"President George H.W. Bush did speed golf," says Politico's Carol E. Lee. Well, "President Barack Obama does speed vacationing." Obama and his family took a whirlwind 48-hour vacation to Bar Harbor, ME, last weekend, packing dozens of tourist stops in their two days outside of Washington. (Watch the Obamas race through Maine.) Here's a brief look at what the Obamas managed to do, and how the 44th president's vacationing habits compare with his predecessors':
What was on the president's itinerary?
Upon landing Friday afternoon, the First Family took a bike ride in Acadia National Forest (90 minutes), hiked Cadillac Mountain (39 minutes), stopped for ice cream (11 minutes), visited the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse (10 minutes), took in a boat ride and lobster dinner (two hours), skipped rocks and played with the dog (one hour), and played tennis and swam (two hours). Later, the president and first lady had a date night (90 minutes). Saturday ticked along at a similar pace, with five activities in 11 hours.
Why so many activities?
"He doesn't get a lot of time outside of Washington with his family, so he enjoys taking in as much as he can on these brief trips," explained White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton. The logistics of presidential trips also make shorter stops friendlier for locals and fellow tourists, who are often inconvenienced by the president's motorcade.
How many presidential vacations have the Obamas taken?
The whole family visited Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon last summer, Martha's Vineyard in late August, Hawaii at Christmas, and Chicago over Memorial Day. In all, Obama has spent all or part of 65 days on vacation, including at Camp David, according to CBS News' Mark Knoller. George W. Bush had spent 120 days on vacation at the same point in his presidency.
How have other recent presidents vacationed?
Bush spent much of his time outside Washington at his Texas ranch. Ronald Reagan similarly had a ranch in California, while George H.W. Bush largely vacationed in Kennebunkport, ME. Richard Nixon owned a house in Florida, and John F. Kennedy had the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, MA. Like Bill Clinton (who frequented Martha's Vineyard), Obama does not own a summer home.
Was it a working vacation?
Undoubtedly. "We in the press corps who traveled with him didn't see any official activity," says the Chicago Tribune's Mike Memoli. But "the president never stops being president." Still, unlike almost every other vacation the Obama family has taken, this one was uninterrupted by a notable death (Sen. Ted Kennedy, on their Martha's Vineyard trip), national security incident (Christmas Day underwear bomber, on their Hawaii vacation), or disaster (BP spill, ongoing during their Chicago weekend).
So should presidents even bother taking vacation?
Conservatives have criticized Obama for taking some time off, just as liberals made sport of Bush for his long trips to Crawford, TX, says Reihan Salam in The Daily Beast, and they were equally wrong. Being president is perhaps the most stressful job in the world, with some of the most unrealistic expectations placed on it, and "just as we don't want codeine-sipping insomniacs operating heavy machinery, we have very good reason to want President Obama to take a restorative weekend off."
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