Keeping up with the Obamas? Gimme a breakWhen it comes to annoying somebody or other, American presidents can’t catch a break even when they decide to take a break.
By: Clarence Page, The Dickinson Press
When it comes to annoying somebody or other, American presidents can’t catch a break even when they decide to take a break.
As predictably as potholes follow a Chicago winter, critics will pounce on presidential vacation trips as too being extravagant, too inconvenient or too self-indulgent.
That’s why some of the same people who complain that President Obama is trying to do too much in his first year in office also manage to complain when he flies off for a weekend with his wife, like their recent date night on Broadway.
Frankly, when you consider the scandals that have resulted from politicians having the wrong kind of fun without their wives, I think we should be relieved when our president finds his own spouse to be fun enough.
Nevertheless, since presidents can’t leave the White House without a battalion of security and other support, reporters badgered presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the price tag for the Obama’s recent trip to see August Wilson’s Tony Award-winning “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” in New York.
And commentators bellyached about how, as one TV pundit sniffed, “There’s something sort of regal about it all.” He didn’t say “elitist,” but he sounded like that’s what he meant.
Bill Maher on HBO’s “Real Time” griped that presidents should never go out for dates because it costs too much and ties up too much traffic. After all, he said, that’s what Netflix is for.
Yet don’t we also complain when presidents don’t get out of their bubble to see at least a little bit of how regular people live?
That’s why, despite my criticisms of President Bush on other issues, I never begrudged his frequent trips home to Crawford, Texas, unless I had to go, too.
For the record, Bush spent more than a year of his presidency at his ranch in Crawford. By August 2005, he broke Ronald Reagan’s record of 335 days for America’s most vacationed president, according to news reports at the time. He went on to take the longest presidential vacation in 36 years.
But, so what? At least, as far as I know, he never started a war while he was in Crawford.
Besides, for everyone who begrudges presidents who leave Washington a lot, there seems to be someone else who admires them for it. This is particularly true for women who admire the role model Obama is providing for married couples who don’t get out much.
In the interest of full disclosure, those women include my wife.
Trouble is, it’s not easy to keep up with the Obamas. It just so happens that I took my wife to New York to see “West Side Story” a few days after the Obamas flew up to see “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” We had a great time and I scored some thoughtful-husband points.
But the glow of our New York trip had barely faded before we turned on the TV and saw Obama with wife and daughters rolling into Paris. For him, it was a business trip. For his family, it was a shopping spree. Geez, as Jon Stewart whined on “The Daily Show,” “Take it down a notch, dude!”
No wonder some guys are groaning about how high the First Dude has raised the bar for married guys across the nation.
“Elbowed sharply in the side,” a New York Times story observed, “husbands felt betrayed by the commander-in-chief.” After all, it is reasoned, if Obama can find time between fighting two wars, fending off Iran and North Korea’s nuclear threats and wrestling with a crippling economic recession to take his wife out for a nice dinner and a high-class stage play, what’s your excuse, pal?
Yet there is a silver lining of a message in the Obama narrative for singletons everywhere. As writer Jenee Desmond-Harris wrote in a Root.com essay titled, “What Single Women Can Learn From Michelle,” Obama’s arc of success illustrates why women should not dismiss poor-but-earnest yet upwardly mobile guys just because they lack flash or a lot of cash at the moment.
“Would most Type A, professional women have dated Barack when he was a broke, big-eared organizer with a funny name?” she writes. Speaking for a lot of guys who know what it’s like to be where Barack used to be, I think not.
In fact, those who are familiar with his life story know that he had a tough time persuading Michelle to go out with him back in his struggling young lawyer days. She finally gave him a break. Who can blame him for giving her a break sometimes, too?
— Page is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.