Are Obama Family Vacays Any of Our Business?

Mon, August 9, 2010

Democrats, Republicans

Michelle and Sasha Obama are taking a beating for their summer vacation trip to Spain.  The media are salivating, constantly dissecting what some call an inappropriate trip that sends a “let them eat cake” message to the American people.

I have two words — lay off.

Can’t we just let them enjoy what little “private” mother-daughter time they’re ever going to have, especially at this time in their relationship? Sasha will be a fourth-grader this year and I know from personal experience with my own daughter that these years — the ones where the diapers and tantrums are done but the teen hell years are still off in the distance — are especially precious.

Not to mention the obvious question — isn’t it a good thing to have the First Children see the world?

When I was a young girl growing up on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania, I dreamed of the day I’d be able to see something beyond a few of the states that surrounded the one where I lived.  Most of the people I knew were content to settle in my small hometown after high school or college, or at least not stray too far.  But I longed to break loose, move to the big city and see EVERYTHING!

Of course, that requires two things — time and money.  The time was no problem.  The money?  Well, that was a little harder to come by as I worked my way through college while pursuing a journalism career. Not to mention the cost of that law degree I have.  By the time I secured my first passport and made my maiden trip across the pond, I was 35.  I’ve made up for lost time since then, but I knew that if and when I had a family, if I could swing it, I’d want any children to travel internationally sooner than I had to be able to see first-hand how the rest of the world lives.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the current media Michelle smack-down:

It’s not appropriate to make such a jaunt when the country’s unemployment rate is 10%!  How dare they spend some of the taxpayers money on a lavish trip?!  Why isn’t she keeping her daughters at home when so many other American families have had to scrap their more modest getaway plans?

I’m sure there are some families thinking these things, but the real reason for this trash talk isn’t difficult to figure out — it’s an easy way to fill time and create “content.”   This is a Faux News story.  If the first family of the United States can’t take their small children on trips to show them the world, who can?  For security reasons, presidential families will always have to travel in special jets and endure Secret Service companions, all at taxpayer expense.  Is that a reason to keep their children locked up in the White House with their only exposure to other cultures coming from their school classes?

No doubt these same politicos would not be calling Michelle a modern day Marie Antoinette if she had chosen something like a reprise of the Clinton vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Comparing her to the headless French queen is just conservative crazy talk.  You can bet that if this trip was the same except you exchanged Laura Bush and one of her daughters for Michelle and Sasha, and there would be nary a peep from the naysayers.  The coverage would more likely be about what a nice mother-daughter experience they were having that both would remember for the rest of their lives.

This easy time-filling brouhaha is nothing more than the intersection of cable news spin and our country’s increasing xenophobia, as well as the conservative zeitgeist that the Obamas just don’t deserve any of this — neither the the White House nor any of the accouterments that come with being the family of the leader of the free world.

Michelle’s desire to have some special time with Sasha is normal and understandable.  What isn’t normal is that they’re the First Family, and there’s no place in the America they could go to have some quiet girl time in these last golden years of childhood.  If any of the rest of us were in Michelle’s shoes, we’d probably be doing the same thing in an effort to give our families whatever little bit of “normal” mom and daughter experiences that are possible for people who live in the biggest glass house in the world.  So why shouldn’t we let them have their time and put the politics of First Family vacations to rest?

Image courtesy BET.com.

UPDATE: I wasn’t thinking about this angle until my fellow MOMocrat Cynthia Liu posted this response on Facebook to this post.  It sort of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘double standard.’

I see, the GOP can stall extension of unemployment benefits, urge the continuation of the UNPAID-for Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of the country, and dismiss 119 golf “fundraisers” attended by the GOP leader of the House in the last …365 days…but it’s Michelle and Sasha Obama’s trip to Spain that sends a “let them eat cake” message to the American people.

I’m really sick of how the press willingly repeats the most racist memes from the right wing.

