President Donald Trump departed the White House on Friday for a 17-day working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey.
Trump’s vacation, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump notes, is twice as long as the vacation President Barack Obama took to Martha’s Vineyard in his first year in office – and will mean Trump has spent 53 “leisure” days through August 2017 as compared to 15 for Obama through August 2009.
Generally speaking, I think “the president is taking a too-long vacation” is a dumb storyline. Presidents – of both parties – deserve some down time. Whether they play golf or clear brush in their free time, it’s fine with me! We all need a little break. And let’s be honest: If I am always not so far from my phone (and work) on vacation, then you can sure as hell bet the president of the United States is staying dialed in too. It’s not as though these presidents go to a remote island where there’s no phone or Internet service.
That said, Trump asked for this criticism. He was relentless not only in his attacks on Obama’s vacation habits but insistent that he wouldn’t take any vacation if he was elected president.
“Pres. Obama is about to embark on a 17 day vacation in his ‘native’ Hawaii, putting Secret Service away from families on Christmas. Aloha!,” Trump tweeted in December 2013. “President Obama has a major meeting on the N.Y.C. Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!,” he tweeted in October 2014.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly promised that he would refuse to take vacation in order to keep doing the work of the American public.
“I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump said in July 2015. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.”
“I’m going to be working for you,” Trump said in August 2016. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”
This is what’s commonly known as being super, super hypocritical – not an uncommon look for politicians, but still worth calling out.
The reason Trump made such a big deal about Obama’s vacations – and golf habits – was because it worked for his own political interests at the time. The Republican base thought Obama was lazy, distracted and ineffective. That he took vacations – and to liberal enclaves like Martha’s Vineyard!!! – played perfectly into that perception.
For Trump, attacking Obama on vacationing was the equivalent of crushing a hanging curveball deep into the left field stands. It was there. So he swung at it. Hard. Again and again.
Ditto Trump’s campaign promise not to take vacations. He was running as the anti-Obama, the tough-talking, hard-deal-making business guy who knew how to run things – not the professor-turned-community-organizer who thought more government was the answer to anything and everything.
If Obama vacationed, Trump wouldn’t. Period.
Like many things Trump says, he didn’t actually mean he wasn’t going to take vacations. Just like he didn’t actually mean he wasn’t going to play golf. He believed it all at the time. But that time is not now.
Because of Trump’s hypocrisy on the whole vacation thing, we’re not going to hear the last of the politics of vacation for, at least, four years. But can we make both candidates for president the next time around sign some sort of pledge not to make an issue of the other one going on vacation?
We all need it! This is something we should all be able to agree on! Bipartisanship!