The president departed Tuesday for his longest stretch yet away from the White House, arriving at his Crawford ranch in the evening for a stretch of clearing brush, visiting with family and friends, and tending to some outside-the-Beltway politics. By historical standards, it is the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years.
The August getaway is Bush's 49th trip to his cherished ranch since taking office and the 319th day that Bush has spent, entirely or partially, in Crawford -- nearly 20 percent of his presidency to date, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio reporter known for keeping better records of the president's travel than the White House itself. Weekends and holidays at Camp David or at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, bump up the proportion of Bush's time away from Washington even further.
On the one hand, as an aspiring Man of Leisure myself, I can't get too worked up over long vacations, though rather than spend five weeks at a fake ranch, fishing in a fake lake, staring at somebody else's cows, and avoiding horses because I'm a fake cowboy, I'd be more inclined toward a cabin on Orcas Island, drinking tea and shooting croquet with friends, strumming my guitar and letting out the occasional contented sigh.
On the other hand, it seems in extremely bad taste to flake off for a five-week vacation while a substantial part of the labor force has to cobble together several minimum-wage jobs to stay above water, not to mention the young men and women who continue to be picked off in Iraq and Afghanistan because of a post-war for which he didn't adequately plan. I'm not saying that all the problems of the world need to be solved before the president takes a break, just that he could, perhaps, occasionally give some small sign that he's aware and appreciates that people are in difficult circumstances. But, then again, who the heck knows what Bush thinks about the state of things. This is, after all, a man who apparently believes that Rafael Palmeiro was using steroids without knowing it, sooo...yeah.