President Obama and his family embarked on their annual Christmas vacation to Hawaii over the weekend. The first family will spend sixteen days in the Aloha state, and that means we will all spend the next two and a half weeks listening to the right-wing howl about the “Vacationer-in-chief.” Every year they complain that Obama spends millions of taxpayer dollars on lavish getaways and works less than any other president in the history of our country. If you listen to their complaints, you’d be left with the impression that Obama has spent his entire tenure as president on golf courses or in five-star resorts; but, this isn’t true at all. In fact, President Obama has taken fewer vacation days than George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan (the most recent two-term Republican presidents) and we do not incur significant costs for them.
In August 2014, CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller tweeted that President Obama had taken 125 vacation days so far in his presidency. Knoller’s tweet went out before Obama started his annual two-week summer vacation; so, if you add in that vacation, his two-week 2014 winter vacation, and his 2015 summer vacation, President Obama has had about 170 days “off” since he was sworn into office in 2009. When he leaves office, his total number of vacation days will be in the neighborhood of 200, this is in stark contrast to the 879 days President Bush was away and the 390 days President Reagan took.
The other problem Republicans profess to have with Obama’s vacations is that he goes to Hawaii for his Christmas vacation. RedState published an article last week titled “Barack Obama spends millions of taxpayer dollars AGAIN on Hawaii vacation.” In 2013, Breitbart complained that his vacations were “lavish” saying:
“And while Bush spent more time outside of Washington than Obama, it is also worth nothing that nearly all of Bush’s vacations were trips back to his Texas ranch or family vacation homes in Maine.”
They are absolutely right, President Bush went back to his home state of Texas and that’s exactly what President Obama does when he vacations in Hawaii. The president was born and spent a significant portion of his childhood in Hawaii. So while the GOP may look at the tropical state as an exotic getaway, the president calls it “home.” And it doesn’t matter if he was traveling to Texas or to Hawaii, the first family pays for their own lodging, meals, and recreational activities — not the taxpayers. In their recent whiny Obama vacation article, RedState argued:
“And it’s not just the cash. It’s the cash, and the overtime, and the extra security, and the associated annoyances that come from having to operate around the security, and the general disruption of other people’s schedules.”
The Washington Post dispelled this myth that taxpayers pay more for security when presidents go on vacation, saying:
But since presidential vacations are always working vacations, taxpayers cover what it takes to keep the commander in chief working. Lodging and meals are an extra cost, but taxpayers pay the salaries of White House staffers and Secret Service agents whether the president stays in Washington or not, so a presidential vacation does not significantly increase personnel costs.
For argument’s sake let’s just say conservative pundits were right, and the cost to the taxpayer increases when President Obama goes on vacation. Even by their own incorrect logic, the president has spent less money than the two-term Republican presidents of the past by taking fewer vacation days — in Bush’s case, that’s more than four times less.
Every single argument the right rolls out when President Obama goes on vacation has been debunked. However, if you spend any amount of time in the comment sections of the articles on those sites, you will find Republican voters claiming that Obama is “lazy” and he’s vacationing on taxpayer dollars. The comments are thinly veiled, racist stereotypes, much like their much-loved “welfare queen” myth. The first African-American president in this nation’s history is resented for taking vacations and called “lazy,” because it perpetuates a stereotype pushed by white supremacists that they are being forced to pay for minorities who never work. It’s vile and false, but they continue to say it because it gets their uneducated, racist base all riled up.
It should be noted that President Obama (or any president) does not actually get a vacation. The President of the United States never really gets a break and to suggest that he does, has no basis in reality.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.