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President Obama and the first family arrived in Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday for the start of a ten-day family vacation, much to the chagrin of his political opponents on the right, and even some supporters on the left.
This year marks the third straight year that the president has escaped to the Vineyard for a summer retreat. This time around, though, those criticizing the president argue he should not be leaving the White House at a time when the nation's jobless rate remains stuck at a stubbornly high 9.2 percent.
Speaking on Fox News, for example, potential presidential contender Sarah Palin commented: "He said he promised to not rest until every American who wanted a job got that job and yet there he goes jetting off to tickle his toes of the sand of Martha's Vineyard."
Of course, presidents have been vacationing in Massachusetts since the very founding of the republic, and in just about every case, they have received at least some criticism for doing so. In 1797, President John Adams was lampooned for traveling to his home in Quincy, Mass. by an opposition newspaper which asked why he had "absconded from the seat of government just exactly when the critical state of affairs had left the public mind exceedingly agitated."
That kind of criticism "has gone on more or less consistently from John Adams to the present," Lawrence Knuston, author of a forthcoming history of presidential vacations and retreats, told Radio Boston. At one poine, Knuston said, Adams left Philadelphia, then the nation's capital, for a full seven months to care for his sick wife.
Still, some presidents can get it worse than others. Franklin Delano Roosevelt received virtually no attention for leaving Washington to sail up the New England coast in the midst of the Great Depression, Knuston said, yet Richard Nixon became the focus of a Congressional investigation of public money spent at his two retreats.
"You get that kind of criticism, it is an easy criticism to make," Knuston said, and "... you get it generally from the political opposition."
- Lawrence Knutson, former Washington correspondent for the Associated Press; author of the forthcoming "Escaping the Gilded Cage: An Illustrated History of Presidential Vacations."
This segment aired on August 19, 2011.
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