The First Family places itself first

Proud to be an American

Proud to be an American

Living the life of the 1%

Joseph Curl:

Being president of the U.S., the most powerful man in the world, is often most about perception. The man (or, one day, woman) in the job takes actions large and small every day, but it is the perception of the man that seeps into the everyday lives of working Americans.

That’s why presidential candidates always hit Philadelphia for a cheesesteak during campaigns (Democrats to Pat’s, Republicans to Geno’s). Sure, they’re running billion-dollar operations trying to win the White House, but one picture of them wolfing down a Cheez Whiz-covered glob of meat on a Philly street hits home with millions of voters: “Hey, that guy’s just like me! He loves him a Pat’s [or Geno’s] cheesesteak, too!” (Unless you’re John F. Kerry and order Swiss cheese — then everyone hates you.)

Sometimes, that perception cuts to the core. Like when President George W. Bush stopped playing golf in 2003, at the height of the Iraq War.

“I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal,” he said years later. “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them.”

That’s also why Mr. Bush did two other things, without fanfare or praise. First, he never headed home to his Texas ranch until after Christmas, instead going to Camp David for a few days. That way, the hundreds of people revolving around him at all times — White House staff, Secret Service agents, reporters, photographers, all the others — could spend the holiday with their families in and around Washington, D.C. No one ever reported that — until this column.

Second, he rarely attended sporting events, although he once owned a baseball team and was a self-confessed stats junkie. His thinking there was the same: If he went to a baseball game (right down the street from the White House), his mere presence would mean hours and hours of extra security for fans. He once stopped off at the Daytona 500 and the metal detectors through which every fan had to pass left thousands outside in line when the green flag fell; he didn’t attend many sporting events after that.

But something remarkable has happened with these occupants of the White House: Neither President Obama nor first lady Michelle appear to give a damn about perception. They won the White House and, by God, they’re going to enjoy their time there, no matter the cost. And who cares what you think, anyway?

How else to explain the nonstop vacations the pair keep taking during what Mr. Obama calls the “worst financial crisis since the Great Depression”? In 2013, the First Family has already enjoyed three vacations — that’s one a month. (Sorry, Joe America, you might have to forget your week at the beach again this year, but make sure you get those taxes in on time!)

The Obamas ended 2012 and kicked off 2013 in an $8 million, 6,000-square-foot house in Hawaii (they left well before Dec. 25, by the way). There, the president played five rounds of golf (breaking the 100-rounds-as-president threshold). Scarcely a month into Term 2, Mrs. Obama headed off for Aspen, taking along the couple’s daughters. Vice President Joseph R. Biden also hit the Colorado slopes. While the girls (and Joe) were gone, Mr. Obama nipped down to Florida for a four-day boys weekend of golf, teeing it up with his buddies — and Tiger Woods. He hit the links again this weekend, then dropped in for an NCAA tournament game in Washington.

Jumpin’ Joe, for his part, spent New Year’s in the Virgin Islands and popped off over the Easter weekend for a golf outing at the glorious Kiawah Island, S.C. (where rounds of golf on the spectacular Ocean Course run $353 — nearly $20 a hole). His third vacation of the year came the same week as reports that he and his entourage spent $460,000 for a single night in London and $585,000 for a night at a five-star hotel in Paris.


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10 responses to “The First Family places itself first

  1. sunbeam43

    So, so true! Classless blingers!!!

  2. Rivman

    I have Philly friends who swear by Jim’s.

  3. CatoRenasci

    More like the life of the 0.001%. Plenty of very rich folks here in Greenwich don’t live anything like the nouveau riche life style of the Bambis.

    My guess is they could no more joint a club here in town than the Clintons (who one understands were blackballed at more than one Greenwich club….).

  4. Anonymous

    There are facts. In the first 31 months in office this is the number of vacation days taken:
    Reagan, 112
    Clinton, 28
    Bush, 180
    Obama, 61

  5. TheWizard

    I just finished President Bush’s book and the Christmas thing wasn’t mentioned in there, either.

  6. betty

    President Bush took us into a war in Iraq based on the lie about WMDs. A life-killing, budget-busting debacle that we’re still paying for. The world was on our side after 9/11, and thanks to the Bush administration our country’s reputation sank. He had a lot more to answer for in terms of death and destruction. And btw, trips to the family compound in Kennebunkport aren’t vacations? Going home to the Texas ranch isn’t a break? I am so tried of people trying to find fault with the Obamas. Going to Hawaii is a trip home for the president. And if Michelle wants to take the girls to Aspen, is that any different from the Gerald R. Ford family, frequently seen on the slopes of Vail while inflation was raging and we had only recently left Vietnam? Oh, I forgot. Vail attracts more Republicans, so that means it’s okay. Some of the posts here are out-and-out racist. The Obamas have more class and dignity than some Greenwich residents. Despite the vitriol heaped upon them they manage to keep their heads up, lest they be accused of being “angry black people.”

    • Going to Hawaii is a trip home for the president.

      I believe you mean Kenya and as far as I recall, he’s never returned.

      • betty

        You confuse the president with his father: Hawaii is where the president spent the bulk of his childhood. Your racism is apparent and denies the facts: Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 at the Kapiolani Hospital for Women & Children in the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Raised in Hawaii until he was six, Obama spent four years in Indonesia after his mother remarried. Obama returned to Hawaii at age ten to attend the prestigious Punahou School. You can disagree with Obama’s policies, but picking apart his family’s vacations and claiming Obama’s home is Kenya says much more about your lack of character than it does about the Obamas.