Obama’s vacation: Wrong place, wrong time?

President Obama drew criticism for taking a vacation at Martha’s Vineyard.

“Whose idea was Martha’s Vineyard?” said Victor Davis Hanson in NationalReview.com. It’s bad enough that President Obama whisked his family away for a summer vacation with the economy teetering on the brink of another recession. But it’s stupendously tone-deaf for a president who routinely derides “fat cats” to take his family to Martha’s Vineyard, an island paradise off the coast of Massachusetts long beloved by moneyed liberals and East Coast intellectuals. Every president needs a break, said Colbert King in The Washington Post, but Martha’s Vineyard “is the last place on earth” Obama should have chosen. How could he spend “10 days luxuriating in an affluent New England summer town when millions of Americans can’t find work”?

Barack Obama “deserves his vacation,” said The Boston Globe in an editorial, and if he wants to spend it on Martha’s Vineyard, so much the better. Obama’s critics caricature the Vineyard as an exclusive enclave of the super-rich, but in reality it’s a quaint, racially diverse, and charmingly low-key island. Obama has friends there, and spends his time golfing, biking, and buying ice cream for his daughters. What better way to recharge the presidential batteries? If Obama took his family to Disneyland or some blue-collar campsite, said Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg.com, his critics would accuse him of pandering. If he skipped his vacation entirely and burned the midnight oil in the Oval Office, they’d say he was “living in a Washington cocoon.”

Criticizing the presidents’ vacations is a great American tradition, said George Condon in TheAtlantic.com. It goes all the way back to John Adams, who drew howls of outrage by spending seven months of 1798 at his farm in Massachusetts. Every president’s holiday, in his enemies’ eyes, is “too long. Or too lavish. Or too insensitive.” When Harry Truman was president, critics said he was “playing too much poker” at his home in Key West, Fla., said USA Today. George W. Bush was portrayed as a slacker for spending so much time at his Texas ranch—180 days at this stage of his first term, compared with 60 vacation days for Obama. Bush’s father took heat for speedboating and golfing in Kennebunkport, Maine. In the modern era, of course, the president brings much of his staff, is briefed daily, and has to deal with international crises. “Presidents don’t really get vacations”—they just get a change of scenery.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.