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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5 Funniest Gibbs Moments
November 22, 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Media, Mother Jones, Random | Tags: , ,

June 11, 2009

There’s no doubt, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is a funny dude. A Politico report found that in President Obama’s first four months in office, the press room stenographer recorded 600 separated instances of “laughter.” Back in June, I compiled the five funniest moments of the young presidency. Here’s the funniest:



Light Blogging this Week…
February 23, 2009, 4:34 pm
Filed under: Media, Random | Tags: ,

Mostly links. 

See Ezra Klein on Twittering:

So I give: Twittering is the next big thing. It’s the new blogging. It’s like Vampire Weekend combined with Watchmen dusted with affordable hydrogen energy technology. And unlike with blogs, the MSM seems determined to get there first.



The Oscars
February 23, 2009, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Random | Tags: , ,

I thought the Oscars were alright. But I could not stop thinking about this Kate Winslet scene from Extras

h/t Andrew Sullivan



Presidents Day
February 16, 2009, 11:49 am
Filed under: Random | Tags:

C-SPAN released its 2009 Survey of Presidential Leadership today. The list takes into account public persuasion, crisis leadership, and economic management, among many other categories. 

Under the economic management category, George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover join James Buchanan as the three worst Presidents. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, ranks 3.

The overall ranking is especially interesting. Most notable – Reagan(10) beats Clinton (15); George W. Bush (36) is worse than Herbert Hoover (34); and Nixon (27) is barely worse than Carter (25). 

Also notable is how the rankings have changed since 2000. This shows the trend of how history will remember certain Presidents. Clinton, for example, became six positions more popular in the past 8 years. 

But it looks like Lincoln, Washington and FDR have a permanent lock on those first three spots.



One Stop Shop
February 11, 2009, 11:16 am
Filed under: Random | Tags: , ,

Ezra Klein’s blog for The American Prospect is packed today with interesting stuff. Also, it has the blogosphere’s best tag line: “Momma said wonk you out.”

Today’s posts:

  • The hypocrisy that many Senators have refused to disclose tax information even after knocking down many of Obama’s nominations for tax problems.
  • Update on the Israeli election. It looks like Netanyahu’s far right Likud will have the first chance to form a coalition government.
  • A link to This is why you’re fat, a blog George showed me yesterday.


Two Classy Moves
February 4, 2009, 9:36 am
Filed under: General Politics, Random | Tags: ,

President Obama has taken two large steps to bring morality back to the White House.

 Classy #1: He admitted to CNN, “I screwed up” in nominating people to the Cabinet with tax problems and other shady business. “I campaigned on changing Washington and bottom-up politics […] And I don’t want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards — one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.”

As Andrew Sullivan quips, “it has taken Obama two weeks to say something that George W. Bush couldn’t manage to say in eight years: ‘I screwed up.'”

Classy #2: Last April, Leslie Hagen was fired from the Justice Department after rumors circulated that she was gay. Yesterday, the Obama administration righted that wrong, and gave Hagen her job back.

You stay classy San Diego Obama.