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19 Responses to “Are Obama Family Vacays Any of Our Business?”

  1. Thecoffeeqween Says:

    I totally agree!! Their vacation is a reflection of their current lifestyle. Getting mad at them is like getting mad a t Paris Hilton for her lifestyle. It’s stupid and immature. Not to mention the first family does an amzing job balancing work and career and are always conscious of making the most out of every experience to learn and grow. Nobody cared when former President Bush took vacays with his family and we were in a brand new war when he was in office. Gimme a break. People need to complain in order to justify their own unhappiness

  2. April Says:

    Thanks for saying this! I thought it was hard to watch the news during the W administration. It’s almost impossible during the Obama years.

  3. deborahlquinn Says:

    I love the “faux news” phrase, but more importantly, thank you for saying this. I have some quibbles with what the Obama administration has/hasn’t done, but I am furious at the way that the media (on the right and the left) are playing into this ridiculous amnesia, as if the previous EIGHT YEARS never happened and somehow Magick Barack was supposed to just erase all the crap that W. inflicted on this country, and the world. Most of the country can’t afford to send their kid to sleepaway camp, and when Sasha did that, no one got mad…so is it just that Michelle and Sasha had the temerity to venture out of the US? GRRRRR

  4. Jane Says:

    Look, I’m a mother of three. I would give ANYTHING to take my children even three hours away to the beach for even two days this summer. I don’t have much sympathy for a woman who needs to spend hundreds of thousands of our TAX DOLLARS for her “fix”. The country is DEEPLY IN DEBT right now. We can’t afford largesse for politicians. They do not “deserve” it. They are OUR SERVANTS. It’s not the other way around!

    Next year, our middle-class family’s taxes are going up at least another $200 a month, thanks to Obama. (No extra clothes for my kids!) He told us the following:

    “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”

    He wants me and my children to suffer – he wants me to drive a less-protective car for my children than my minivan, he wants me to be too hot or too cold, and he wants me to lay off the food.

    But HIS wife can go to Spain for her little taxpayer vaycay and tell US (we who are PAYING for her trip) to lay off BASIC COMFORTS??

    I definitely won’t be even going out to eat here in my community when that tax bill comes due. We are going to get SOAKED with a huge tax burden when my husband’s “cadillac” health care is taxed at 40%.

    Can’t she have “special time with Sasha” anywhere? Heck, I have “special time” with my children in my private backyard, until, of course, Obama’s anti-growth and high-tax policies mean I will be out on the streets.

    “Getting mad at them is like getting mad at Paris Hilton for her lifestyle.” She’s a politician! Not a celebrity or a queen! She did it on OUR DIME. Get it? Paris Hilton doesn’t take my child’s bread away at the point of a gun!

  5. Linda Says:

    In this case I have to disagree with you. I”m about to turn 50 and although I’ve traveled to Japan, I (and my 19 and 16 year old daughters) have yet to make it to Europe. (My husband’s the sole exception in our family, but he went over when he was single.)

    Overseas travel continues to be a luxury for the vast number of Americans who are worrying how to make ends meet. Even I find myself in that boat. As a small business owner, my husband has taken a huge hit and our income has been slashed. Plus we have one daughter in college and another — a high school senior — who’s looking at higher education. Europe isn’t in our plans anytime soon.

    Like many families. we now have to watch every single penny and budget very carefully. Seeing the First Lady travel alone — without the President — in such an extravagant manner is worrisome. The family’s trips to Hawaii are understandable; that’s his home. But her jaunt to Spain? What’s the rationale for that?

    What makes this newsworthy is how First Lady Michelle Obama has done a 180 degree turn from the “I’m just a working class girl” message that she consistently delivered on the campaign trail. I understand your point about making time for travel with Sasha, but the fact that Michelle has brought along a group of her closest friends does not read like a mommy-daughter bonding experience. If it were just the two of them, it would be a different story.

