Again, the carpers sneer.
Now let me say this about that: I am wholeheartedly and unreservedly in favor of politicians taking vacations whenever and wherever they like, with their families, staffers, hangers-on, and pets in attendance. There is no place on the planet where they can spend, in a week, one-tenth of what they toss in the toilet with single votes or pen-strokes while “on duty” (so to speak). If we could keep the entire Congress in Pago-Pago on a first-class expense account, we could balance the budget in six months. The “optics” bother me not at all. Every minute spent on Martha’s Vineyard is a minute not spent in the Oval Office; stay longer, Barry.
But I remember —
Jimmy Carter didn’t take vacations, though he did go “on retreat” to Camp David on weekends, or take an occasional day to visit the folks in Plains.
By this time in Carter’s Presidency, the Press was full of horripilations about the stress of the office. The man was haggard. His hair was greying. He wasn’t making as many speeches, and his voice quavered occasionally; in candid shots, the trademark toothy grin was conspicuous by its absence. Clearly he was, in the then-new vernacular, stressed out. Semi-serious proposals were advanced to split the responsibilities, ranging from a Constitutional role for the Vice President — perhaps the VP should handle domestic affairs, while the President concentrated on International — to appointing a Premier in addition to the President to take over some of the duties. Much head-wagging and tsk-tsking was done over the toll it was all taking on poor Jimmy’s health. He was advised to get better staffers who could handle the load better (a fair cop, IMO).
You’d have to search the comment archives at Protein Wisdom to confirm it, but I predicted right after Barack Obama took office that such stories would pop up about him starting about two years in. Here they are, a little ahead of schedule. The punditocracy notes, with appropriate gravity, that the World Situation is stressful, that he’s not getting all he wants domestically despite excessive effort, and the outlook for the midterm elections is a bit grim. Staffers are falling like flies, complaining about the workload. The poor fellow needs some time to chill out, swim, maybe play a few holes or shoot some hoops — it’s all just too much for anyone to bear.
Between now and Christmas, start looking for the talking heads to begin noting, with solemn despair, how much the guy has aged and the toll it’s taking on his health. After that, especially if the November polls go the way they look like they will at the moment, you should expect a renewal of the argument that the Presidency is just too much for one man to do, the United States is too big and complicated for a single person to manage, we have to do something to ease the strain. Criticism of the staffers will run right along in parallel — those incompetents aren’t shouldering the load the way they should; he ought to replace them.
The Press could save themselves a good deal of effort by hunting through the morgues and kinescopes for what Walter and his fellows were saying in, say, 1978. Change a few nouns and proper names — “Iran” doesn’t need changing, of course — and they can achieve the Holy Grail of the Greens: Recycling!
The single biggest achievement of Ronald Reagan was simply his demonstration that the job could be done.