Can a President Get a Break?

As the First Family enjoys a Hawaiian vacation, other families aren’t so fortunate.

Posted: 12/28/2011 02:36 PM EST
President Obama, vacations in Hawaii, politics, family

 (Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

For people like Mima Buchanan, 30 years old, the blow-by-blow details of the president’s every move on his Hawaiian vacation is a luxury this single mother of two literally cannot afford. “I’m overworked and stressed because the kids are constantly growing,” she said. “As a mom, I want to provide for them and give them a break too, but I don’t know how to explain to them that we just can’t right now.”

 

Buchanan, a substitute teacher in Baltimore, has not been able to take her kids on a get-away in four years. And until things turn around, vacation plans will have to be put on hold.

 

The cost of the Obama's vacation has been a topic among the White House press corps.  During one recent briefing, a correspondent asked about whether the decision for Michelle Obama to travel to Hawaii a few days earlier than the president created an added expense to the taxpayers during tight budgetary times. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney advised, "As previous first ladies have done, they will travel on a military aircraft. As previous first ladies have done, they will travel separate from the president."

 

By most accounts, Obama’s breaks do not seem out-of-step with prior presidents. Go-to research website Factcheck.org cites CBS News’ Mark Knoller as the presidential vacation day keeper of record. Knoller’s own reporting of presidential travel puts the issue into perspective. According to him, by last summer, President Obama had taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office compared to 28 days for Bill Clinton, 180 days for George W. Bush and 112 days for Ronald Reagan during that same period.

 

(After three years on the job, the average American worker takes about 10 vacation days a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That amounts to roughly the same number of vacation days President Clinton enjoyed near the three-year mark of his term. )

 

Whether it’s a quick round of golf, a date night with the First Lady or a scuba-diving adventure with the kids, every detail of the vacation is being chronicled on Twitter. The White House does not see it as a way to flaunt before the American people but rather allow them to share in the experience. 

 

The holiday jaunt is expected to run through the end of New Year’s Day. As for whether a presidential vacation is merited, Buchanan has her own opinion. “He’s a hard-working man and he deserves that time with his wife and children, but I would like to do the same thing with my family.”

 

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