That clip of an interview from a local St. Louis-area TV station is making the rounds today. It shows President Obama getting testy yesterday with a reporter who asks a question about his vacations, something for which he has come under fire for both time away from the White House and the cost of the vacations.
Here’s where it gets pretty awkward:
Reporter Larry Conners: “The economy is a big issue and concern for folks. The unemployment, trying to make ends meet, gas prices, food prices going up. Some of our viewers are complaining. They get frustrated, even angered, when they see the first family jetting around — different vacations and so forth. Sometimes, maybe they think under colour of state business and that you’re out of touch, that you don’t really know what they’re experiencing right now.”
Obama: “Well, I don’t know how many viewers you’re talking about that say that.”
Conners: “We do hear from some.”
Obama: “I hear from all kinds of viewers about everything.”
Conners: “I’m sure you do.”
You can hear Obama sighing as Conners asks the question. Now, to be fair, the reporter pulls the classic “some people say” or “some viewers do something,” which is actually just a little broadcast trick to say I think this or I perceive this is what people think, so this is what people think. You see that when he starts to pull the “sometimes, maybe they think…” line.
But Obama has come under legitimate fire for his vacations. Conners, in a subsequent stand-up, criticises him for both the time he has spent away and the money he has spent.
But it’s not the time that should have “some people” frustrated. At last check, when the Obama family vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard last summer, Obama had taken about half the vacation time of Ronald Reagan and about one-third of the time of George W. Bush.
It’s the cost that has caused a lot of controversy in the past. Probably the most came last winter, when the Obamas went to Hawaii around Christmas. The Hollywood Reporter crunched the numbers and totaled that the trip cost more than $4 million. That was $2.5 million MORE than what it spent in 2010.
For what it’s worth, the left-wing Media Matters roughly calculated that it cost President Bush about $20 million in travel costs for all the times he went to Crawford Ranch during his presidency. The calculations were based on this estimate of cost and this estimate of how fast the plane can travel the miles to Texas.
Obama said this in response to the cost:
“I’m raising a family here. When we travel, we’ve got to travel through Secret Service, and Air Force One. That’s not my choice. I think most folks understand how hard I work and how hard this administration is working on behalf of the American people.”