows a disturbing disconnect with the priorities of a country at war. If the president unwound any more, he would be a sweater in a Weezer song.
from the Washington Post (italics added):
This is Bush’s 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.
Let that sink in. With the average American earning a whopping 13 days of annual vacation time, that would add up to a tidy 52 days in a four year period. President Bush has used nearly ten times the average vacation time, and his term isn’t even over yet. It’s astounding.
The President’s people always try to put a happy face on the Washington absenteeism by claiming that he is on a “working vacation”. Which has to be technically true; obviously the President has to be ready and available at all times in case of a national emergency. But no amount of whitewashing can hide the fact that “working vacation” still involves the word “vacation”, and running the country isn’t the sort of job that you do between nature walks with the NRA or filming a fishing show:
On Saturday, Bush and his father were to go fishing at the ranch’s bass pond with a crew from the Outdoor Life Network’s “Fishing with Roland Martin.”
The White House approached the network about coming to film Bush, who is eager to cultivate an image as a sportsman with the millions of voters who hunt and fish.
Remember, this is the same guy who refers to himself as a “War President”, and has used the seriousness of 9-11 and the Iraq conflict for political expediency. And while soldiers are off dying in the war that he created, he’s hanging out at the ranch, television cameras in tow. It could be argued that the President’s location didn’t really matter when bullets started to fly in Fallujah. But this is one instance where impressions count. And by spending so much of his time back in Texas, Bush gives the impression that he’s not taking the job as seriously as he should be. Not that anything in his history suggests that kind of behavior, of course.
The response from the Bush people? White House Communication Director Dan Bartlett tried to take a shot at John Kerry by claiming that at least Bush was “not skiing”. I guess that skiing is an elitist activity nowadays, like drinking a latté or driving a Volvo. But there’s a big difference here: John Kerry is not the President of the United States. George Bush is.
Enough is enough. In a normal employment relationship, the worker gets canned for not showing up to his job. Isn’t it about time we set the same standards for the highest office in the land?