Ben Buchwalter


From Martha’s Vineyard to Crawford, Texas: A History of Modern Presidential Vacations

August 28, 2009

When President Obama visited Martha’s Vineyard last summer as part of the time-honored tradition of presidents flaunting their patriotism while pretending to relax away from Washington, the media predictably went nuts. Newspapers and websites were awash with photos of the shirtless president and updates to his rather boring itinerary. Curious about how past presidents have spent their time away, I hit Nexis like a pro to dig up some choice details about recent presidents. Some examples:

In 1991, George H.W. Bush also had difficulty avoiding work while on vacation. Only months after the fall of the Soviet Union, Bush vacationed in Kennebunkport, Maine in August. But, having trouble letting go, he invited British Prime Minister John Major along for the ride. He interrupted the vacation to tell the press that the United States should not rush to grant the new Russian state financial aid. “Let’s get the facts, deal from strength…and then make decisions,” he said….

In 1998, the year that Bill Clinton‘s, well, problematic relationship Monica Lewinsky went public, Bill and Hillary still made sure to escape to Martha’s Vineyard for some R&R in August. But the embattled president was careful to have no fun. According to the AP, “Clinton has spent much of his vacation secluded with his wife Hillary and their daughter Chelsea, playing no golf and concentrating on what his press secretary called family ‘healing.'” Clinton was impeached just four months later.

With opposition to the Iraq war mounting, Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq in April 2004, set up shop outside of George W. Bush‘s favorite vacation spot, his ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding that Bush speak to her about the war. The protest, which accumulated a massive following, became a poignant symbol against the War in Iraq, especially when juxtaposed with media images of Bush continuing his vacation as planned. And Cindy is at it again, but now in Martha’s Vineyard, where she took her traveling war protest to President Obama.

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