    What the media has largely avoided doing (and what Maureen Dowd has poked at in this week’s column) is overanalyzing Michelle’s absence during her husband’s birthday. It would seem prudent to at least be there to celebrate with him at a time when he’s taking hits from all sides. I wish this weren’t happening and I wish different choices had been made. The Dems are so vulnerable and this won’t help the midterm elections. Of course this situation should have no bearing, but public perception is everything.

  6. Kristen Says:

    The First Lady has never been described as politically tone deaf. She’s no fool. While she’s entitled to spend her vacation anywhere she would like, she’s generally tuned in to what is politically wise. Gone for the President’s birthday? Fancy hotels and corded off beaches? MSM freaking out?

    I’m guessing her message to the President was received. Whatever he did, I imagine he’s very sorry now.

  7. PunditMom Says:

    I hear what some of you are saying about our own economic lives compared to that of the President’s family, but when have we been upset about Presidential family vacations before? No one raised a stink when Laura Bush took her daughters on an African safari. Does it matter what our own economic circumstances are in determining what is appropriate for the Prez and his family? I think these are all fair questions, but isn’t it like comparing apples to oranges when we talk about their trips? Are they not entitled to personal trips while in the White House? If so, do they have to adhere to the economic decisions we think are more appropriate?

    I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of us are watching our dollars and quarters and pennies. Whether I like her decision about where to go on vacation is pretty much a red herring in light of how the GOP is trying taking our money by keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy going while balking at the idea of extending unemployment benefits.

    And back to vacations — did anyone every cry “foul” about wealth when the Bush’s (both of them) took time off to spend at their vacation homes that they already owned? No — the GOP was perfectly OK with that. And I guess while we’re on the subject, there are few who are criticizing John Boehner for the hundreds of thousands he has taken in lobbying money to play golf, the taxpayer money that was spent on him to do that (he gets paid his salary while he’s off on the fairways).

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1109/29881.html

  8. mr manifesto Says:

    well said Mom.
    this was a nation that stood by America when it had GW at the helm. they got bombed for their support of america. they have terrorists because of their support of america, but when the first lady visits. all hell breaks loose in the USA as people complain.
    Marbella is not Cannes.
    Neither is it as expensive as Dubai where other families go.

  9. Esther Crawford Says:

    Agreed. I understand traveling abroad is considered a luxury by lots of Americans, but honestly – the world is a lot smaller today and Spain is just not that far. It’s probably MUCH more expensive for them to fly to Hawaii than it is to fly to Spain.

  10. Kristina Says:

    I could see this being an issue if the President was spending weeks traveling the world or something but he’s not. He spent his birthday at home alone because he had things to do. The people freaking out over this would throw a fit no matter what the Obamas do.

    I really liked a lot of the points Michel Martin makes (although I disagree with her overall point) in this article:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129084360&sc=fb&cc=fp

    “I will further argue that there are people in this country who will not accept that the Obamas should ever have a day off in the White House because they cannot accept that they belong there to begin with. Because they cannot accept that any black people can have something they cannot have or can do something they cannot do.

    Some of these people will not be happy until Mr. Obama cuts the White House lawn himself and Mrs. Obama cooks and serves the food at the state dinners.”

  11. Emily Says:

    I expect the trip had been planned for a while. And excuse me – the Obamas don’t have a whatever 100-acre ranch like the Bushes have (or Kennebunkport). Maybe they should have economized some – but in the long run maybe it’ll be good for US tourism. If they make a good impression over there it’ll bring more Europeans over here.

    As for being away over Pres. Obama’s birthday – well it is only the 49th. I expect there will be a big shindig next year with the whole family for his 50th.

  12. Jane Says:

    “PunditMom: Whether I like her decision about where to go on vacation is pretty much a red herring in light of how the GOP is trying taking our money by keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy going while balking at the idea of extending unemployment benefits.”

