Later this month, George W. Bush will surpass Ronald Reagan as our most vacationing president. Bush is currently taking a five-week vacation, the longest sustained r-and-r since Richard Nixon, who liked his vacations so much he owned beachfront homes on both coasts.

Bush is taking some modest political heat for being away so long while the war is on, but the truth is the American people have never begrudged their chief executives time off. And five weeks of cutting brush and riding a mountain bike in 100-degree heat is not the sort of getaway most people envy.

August is the traditional vacation month for both Bush and the French. And the Associated Press is reporting that because of rising costs and unemployment, the French are not vacationing as much as usual. But, before we start grieving in sympathy over those lost days on the Riviera, consider that the French average seven weeks of paid vacation and are guaranteed by law at least five.

Maybe it’s reading too much into the disparity in our time off and their time off, but it looks mightily like the gauntlet of leisure has been flung down. The French think we Americans work too hard and enjoy life too little. We can’t have the French feeling sorry for us.

The AP quotes tourism expert Jean Froidure as saying, “Not going on vacation can cause people to lose confidence not only in their own future, but also in French society in general.” We can’t have that happen here.

When he gets around to coming back to Washington, the president should think about institutionalizing the five-week vacation for all of us _ although not in Crawford, Texas. Seven weeks might be a little extreme _ even the French are struggling to sustain that level of the good life _ but five weeks would enable Americans to look at the French sunglasses to sunglasses.

The tax cuts, private accounts, No Child Left Behind and the FBI checking library records is all well and good, but if Bush is really interested in a legacy it would be hard to beat this: “President George W. Bush. Father of his country’s five-week vacation. Vive le president!”

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)