There was an interesting exchange between Jake Tapper and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney earlier this week. Just a short while after Carney proclaimed that the President would “not rest until everyone in America who wants a job has a job,” the White House announced that the President will be taking a nine-day August rest in Cape Cod. This means that Obama plans to have unemployment fixed within the next two weeks or his “not to rest” promise dropped very quickly even for this President.
Tapper decided to ask Carney about the contradiction.
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Jake Tapper from ABC News asked Carney if the vacation was appropriate.
Jake Tapper, ABC News: “You said the President will not rest until the joblessness and the economy are worked out, but the President is obviously going on vacation…. Is there any concern about the impression that the President going to Martha’s Vineyard for 9 or 10 days might leave on the American people? And also, if this is such an important issue for Speaker Boehner, for Harry Reid, for President Obama, why the R&R?”
Jay Carney, WH press secretary:... I don’t think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the President would spend some time with his family. It is also, as I think anyone who has covered in the past, either in this administration or others, there is no such thing as a presidential vacation. The Presidency travels with you. He will be in constant communication and get regular briefings from his national security team as well as his economic team. And he will of course be fully capable, if necessary, of traveling back if that were required. It is not very far.”
I don’t begrudge the President from taking a vacation either, except the timing does seem to be a bit inappropriate. Also the man who defended the President’s vacation, Jay Carney, bashed President Bush for taking one ten years ago.
In August 2001 (a month before 9/11) Carney was the Washington Bureau Chief of Time Magazine and President Bush was about to go on vacation. The future White House Press Secretary suggested that Bush was going on vacation and the job didn’t travel with him. Carney claimed that any work done by Bush during his vacation was nothing more than cynical photo ops.
A Vacationing Bush Works Hard for His Photo-Ops
By Jay Carney Thursday, Aug. 16, 2001
The image-makers who advise George W. Bush got what they wanted this week: a photograph, taken by the Associated Press and published in seemingly every newspaper in the country, of the President lifting a telephone pole as he “helped maintain” a nature trail in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
Back in July, when they were planning what the President should do during his month-long vacation (as part of their effort to persuade the public that he wasn’t actually on vacation in the generally accepted sense of what vacation means — i.e., having fun and not working), the image-makers hit upon a clever idea. Every week, they decided, they would send the President somewhere outside Texas for a day or a day and a half to hold an event of some kind in which he would mix with “real Americans.”
Gee, I am so happy we have a President who doesn’t like fake photo ops of “mixing with real Americans” on his vacation.
The events would have little in common, except for the fact that they would be held far from Washington in the middle of August. But to tie them together, to make it seem as though the President were engaged in some concentrated activity of presidential purpose, they would name the entire series of trips — together with his down time at his ranch in Crawford, Texas — the “Home to the Heartland” tour.
Note: “The Home to the Heartland Tour” was just like President Obama’s “Jobs Tour” only it was further away from the re-election campaign.
During his first week of vacation, Bush ventured all the way to Waco –about 25 minutes from Crawford — to “help build” a house with Habitat for Humanity. Though Bush actually spent about 15 minutes doing anything, the print media dutifully reported his activity. More importantly, of course, the images of Bush at work on a good deed were carried across the nation on television and in photographs.
The same was true of this week’s stop in the Rockies. Bush didn’t actually help build that trail so much as he posed for the cameras as he simulated the act of helping build the trail. While the President also gave a speech at the national park, the image-makers shrewdly pinpointed the real value of both visits: It’s the newsreels and photographs showing the President as a regular guy who cares about the poor and cares about the environment. Both were classic examples of that much maligned but ever-reliable staple of political activity: the “photo-op.”
Now, I’m not going to feign shock at the fact that this President is using photo ops in an attempt — some might say a cynical attempt — to influence public opinion. It would be news if he weren’t doing just that.
So, Jay, what’s the scoop? Does the job follow the POTUS on vacation, or is it a series of photo ops? The truth is it doesn’t really matter except for pointing out that Carney as a reporter was just another political hack. During normal times most Americans are more concerned about what this President does when he is in Washington than what he does on vacation.
The truth is, if Obama had any sense of leadership, he would send Michelle and the girls to the Martha’s Vinyard and stay in the WH (at least on workdays). It doesn’t matter whether he does absolutely nothing when in Washington or works himself to the bone. The truth is we are in a major economic crisis and for public perception alone, we need to see that the “Captain is on the bridge,” even if it’s just for a photo op. That is what a leader would do.