    Your logic makes no sense whatsoever. How is it taking money out of your pocket by extending the Bush tax cuts? How will taxing the wealthy make Pundit Mom a dime richer? Can you please tell me how your family’s paycheck will be *personally affected* by taxing the wealthy? You do realize that Congress and the President will simply use the extra money as they please, to bribe their constituencies with earmarks?

    Also, you do realize, don’t you, that the wealthy are really good at avoiding taxes anyway? John Kerry’s yacht, meet Pundit Mom.

    We make about 50K a year for a family of five. Our federal taxes are going up $200 a month next year. Our health care taxes will be going up by $700 a month in 2018, when we pay a tax for our “Cadillac care” (that is, if we have a job then). We are being taxed on medical devices now.

    Are *your* taxes going up when the Bush tax cuts expire? Be completely honest with us after getting your answer.

    http://www.mytaxburden.org/

  13. PunditMom Says:

    Jane, I don’t think this is the place for a discussion about how the tax code works, but if taxes don’t get paid by some as a result of tax cuts, they have to get paid by others — that would be you. I’ll leave a more detailed explanation to my other MOMocrat pals.

    As for the PunditFamily income, while that’s really no one’s business, I will answer your question — yes, we will pay a lot more in taxes of the the Bush tax cuts expire. My health care goes up a couple thousand a year. And, yet, I still believe our family should be paying more because we make more. Crazy, huh?

  14. Jane Says:

    PunditMom,

    I certainly wouldn’t want to discuss anything off-topic, but your argument for Michelle’s vacation was about Republicans supporting the tax cuts expiring for “the rich”. And I really felt it was more honest to say that we will all be paying higher taxes.

    This Mom is having a hard time making ends meet, frankly, and more money out of our pockets will be painful indeed. I am glad you don’t mind.

    I’m curious about your new argument — why do taxes “have to get paid by others?” Why does the federal government *need* a higher percentage of our money? Why can’t they work within a reasonable budget? The private sector is having to make huge cuts, and yet the government sector is expanding on their hard-earned labor. And now they want more.

    Thanks for the honest answer about your family’s taxes. I’m glad you don’t mind paying more.

    If you (and others on this board) are committed to the ethical notion of paying more, did you know you can send a gift for a couple thousand to the IRS starting this month?

    Gifts to the United States
    U.S. Department of the Treasury
    Credit Accounting Branch
    3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
    Hyattsville, MD 20782

  15. Deborah Says:

    I agree that it’s ethical to pay more when you make more, and the Bush tax cuts never should have happened. I think the right thing to do for all of us is to figure out how much we “saved” because of them, and send in a check to the following before the end of this year.

    Gifts to the United States
    U.S. Department of the Treasury
    Credit Accounting Branch
    3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
    Hyattsville, MD 20782

  16. Jane Says:

    Michelle’s trip from a Taiwan Anime perspective:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAfdaDVBDto&feature=player_embedded

  17. Jen Says:

    I would love to know about all of the tax deductions the people who are whining about wanting to pay more in taxes take each year. If you want to pay more then PAY MORE. Write a check to the Treasury or donate to charities that do a far superior job of helping those in need than they dysfunctional federal government.

  18. Kim Bauer Says:

    The media spotlight goes along with their position as “first family”. I don’t remember one first family in my lifetime that has been “left alone” with no media coverage or interest in what they are doing or where they are doing it.

    I believe as a public servant, the top public servant of our country, it is the President’s responsibility to remain sensitive to the plight of his constituents, which quite frankly, is not good. While he may have the power and priveledge to go whereever he chooses, I believe many of his choices are in poor taste.

    His children will have plenty of opportunities to see the world. Tweens don’t really put “world exploration” as their first priority. Quality time with their parents is a must, but I believe they can create that anywhere they choose too.

    Should they have the right to enjoy a quiet vacation? Yes. When they are out of office and back to being private citizens.

  19. Paula Jean Says:

    Great insight.


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