24 Aug

Give a president a break, and let him take one

The current complaint about President Obama is that he goes on vacation and plays golf, instead of staying in the Oval Office and fixing everything. The complaints are mostly from people who think that when he’s in the Oval Office he doesn’t actually fix anything, evoking the old complaint about the resort hotel: The food is terrible, and the portions are too small.

This complaint follows a pattern for every recent president. George W. Bush spent hundreds of days of  his term on his ranch in Texas, largely clearing brush. Republicans complained that Bill Clinton not only played lots of golf, but cheated.

George H.W. Bush frequently ran up to his vacation house in Maine, where he played a lot of golf s quickly as possible, trying to break the one-hour round. Democrats complained that Ronald Reagan spent too much time at his ranch outside Santa Barbara, riding horses. Gerald Ford not only played a lot of golf, he was a positive danger to spectators when he did.

Admittedly, the job has changed considerably since John Adams used to go up to Massachusetts for months at a time, without being harassed by email. As all presidents point out, the responsibilities follow them everywhere, to mountain trails or the 14th green. The responsibilities also mean that if a president doesn’t get some relief and relaxation, he might make some very strange decisions.

We have, after all, had some recent presidents who were unfailingly diligent, constantly at work, hardly ever relaxing their grip on power: Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson.

Maybe that’s not so good either.