I reluctantly replaced the background photo of Justin Carter (who is still, by the way, awaiting trial for the crime of making a sarcastic comment on Facebook that post-Sandy Hook hysterics decided to treat as a terrorist threat) and put up the iconic photo of Bo, the Presidential dog, being solemnly escorted out of an Osprey to join the First Family in another spectacularly ill-timed vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, together with a photo of the National Debt clock. I hoped the background picture would save me the proverbial thousand words, because I think it speaks eloquently to several issues. But I have already received some squeals of protest, so I’m going to have to use up some of those words after all.
I generally have no problem with any President taking vacations, since the job is impossible and it travels with him, no matter how much he might wish otherwise. I have a problem with Presidents spending excessive amounts of the nation’s time in partisan fundraising, but that’s another issue. As one of the President’s supervisors, I have serious concerns about this President taking so many vacations, because, frankly, I don’t know what he does all day. He appears to have no foreign policy, other than making speeches, waffling, and dithering. He says he is making the economy his full time priority, but I see little indication of that. We know he doesn’t dirty his hands with engaging in politics and forging compromises with the opposition, and based on his statements and stunned surprise when incompetence or misconduct appears, he seems not to know what is going on in his own departments. We know he doesn’t trouble himself with oversight or management—even #1 fan Chris Matthews admits that.
Obama said on The Tonight Show (he has time to appear on The Tonight Show) that the U.S. has no domestic spying program. Today we learn that the NSA has habitually violated privacy restrictions on its spying, meaning that we don’t have a domestic spying program, just a spying program that repeatedly engages in domestic spying. Call me a stickler, but I think a few of those down days on vacation should have been spent instead actually learning what was the real situation before he told the nation things that weren’t true. Or was he lying? If you prefer that explanation, fine. That is another ethical issue.
Obama’s vacations, unlike most of those of his predecessor (since any accusation of less-than-deal conduct by this President immediately triggers the response beginning, “But Bush…,”) have not been enjoyed on a home ranch but in a succession of resorts and luxury spots. Also unlike his successor, they have occurred during a drawn-out recession that has robbed a large number of Americans—including me, by the way—of the time, security and resources to take our own, more modest, vacations, within our budgets, naturally. They have occurred in defiance of a national debt that is relentlessly growing to an unsustainable size far faster than it was growing during the Bush years. And they have occurred, and I really can’t understand this—Is it a blind spot? Is it defiance? Is it playing to Obama’s uber-loyal base, pleasing them because he’s “living large”?-–in a particularly offensive “in your face” manner, as if the President knows that such opulence seems insensitive and hypocritical when he has called on middle class families to give up “that trip to Vegas” and engaged in class warfare, condemning the selfishness of the rich, and he just doesn’t care. I really have no idea why he has done this, and continues to do it. It looks terrible.
I don’t like playing the “if he were a Republican” card, but there is no place better to play it: the media, Democrats and the Left would be frothing at the mouth if a GOP President and his family took such vacations while the rest of the country was suffering. “He doesn’t care about the average American!” would be the refrain. So because Obama says he cares, his conduct and—the results of his policies—don’t matter? Apparently.
The disconnect periodically rubs one of his supporting media and pundit brigade the wrong way. Here’s reliably liberal Washington Post editor Jackson Diehl on Obama’s response to the Egypt crisis:
“…this president’s extraordinary passivity in the face of crisis may have achieved its apotheosis this week. On Wednesday, as Egyptian security forces gunned down hundreds of civilians in the streets of Cairo, an unperturbed Obama shot another round of golf at Martha’s Vineyard. His deputy press secretary was left to explain to reporters that the administration remained firmly committed to not deciding whether what had happened in Egypt was a coup.”
In this context, I find the photo of Bo deplaning from what was designed as an elite combat vehicle disturbing, offensive, and symbolic. Some conservative publications wrote that the Osprey was chartered just to bring Bo to join his masters, meaning that the doggie trip cost the taxpayers many thousands of dollars-—I find that too ridiculous and wasteful to believe. Still, the photograph is redolent of similar photographs in the past of shieks and dictators making underlings toady to their pets. Some feel that reducing military personnel to canine escorts while using a billion-dollar tool of combat as a pet carrier was a calculated insult to the armed services. I think that’s unlikely too, but there is no arguing the fact that it looks terrible. It looks terrible. A large aspect of effective leadership is symbolic, and the symbolism of Bo’s arrival says arrogant, imperial, incompetent presidential leadership to me….in part because I think that is what we have.
Okay, it turns out that the picture was only worth 44 words.