Gripes over presidential vacations have become a predictable side-effect of partisan politics. However, those bemoaning President Obama’s week-long Martha’s Vineyard respite may want to re-examine past presidential getaways.
Criticisms usually sound something like this: it’s an expensive extravagance! It’s unnecessary! It shows an insensitivity to the millions of ordinary Americans struggling through a bad economy!
But re-examine history: President Ronald Reagan retreated to Barbados for Easter in April of 1982 at a taxpayer cost of $3.5 million. The Caribbean getaway, hosted by Hollywood actress Claudette Colbert, had Reagan’s critics fuming. After all, unemployment was at 9.3%, a historic high, and the exotic destination wasn’t even in the U.S. In fact, Reagan had even rejected the advice of his staff, who feared the potentially bad optics and urged him not to go.
The Gipper went anyway, and in the process he proved that there’s really no wrong way to vacation as President.*
History doesn’t remember these little controversies. Thirty years later, the trip and the criticism is long forgotten–but we do have this unique record from Nightly News, as reported by NBC’s John Palmer:
*This may not apply if you are a candidate for President.