Being that this is August, it’s not uncommon to see Americans use up some of the vacation time they’ve earned during the yearâ€”an average of 13 days in which to kick back, catch up on projects around the home, or travel as far away as possible from the hated cubicle. President George Bush, Texas good ol’ boy and champion of heartland America itself, is no different.
President Bush is getting the kind of break most Americans can only dream of — nearly five weeks away from the office, loaded with vacation time.
The president departed Tuesday for his longest stretch yet away from the White House, arriving at his Crawford ranch in the evening to clear brush, visit with family and friends, and tend to some outside-the-Beltway politics. By historical standards, it is the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years
Please, hold back the French jokes, since they are so totally unfair. To the French, at leastâ€”because while the President’s summer holiday is roughly equivalent to the average French vacation of 37 days, this is George Bush we’re talking about here, the man who seemingly uses any reason imaginable to abandon the White House for those macho brush-clearing photo opportunities: Holidays. Weekends. Premonitions from God. Unexplainable urges to wear massive belt buckles. Dick Cheney farting in the oval office.
Whatever the reason, Bush’s current stay in Crawford is the 49th since he took office, and by the time it is over he will have spent almost an entire year of his Presidency at the ranch. That’s not even counting the additional vacations taken at Camp David or the Bush family compound in Maine. And with three years left to go in his term, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of a mandate that apparently allocates lots of time for mountain biking.
“But wait,” the President’s supporters and various subordinates say. “These are working vacations! And besides, going to the ranch allows the President to reconnect with the ordinary Americans that you can’t find in Washington D.C.”
As for the first part of that argument, the answer remains the same as in April of last year, when we initially wrote about the President’s vacation schedule:
The Presidentâ€™s people always try to put a happy face on the Washington absenteeism by claiming that he is on a â€œworking vacationâ€. 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 â€œworking vacationâ€ still involves the word â€œvacationâ€, and running the country isnâ€™t the sort of job that you do between nature walks with the NRA or filming a fishing show.
Remember, this is the same guy who refers to himself as a â€œWar Presidentâ€, 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, heâ€™s hanging out at the ranch, television cameras in tow. It could be argued that the Presidentâ€™s location didnâ€™t really matter when bullets started to fly in Fallujah. But this is one instance where impressions count.
Speaking of Iraq, at least 24 soldiers have been slaughtered in the last three days while the War Presidentâ„¢ enjoys his five week breather, courageously directing the War on Terrorâ„¢ from the treacherous brush fields of central Texas. It’s hot down there, after all! But at least the Prez is connecting with the people, right? Sure, if the heartland of the entire country consists of selected people in a five-mile radius around what is likely the most heavily guarded and fortified ranch on the planet.
But don’t worry. The President will be on the case:
At some point, Bush told reporters Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will visit for consultations. “I have a busy couple of weeks down there,” Bush said.
Whoa. Don’t strain yourself, chief. Are we supposed to think it above the call of duty that you consult with the heads of the Defense and State Departments over a five week period, during a time of war? We all must sacrifice in our own ways, I suppose. Sarcasm aside, once the excuses are stripped away, this vacation is another example of the President’s need for leisure time overruling his commitments as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. He already is known for taking daily two-hour exercise breaks, and isn’t usually inclined to work nights or weekends. And let’s not forget the incident from a couple of months ago, when no one bothered to tell Bush that Washington D.C. was on red alert because he was bicycling in Maryland.
But enough negativity. On the bright side, by the middle of this month Bush will haveâ€”in less than five yearsâ€”already eclipsed the total vacation time that the beloved Ronald Reagan took in eight; that ought to be worth at least a celebratory call from Grovor Norquist. And it will be amusing to see how the Powerline guys can convince themselves that near-constant vacationing affirms the President’s “extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius“. Must be something in the water.
While the rest of us wait to catch up to all the bold, visionary thinking being generated from Crawford, maybe we should consider trying to turn the President’s absence into an investment opportunity. Isn’t that the American way, after all?
I’ll be expecting my check in the mail, thank you.