Posted: 9:00 am Saturday, August 5th, 2017
By Jamie Dupree
The White House says President Donald Trump will be on a “working vacation” during his 17-day stay at his golf retreat in Bedminster, New Jersey, a familiar refrain from administrations of both parties in recent years, as Mr. Trump – who routinely attacked his predecessor for taking vacations away from the White House – now finds himself on the receiving end of similar political barbs.
President Trump “owes President Obama an apology, and the American public an explanation,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), as critics eagerly recounted past quotes from Mr. Trump that included declarations such as, “I don’t take vacations like Obama.”
Even before Mr. Trump was running for President, he routinely went on Twitter to rebuke President Obama about his own vacation schedule:
Pres. Obama is about to embark on a 17 day vacation in his ‘native’ Hawaii, putting Secret Service away from families on Christmas. Aloha!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2013
His @BarackObama's specialties? Vacations and campaigning. Jobs not so much!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2012
President @BarackObama's vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars—-Unbelievable!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2012
If Obama is concerned about the border, he should stop vacationing. Gov't will save millions which it can use to stop illegal migration.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2014
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2011
So far, Mr. Trump has spent more time away from the White House than the previous President, but less than President George W. Bush.
The trips by Mr. Trump have been mainly divided between his retreats in Florida and New Jersey:
Pres Trump's time away from WH:
-7 visits to Mar-a-Lago (all or part of 25 days)
-4 to NJ golf club (14 days)
-1 to Camp David (2 days) pic.twitter.com/U0qsj8uvxp
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 4, 2017
It must be noted that part of the reason for Mr. Trump going to New Jersey for the next two plus weeks is not all about vacation – during that time, the White House is undergoing renovations in the West Wing – and this schedule certainly makes it easier to get that work completed.
Among the rehab work that’s being undertaken – replacing HVAC systems that were installed in 1990, replacement of the steps on the South Portico for the first time in 64 years, an overhaul of the building’s IT system, fixes for the lower lobby of the West Wing, the Navy Mess kitchen, and what a spokeswoman described as “generic cosmetic upgrades.”
This photo of the Oval Office was tweeted out by one of Mr. Trump’s aides:
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) August 5, 2017
As for the insistence that this will be a working vacation, that’s a familiar line from any White House when it hears questions about the President going on vacation.
“The presidency travels with you,” said President Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney, telling reporters, “there’s no such thing as a presidential vacation.”
But back then, Carney drew flak about his vacation explanation – because as the Obama spokesman he defended the President’s August vacation – but he had a different tune (as a reporter) about the regular August trips to Texas by the previous President.
White House's Jay Carney once called Bush's working vacation strategy a 'photo op': As President Obama prepares … http://t.co/EAJlZ84
— cheap (@cheapwithus) August 16, 2011
Go back one more President, and the statements are much the same as how Carney defended President Obama.
“Well, first of all, the President of the United States is President of the United States 24/7, wherever he may be,” said President George W. Bush’s Press Secretary Scott McClellan, when asked about Mr. Bush’s trips to his Texas ranch.
“The President enjoys getting out of the Beltway,” Mr. Bush’s first Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said of the plan to spend most of the month of August in Crawford, Texas.
So far, Mr. Trump has spent more time away from the White House than Mr. Obama, and played more golf than him as well – some of that may be more of a function of the fact that President Trump has his own golf properties to visit, while the Obama family rented a home on Martha’s Vineyard in August, and in Hawaii in December.
If you want to know the record holder for a President in terms of being away from the White House – it’s basically a tie between George W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson; both men spent about 500 days of their time in office at their respective ranches in Texas.
But the tie breaker goes to LBJ – who accomplished that in just five years.
Presidential vacations shouldn’t be political – but these days, they are. Where you come down on them pretty much just depends what side of the political ball you’re on – and Mr. Trump is hearing echoes of his own complaints from the past.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.