Bashing presidential vacations is partisanship at its worst

01/24/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Michelle Obama, partisanship, Janelle Irwin

First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrated her 50th birthday last week. Her White House soiree caused quite the media circus – who wore what, what did they eat, the First Lady was even criticized for lacking etiquette because her save the date cards asked guests to eat before they came. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Pundits on the right immediately latched on to the President’s birthday gift to his wife – a few extra days in Hawaii. It seems like a nice enough present, a few days away from your two children and the hustle and bustle of being the president’s wife. But the President was immediately slammed by the right for “wasting taxpayer money.”

An article in BreitBart also criticizing the president’s “gift” to his wife claims it could cost the public at least $200,000. That takes into account the added cost of sending a separate plane instead of having her travel with the President.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was quoted by Breitbart answering reporters as to whether or not the president would be paying for his wife’s own travel expenses. He said, “In line with travel of past Presidents and First Ladies, the First Lady will travel via government aircraft.” The quote goes on to say that Carney insisted “as with all personal travel, the First Family will appropriately fund personal expenses.”

ABC White House correspondent Jon Karl asked Carney during a press conference who was footing the bill not for the extended stay in Hawaii, but for the party itself at the White House. Carney referred Karl to a “release.”

But in the weeks preceding and following the First Lady’s birthday, there is no mention of who paid for the party on the White House’s statements and releases page. The only mention of the Flotus celebration is a statement on her birthday titled “our 15 favorite flotus moments for the first lady’s 50th birthday.”

When George W. Bush was in office, his ranch in Texas was nicknamed the Western White House. MSNBC contributor Al Sharpton defended Obama’s vacation-taking habits by slamming Bush’s. He said that during the same amount of time, Obama took 92 vacation days, while Bush had racked up about a year’s worth. Politifact rated the claim ‘mostly true’ adding that it’s not really a fair statement because Bush’s ranch was a family retreat where he would often work. Obama doesn’t have anything like that. But, I remember during the eight years of George W. hearing over and over, and sometimes even thinking – is that guy ever in Washington?

So, here’s the bottom line – something as simple as a vacation, something even the president, hell, maybe especially the president has the right to – can spark political backhanding and make the ones doing it look like a bunch of babies. Take this for example.

Another liberal blog called Politicus USA wrote about criticism over a trip the Obama’s made last June to Africa. Their defense of the millions of dollars critics claimed it would cost taxpayers included such rhetoric as “anytime the nation’s first black president spends more than a dollar, the right wing freaks out about Barack Obama “wasting taxpayer dollars;” and the, “well, but the Bush’s did it too!” argument. According to their article, Laura Bush made five trips to Africa in her husband’s second term alone.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that partisanship is turning into down right bullying. When presidents can’t go on vacation without it being a scandal, when a husband can’t throw a birthday party for his wife or the first lady can’t go on a good will mission to Africa without it raising a fuss among every critic looking for a reason to criticize – doesn’t that mean that we’ve taken party politics a little too far. Seems to me that any shred of willingness to play nice has all but evaporated.

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