News / USA

Obama Begins Vacation Amid Surveillance Debate

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Cape Cod Coast Guard Station in Bourne, Mass., Aug. 10, 2013.President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Cape Cod Coast Guard Station in Bourne, Mass., Aug. 10, 2013.
x
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Cape Cod Coast Guard Station in Bourne, Mass., Aug. 10, 2013.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at Cape Cod Coast Guard Station in Bourne, Mass., Aug. 10, 2013.
Kent Klein
U.S. President Barack Obama and his family left Saturday for an eight-day vacation on the upscale resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
 
The president took off from Orlando, Florida, where he promised an audience of military veterans faster action on disability claims.
 
Taking with him the burdens of the presidency and some inevitable criticism, his departure is a marked turn of events from a Friday news conference that saw him addressing terrorism threats and U.S. surveillance concerns.
 
Even when the president is on vacation, says White House press secretary Jay Carney, he’s not really on vacation.
 
"The president very much looks forward to being able to spend a few days with his family, and it also remains the case that wherever he is, he is president of the United States, and will be dedicating a portion of his day to being briefed and working on all the issues that are on the table in front of him," Carney said.
 
Even so, many opposition Republicans are criticizing the president for going to Martha’s Vineyard. Kenneth Walsh, the author of a history of presidential retreats entitled titled From Mount Vernon to Crawford, says such criticism is nothing new.
 
"Whenever a president goes on vacation, the opposition always piles on and attacks the president for goofing off or for wasting taxpayers’ money," he said.
 
Walsh says the opulence of Martha’s Vineyard could present an image problem for the president, while many Americans are still struggling to recover from the recession.
 
"A very upscale place that most Americans could not afford really to go to, especially in the circumstances he will be in, in a $7 million estate he will be renting," he said. "I think that is the problem — the appearance of perhaps being insensitive."
 
A portion of the criticism stems from the cost of a presidential trip, which is not made available to the public. Some government estimates have put the cost of flying Air Force One, the presidential aircraft, at about $180,000 an hour.
 
Some critics say that at a time of uncertainty over the economy and federal budget, as well as U.S. embassies and consulates on alert for terror attacks, the president should stay in Washington.
 
Thomas Alan Schwartz, a professor of history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says presidents spend much of their vacations being briefed on security and the economy, and dealing with other issues.
 
“President Obama never gets a vacation, ultimately," he said. "Any type of emergency issue, any type of question immediately comes to the president through his various assistants and others. I mean, he basically takes the White House with him when he goes on vacation."
 
Obama has found it hard to escape the job while on vacation. He cut short a trip with his family to Hawaii last December to return to Washington, where he concluded a deal with Republicans to continue funding the government.
 
During the Obamas’ December 2009 trip to Hawaii, the so-called “underwear bomber” tried to blow up a commercial airliner. The president left Martha’s Vineyard in August 2009 to attend the funeral of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy.
 
Even if Obama is not forced to abbreviate this vacation, Walsh says he will have several tough issues waiting for him when he gets home.
 
“Everybody in Washington is looking toward the fall as a time of real collision in Washington over the debt ceiling, over budget priorities," he said. "There are probably some decisions that have to be made on immigration. But largely the economic issues, and that is going to be front and center when President Obama comes back."
 
Walsh and Schwartz, however, agree that all U.S. presidents need to take some time to relax. They say President Obama has spent far fewer days on vacation than many of his recent predecessors.
 
A recent poll by Fox News shows Americans are evenly divided over whether Obama deserves to take time off. The poll also shows that an overwhelming majority do not believe members of Congress, who are currently on a five-week summer recess, deserve a vacation.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More