Are President Obama’s Vacations Cursed?

By Scott Wilson

Aug 12, 2014 11:38am
GTY obama golf mar 140811 16x9 608 Are President Obamas Vacations Cursed?

(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

For the past six years, it might seem like there has been a coordinated effort underway between Mother Nature, Vladimir Putin and House Republicans to make sure President Obama can never vacation peacefully.

From the fiscal cliff (2012) to Crimea, to this year’s crisis in Iraq, President Obama’s vacations seem to be interrupted every time he sets out for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

In reality it’s simply the nature of the job – whether the president is in the Oval Office or kicking back on the beach, the news doesn’t stop and emergencies, disasters and political turmoil keep coming. The man can’t even have a beach day without making a statement on Iraq.

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ABC News looked back at the first family’s vacations over the past few years and found that, much of the time, Obama just can’t catch a break:

2014: Martha’s Vineyard, Iraq, Ukraine, Gaza

DATES: Aug. 9-24, 2014 (Returning to Washington Aug. 17-19)

WHAT HAPPENED: The president is taking his two-week summer vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, the island off the coast of Massachusetts, amid a chaotic situation in the Middle East. As tensions flare in Iraq – and uncertainty looms in Gaza and Ukraine – President Obama could not have chosen a more controversial time for his island getaway.

OUTCOME: On Saturday, President Obama made a statement on Iraq before taking off to Martha’s Vineyard. He briefed reporters on the ongoing operation in Iraq and vaguely discussed long-term timetables.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” the president said. “This is going to be a long-term project.”

On Monday, the president delivered another statement from Martha’s Vineyard. He expressed support for Iraqi President Fouad Massoum’s appointment of a new prime minister. In his statement, Obama once again underlined the importance of an inclusive government in Iraq.


2014: Florida Keys and Crimea

DATES: March 7-9, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: At the height of the crisis in Crimea this past spring, the Obama’s took a weekend-long vacation to the Florida Keys. As the first family relaxed in the Florida sun, Crimea geared up for a referendum on whether it would remain part of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation.

OUTCOME: The Obamas did not make changes to any of their vacation plans. However, the president did  make time to speak with leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he was hanging near the beach.

Then White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended the president’s spontaneous holiday, telling reporters, “The fact of the matter is what the president is doing this weekend in Florida is essentially what the president would be doing if he stayed back at the White House.”

2013: Congress’ Turn - Martha’s Vineyard, the August Recess and Chemical Weapons in Syria

WHAT HAPPENED: President Obama took his vacation to Martha’s Vineyard in August, and later during the month called for air strikes in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria. This time, it was the House and Senate that were on vacation.

OUTCOME: Obama urged Congress to authorize the air strikes, asking, “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” Congress decided continue its August recess and take up the matter on Sept. 9, 2013 when the legislature reconvened.

2012-2013: Hawaii and the Fiscal Cliff

DATES: Dec. 21, 2012- Jan. 6, 2013

WHAT HAPPENED: President Obama’s annual Hawaiian vacation was interrupted when Congress was unable to reach a deal on the impending crisis dramatically dubbed the fiscal cliff. The cliff had been looming for months as the Bush-era tax cuts were set to expire on the first of the year. Maintaining its notorious reputation for procrastination, Congress waited until the last minute to forge a deal on the crisis.

OUTCOME: Obama was forced to return to Washington less than five days into his vacation to oversee negotiations in Congress. Ultimately, legislators managed to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff – a crisis that many thought would cause the nation to spiral into a second recession. As soon as the deal was made, the president flew back to Hawaii to finish up his vacation.

 

GTY obama speaking mar 140811 16x9 608 Are President Obamas Vacations Cursed?

(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

2011: Martha’s Vineyard, Hurricane Irene and Earthquake

DATES: Aug. 18-26, 2011

WHAT HAPPENED: The Obamas had a fairly eventful Martha’s Vineyard vacation back in 2011, when Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast. Irene was a category 2 hurricane that prompted the Obama administration to declare an emergency in several states and the District of Columbia.

To make matters worse, the president was golfing on Martha’s Vineyard when an unusual earthquake struck Virginia. Members of the White House press corps reported feeling tremors on the island moments after the quake occurred.

OUTCOME: The first family was forced to head back to Washington a day early as Hurricane Irene built momentum on its way up the East Coast. At the time, President Obama cautioned that Irene had the potential of “being a historic hurricane.” The administration acted preemptively, readying FEMA, looking not to repeat the mistakes of Hurricane Katrina.

2009-2010: Hawaii and the Underwear Bomber

DATES: Dec. 24, 2009 -Jan. 3, 2010

WHAT HAPPENED: President Obama and his family were vacationing in Hawaii when a man tied to al Qaeda unsuccessfully attempted to detonate explosives in his underwear aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253. In an embarrassing breach of security, the man managed to smuggle explosives through Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day 2009. Unable to ignite the explosives aboard the plane, he was apprehended before any lives were taken.

OUTCOME: President Obama did not end his vacation early, but instead held a press conference in Hawaii to address the issue. “We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable,” Obama said. “This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland.”

2008: Senator Obama in Hawaii: Russia and Georgia Go to War

DATES: Aug. 8-14, 2008

WHAT HAPPENED: In August 2008 tensions reached an all-time high between Georgia and the Russian Federation over the region of South Ossetia. Foreshadowing future events in Ukraine, Russian separatists in South Ossetia attempted to secede from Georgia – prompting the military’s bombardment of region. Russian troops were then deployed to South Ossetia in what amounted to an international denouncement of the Russian occupation.

OUTCOME: Then-candidate Barack Obama made time to deliver remarks on the Georgian conflict while vacationing in Hawaii. Obama, who had recently been criticized for spending time in the Aloha State, had appeared to be overshadowed by Sen. John McCain’s foreign policy experience.

“No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and has now violated the space of another country,” Obama said. “Russia has escalated its military campaign through strategic bombing and the movement of its ground forces into the heart of Georgia. There is no possible justification for these attacks.”

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