Monday, December 26, 2011

A Close Call

Ordinarily, the American public doesn't know how a president perceives the decisions he must make while he is still in office.

There are, after all, so many decisions a president must make during his term. Seems like the destinies of most presidents, in the words of Forrest Gump, float on a breeze — and not a gentle one at that. They kind of go from one decision to the next without spending too much time (if any) reflecting on one that has already been made. By that time, there are already half a dozen more matters that need the president's immediate attention.

You usually have to wait until a president leaves office, catches his breath and writes his memoirs before you learn which decisions were the most gut–wrenching ones he had to make. They're usually pretty predictable, too — where (and whether) to put American troops in harm's way, which programs to support financially, etc.

Decisions that require courage, that call for the wisdom of Solomon.

Last week, Amie Parnes of The Hill offered Americans a rare glimpse into the mindset of a president — well, of this particular president — and it wasn't for all three years of his presidency, just the current "holiday season." Still, I rather doubt that it will be the subject of a political science lecture, though.

"The toughest call for the president this holiday season," wrote Parnes, "could be whether to join his family for Christmas in Hawaii or stay in lonely Washington."

Parnes conceded that "there's no ideal time for a presidential vacation," which is certainly true. I cannot remember a president who was not criticized for taking a little time away from the Oval Office (Harry Truman once called it the "crown jewel of the federal penal system"), but "this one comes at a particularly inopportune moment."

Yes, I guess you could say that. Obama was already requiring Congress to remain in Washington until an agreement was reached on the payroll tax cut extension. It wouldn't have looked very good if he had taken a "do as I say, not as I do" approach to the matter and skipped town to spend Christmas on the beaches of Hawaii.

Fortunately for Obama, the intransigent House Republicans gave in (no real reason why they shouldn't; as Obama observed, legislators in both parties favored the extension), the president signed the bill into law and got to Hawaii in time to spend the holiday with the wife and kids in their beach house.

While he was in Hawaii, the president also mixed some business with pleasure, attending Christmas services on a Marine base.

Whew! Crisis averted.

Of course, for millions of Americans, holiday travel wasn't an issue. They have no jobs — or, at least, no full–time ones — and, without that, it makes holiday travel something of a moot point.

Has the same effect on the payroll tax cut, too, for that matter.


Sherri said...

You mean the whole 2 month extension of the payroll tax cut. What a joke, but I think this whole presidency is a joke. There was no decision making to go to Hawaii for Christmas, he was always going. He has spent more time on vacation or the golf course than any president in history. But, when you are spending other people's money, you can do pretty much what you want, without worry! He excels at this!

When EF Talks said...

Actually, Sherri, I believe the facts show that President Bush took far more vacation days than any other modern president, and certainly more than President Obama.