John M. Crisp: Give the president a break on his vacation

McClatchy-Tribune News Service Published:

After American journalist James Foley suffered a gruesome decapitation on video last week, President Barack Obama called the event appalling, commiserated with Foley's parents via phone, and departed for a round of golf with ex-NBA star Alonzo Mourning.

The criticism was immediate. Of course, complaints from the political right are best understood in the context that develops when one tries to imagine any act by Obama that commentators and politicians on the right would praise rather than condemn. It can't be done.

The president's critics are eager to embarrass him and see him fail. Consequently everything he does -- including whether he takes a vacation, at all, and when and where -- is going to be subject to this sort of criticism.

But others looked askance at Obama's quick exit to the golf course, as well. The New York Times' Maureen Dowd ridiculed the president with a lame, tacky take on the Gettysburg Address entitled "The Golf Address." Others called it "tone deaf."

And, frankly, I cringed a bit, as well. Look at what's going on in the world besides Foley's execution and the threat to his fellow journalist Steven Sotloff: American airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State; Putin threatening eastern Ukraine; the persistent conflict between Israel and Hamas; the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. We could go on.

Should the president be vacationing, at all, in times like these? Of course, he should. And the nation would be healthier if we could get over worrying about whether this president -- or any president -- is goofing off on the job.

Surely, the presidency is the ultimate 24/7 job. I'm reluctant to say that any job is unique, but even doctors find other doctors to take their call, leaving them free to be entirely off duty, to disappear on a sailing voyage or trek through the Australian Outback. But the president cannot turn his duties over to the vice president and vanish for a few days.

So let's agree that the president has a job that's much more stressful, demanding, and all-consuming than most of us can imagine and that when he is "on vacation" he's never really off duty.

Playing golf immediately after speaking by phone with Foley's parents may not have been the best optical decision. But complaining about a president taking "time off" is petty and trivial.

And how does this small-minded carping look to the architects of the so-called Islamic State?

It doesn't take much imagination to believe that some version of a war with this fanatical threat is close to inevitable. People who crucify and decapitate innocent people can't be allowed to create a burgeoning caliphate, and clearly we're only one semi-successful terrorist act away from a hot war.

But worrying about whether or how much the president plays golf is a thoroughly misplaced preoccupation that broadcasts irresolution. Our interests are better served by the exhibition of a determined, united front. That's going to be hard to achieve if we spend too much time and energy complaining about a president who does what presidents have always done, that is, looking for ways to recuperate from the rigors of the most stressful job on earth.

In Obama's case, this involves playing golf. The rest of us should give him a break.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Readers may send him email at jcrisp@delmar.edu.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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PHOTO of John M. Crisp is available from the Columnist Mugs section of www.mctdirect.com.

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  • From above: John M. Crisp: "Give the president a break on his vacation"...

    ***OK John, He's back!!! He is in Washington now. But not for long;

    From: democratandchronicle.com 8/27/14

    "Obama to attend pricey New York fundraisers"

    WASHINGTON – Investment banker Robert Wolf of Purchase, one of President Obama's biggest financial backers on Wall Street, is hosting one of the two fundraisers in Westchester that Obama will attend Friday.

    Wolf, the founder of 32 Advisors LLC and a former Chief Executive Officer of UBS America, and his wife Carol Wolf, are scheduled to host a Democratic National Committee Labor Day barbecue. About 250 people will pay up to $32,400 each to attend, according to a DNC spokesman.

    The barbecue is part of a larger Labor Day weekend series of "BBQ with Barack" events that included a raffle for small donors who will be allowed to attend.

    The second fundraiser is scheduled to be a small roundtable-style event with about 25 people in New Rochelle who will be donating up to $32,400 each to the DNC.

    Obama is scheduled to attend a third fundraiser the same day in Rhode Island that will benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.....

    *****Hanging with the Upper One Percent, ....As the World Burns...

    3 fundraisers in 1 day? Boy I hope there is time for a couple rounds of golf. We want a leader with a clear mind.

    Hey John, how are we to have a determined, united front, when our Leader is either on the golf course, or attending out of state fundraisers, using Air Force One provided by the citizens of the United States.

  • From above: "Our interests are better served by the exhibition of a determined, united front"

    *** a determined, united front?

    **Our interests would be better served if we had a truthful, honest, humble, Leader, one that follows the constitution, instead of a lying, constitution violating, community organizing, fund raising, Golf-a-Holic..

    How can you as the President, talk to the parents of James Foley who was BEHEADED, hang up and go back to your golf game, high fiving Alonzo Mourning? Have you no Shame?

    Disgraceful