The president’s 10-day trip to Martha’s Vinyard has been drawing predictable fire from conservatives, who say he should be in Washington dealing with the economic crisis. It’s not exactly clear what Obama could be doing to help the situation, especially with Congress out of town on recess. But that didn’t stop Mitt Romney from taking a shot at the president yesterday.
“If you’re the president of the United States and the nation is in crisis — and we’re in a jobs crisis right now — then you shouldn’t be out vacationing. Instead, you should be focusing on getting the economy going again,” said the candidate.
So WWRD? “The first thing I’d do is go back to my office immediately,” said Romney, and “pull back members of Congress [from their vacations] and focus on getting the job done.”
You can argue that Obama’s ritzy vacation is bad optics, but from a practical standpoint it’s hard to criticize him. He might be at a summer house, but his job doesn’t end when he leaves Washington — he still gets regular briefings, is in touch with his advisors, and there’s Air Force One if he needs to hop a quick flight back to the White House.
There’s also an argument to be made for Congress taking a recess. They need to spend some time seeing their constituents face-to-face and getting feedback.
Plus, Romney wasn’t so virtuously opposed to vacations when he was serving as governor. Like Obama, Romney was actually criticized for taking trips during a budget crisis in the summer of 2006. “Romney heads out of state despite budget concerns” read one AP headline:
His 10-day window for acting on the budget expires Monday, when Romney is expected to be on vacation in New Hampshire. …
Asked Thursday if it was proper for him to travel out of state given that concern, Romney said at a Statehouse news conference, “Yes.”
He then added: “I’ve done a complete review and provided that to my staff. We’ve reviewed in some depth the various requests that come our way and I have some additional questions. There will be a number of things we can’t begin to get the kind of information on that we would have expected the Legislature to provide if they felt it was important to have my support.”
In another July, 2006 AP story, Romney was also attacked for missing a health care deadline because he was out of town:
He dismissed questions about whether his regular absences from the Statehouse have undercut negotiations. Romney returned Monday night after spending a long weekend at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and leaves at midday Friday for a speech in South Carolina and a President’s Day holiday visit to his vacation home in Utah.
“The Senate President and the Speaker of the House know that I’m available at the drop of a hat,” Romney said.
The same is true for Obama. Obviously there are times when it’s unacceptable for the president to go on vacation — when he needs to be in town for negotiations, to sign laws, or to deal with imminent threats. But during the August lulls — despite the bad economic news — it’s hard to fault him.