False Outrage: Presidential Leisure

Truman’s Little White House, Key West, FL

The unabashed Moderate is truly sick and tired of the fake outrage expressed by any Opposition Party at certain presidential activities and benefits our duly elected Presidents are inclined to use to their personal advantage, specifically Presidential vacations.

Those who take note of such things might recall much being made of presidential respites dating as far back as Ronald Reagan (POTUS40), as I certainly do.  Used to be Presidents could enjoy regular escapes from the Machiavellian energy of Washington, D.C.

Harry S Truman (POTUS33) enjoyed “The Little White House” in Key West.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt (POTUS32) enjoyed Hot Springs, AR.

JFK at Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard was a favorite spot for several Presidents, mostly Democrats for some reason (John F. Kennedy, POTUS35; Bill Clinton, POTUS42; Barack Obama, POTUS44).  Richard M. Nixon (POTUS37) loved Key Biscayne, FL.  Both Lyndon Baines Johnson (POTUS36) and George W. Bush (POTUS43) preferred their personal ranches in Texas.  George H.W Bush (POTUS41) frequented the family vacation compound in Kennebunkport Maine.

The venues are as varied as are the personalities who have served as Chief Executives.

Unfortunately, where and how often a President takes a vacation has recently become an outlet for opposition frustration and anger, veiled behind so-called concerns about Costs, compromised National Security, even Global Warming.  In reality, they have become nothing more than another opportunity to toss darts at a President simply because you did not vote for them.

As the unabashed Moderate, my take on Presidential Vacations takes the Politics out of the equation.  And once you do so, you quickly realize the only ones with sufficient cause to complain about such things are those concerned about deficit spending and ballooning National Debt levels.  Assuming – of course – that such complaints are consistent across both Republican and Democrat Administrations.

Bush43 biking his Crawford, Texas ranch

Fat chance, right?

Witness the outraged defense of President Bush43’s habit of enjoying his Crawford, Texas spread on a regular basis morphing into merciless howls of criticism over President Obama’s preference for Hawaiian vacations.  One might have a point arguing the footprint of a presidential junket to speak on Climate Change using a fleet of military planes and helicopters, armored limousines, etc.  Not so much though when it comes to presidential vacations; and here’s why:

  1. Presidents do not get paid a lot of money.  Now before you toss your computer monitor through that nice picture window, consider the economic impact of the US Government vs. that of the largest corporations.  As the ultimate CEO The President is paid but a fraction – a very small fraction in some cases – of the compensation poured upon Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officers.  This despite the fact that the fiscal responsibilities and economic impact of the Executive Branch far outpaces the financial influences of most (all?) large corporations.
  2. Another example …  As a lowly mid-level Subject Matter Expert in the Federal Government, I earn a low six-figure salary.  (That’s LOW as in LOW for a six-figure salary, not that a six-figure salary is “low”.)  My responsibilities cover roughly $13 million in direct expenditures I oversee, among other duties. I also participate in the approval cycle for $2 billion in expenditures controlled and executed by others.  By contrast, POTUS will manage a FY18 budget estimated at $3.6 trillion dollars!  The annual salary for POTUS is $200,000., or roughly just double mine. In matters entirely fiscal that comparison is whacked, even if you also make allowance for the non-monetary benefits to which all POTUSes (POTI??) have access.
  3. The Stress of being POTUS (Commander-in-Chief, Chief Executive Officer, de facto Political Party Godfather, etc.) has to be exhausting, draining, deafening, and generally debilitative to any POTUS’ ability to focus, be circumspect, commanding, decisive, etc.  That’s not an ideal recipe for successful performance and decision-making, particularly in times of crisis.
  4. The White House is a fishbowl, hardly the place where any POTUS gets to totally discharge the cumulative aggravation and recharge without the prospect of 3 AM sessions in crisis management and disaster mitigation.
  5. Family life and the Joys of Parenting can suffer significantly in The Fishbowl.  Suggesting a POTUS’ family does not deserve its own escape from White House Suffocation is simply a cruel expectation.

So let’s address the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

The Reagan Ranch at Santa Barbara, CA

The REAL reason most critics hammer away at a President’s proclivity for solitude and isolation from the pressure of Washington is – nowadays – always political.  Even those who criticize behind veils of fiscal responsibility or climate change do so because the meme is a quick, easy shot.  But the complainant’s  goal is still the same … throwing a cheap, no frills political Molotov cocktail.

You see it now – too much – whether the President is a Bush, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump.  It’s a silly, entirely lazy reason to disagree with any President.

Claims of limiting greenhouse gases and strains on the U.S. Budget ring hollow when one accepts that Presidents have no control over the costs or the methods for getting them to their preferred vacation spots.  Security – a lot of security – preps and accompanies any presidential trip.  Add atop that the weight of critical National Security equipment, redundancies in methods and tactics, and the support personnel and equipment necessary to make everything hum properly and you get quite the load – both literally and figuratively.  And none of that truly lies within the realistic control of any President.

Security – the overarching requirement – is not negotiable … not even for great deal makers.  Security actually becomes a fairly good argument for any President to have a regular, established (i.e. one favorable to pre-staging equipment, materials, etc.) leisure address whether it be in Texas or Hawaii.

Certainly, a few Presidents have made regular use of such amenities as Camp David.  But as President Trump recently remarked, “Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes …“.  If you are the active, cosmopolitan, and/or adventurous type, you might need a little more to shed the weight of being The Leader of The Free World.

Let’s just give that false outrage a break … and The Presidents – all of them – one too!