The media covering the president’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard are being discouraged from photographing President Obama playing golf. There is no access. Apparently, the White House is nervous that in tough economic times, whacking a small white ball could be construed as insensitive.
How insane is that?
Presidents are entitled to goof off once in a while, as Warren Harding and Teddy Roosevelt both understood. Harding was a card sharp, and Teddy ran around shooting animals. Almost every president took advantage of recreational opportunities, with the possible exception of Franklin Pierce, who did little but brood.
As you may know, George W. Bush was vilified for spending time at his Texas ranch when the Iraq war was going south. Even though W. entertained guys like Putin (no holiday is complete without him), liberals kept a close count of how many days Bush was cutting brush in 100-degree heat and riding around on his dirt bike.
Today, some right-wingers are criticizing Obama for his island jaunt during a bad economy. But, come on, isn’t the president entitled to spend a few days with his family at the end of August? Is the country going to be downgraded again because he eats a little taffy?
All American presidents are under enormous strain. John Quincy Adams blew off steam by swimming naked in the Potomac River. Harry Truman got a massage most mornings before he began stopping the buck. Dwight Eisenhower spent almost as much time on the golf course as Sam Snead.
The truth is that creative people need downtime in order to operate at their best. Bad decisions are often made when a person becomes exhausted. All day, every day, presidents are under siege to deal with one problem after another. Everybody wants something. The job never stops.
Thus, I have no problem with vacationing presidents. I want them to have fun, but also to set a good example while doing it. I’d like to see these guys move around a bit. The Vineyard is a great place, but there are tons of good vacation spots that could use the promotional boost a presidential visit would give them. What about the Outer Banks of North Carolina? The boundary lakes of Minnesota? The Tetons and the Cascades? All great American places, and there are thousands of others.
On paper, being president looks like a blast. You are the most powerful person in the world and fly on private jets all the time. You live in a great historical house and have a weekend place in Maryland. You have a great chef and unlimited entertainment options.
But the dark side is that you can never really relax. Everything you say and do is scrutinized, and there are always folks ready to betray you for book or interview money. Every second of your life is scheduled, and the days are very, very long.
So enjoy yourself on the Vineyard, Mr. President. Just don’t get used to it.