Politics of the Presidential Vacation

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It may be August, but with Wall Street's wild mood swings and the economy stalled, should President Obama really be headed to Martha's Vineyard for vacation?

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the getaway, scheduled to begin Aug. 18.

"I don't think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the president would spend some time with his family," Carney said.

But do we?

George H.W. Bush, didn't do himself any favors in the vacation department. When the country was knee deep in a recession, he was photographed cruising around on his pleasure boat off Kennebunkport, Maine, and his approval rating tumbled.

And then there was President Bill Clinton. A day after shocking the nation by admitting to an affair, he left for Martha's Vineyard, his daughter Chelsea famously walking between her parents as they were whisked away from Washington.

But the man who perfected the presidential vacation during tough times may just be President Ronald Reagan. He spent a month vacationing at his Santa Barbara ranch even though the country was in a recession. However, the White House made sure the press corps only saw him one time that entire month, and that was when he signed the Economic Recovery Act outside the ranch.

When it comes to presidential vacations, reality is often trumped by the politics of perception.