The vacationer-in-chief

Recently Trent Lott, the Senate Republican whip, ominously advised his colleagues as they were debating terrorism issues that now was a good time to get out of Washington.

“I think it would be good to leave town in August, and it would probably be good to stay out until September the 12th,” he said, and then quickly left on vacation.

He didn’t say why the 12th particularly, but there’s nothing like an unspecified terrorist threat to make those of us who live here start thinking about our own vacations, even though August is an improbable time for a terrorist attack.

There’s almost nobody here and nothing going on. We wouldn’t notice anything amiss until we returned, say around the 12th, and found the Washington Monument missing.

Still, we were heartened by our leaders’ willingness to abandon us to our fate. Also leaving town was President Bush, but he is gone every August, sometimes longer. In 2005, he was gone for five weeks. The president doesn’t need Lott to remind him of the seductive joys of cutting brush that await him in Crawford, Texas.

However you feel about George W. Bush, he is on track to go down in history as our most-well-rested president. According to CBS radio sage Mark Knoller, as of last week, Bush had tallied 418 days of vacation in his six and a half years in office, and he is a cinch to overtake the record 436 days of downtime set by Ronald Reagan.

There’s nothing wrong with this. The president should be an example to the rest of us because Americans don’t take enough vacation. It shouldn’t require the threat of being blown up by terrorists to make us take a little time off.

Americans take less vacation than workers in any other industrial nation. The league-leading Italians take 43 days; the French, 37; the supposedly uptight Germans, 35. We take 13 lousy days. Even the workaholic Japanese knock off for 25.

Thanks to the loonie’s appreciation against the dollar, the Canadians are taking some of their 26 days in U.S. resorts that should be filled by us. But, no, we’re too busy working.

And the problem is getting worse.

According to the sniper-eyed trend spotters at The Wall Street Journal, “The leisurely summer vacation — long considered a chance for employees to break away from work for at least a full week, if not two — has fallen out of favor.” People, one week, even two weeks is not “leisurely.” Getting out of town on Memorial Day and coming back on Labor Day is leisurely.

The Journal cites travel-industry figures showing that 35 percent of employed U.S. adults are not taking all the vacation days they’re entitled to. Only 14 percent of employed adults plan to take off for a full two weeks.

Nobody’s so important he or she can’t take two weeks or more off, not when the Italians are racking up six weeks. If the leader of the free world can head off for just under a month in Crawford, so can we all. (Well, maybe not Crawford, but somewhere nice.)

Bush has experimented with various roles by which he wants to be remembered — the war president, the education president, the reformer president. None has really fit — until now. He can lead us into leisure and go down in history as the vacation president. I think we’re talking legacy here.


  1. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    No man’s life or treasure are safe when Congress is in session. I believe we ought to pay everyone in Washington $1 million per year to stay away.

    Pelosi’s 100 hours (or was it 100 days?) amounted to absolutely nothing. Neither side knows how to govern. As for the President, only a fool thinks that the President is not working. In this age of virtually instantaneous communication, you and I and even the POTUS can work from anywhere.

    GWB is not the greatest. However, he is certainly better than Hyperinflation Jimmy Carter, Terror-ignoring Bill Clinton, and Warmonger LBJ.

    Only small men and journalists keep up with the Presidents’ vacation days.


    Every Republican crook knows that this nation is full of lazy cowards.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  3. JudyB

    I don’t know of anyone who is not self-employed, who can take vacations totaling more that a fourth of the time they spent on the job….and usually they must be on the job for a year before becoming eligible for any paid vacation time. Of course, if you are “the decider” ‘n chief, its a whole different story. If Bush didn’t have the power he holds with him while vacationing, I would be thrilled to know that he was gone because, the farther he is from the White House, the better off we would all be…In fact, I cannot wait for him to be on a permanent vacation.

    FYI : According to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent and meticulous record-keeper. The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.”

    If GWB set out trying to break records, he has easily broken ALL records for being the worst president in history !!