Let Joe Do It? Ezra Klein Says Presidents Need to Take ‘Restful’ Vacations and Give Their VPs the Reins

Last Saturday, we noted that three well-known liberal bloggers had written that criticism about presidential vacations is silly and dopey. Vox’s Ezra Klein not only agrees with his brethren, but further contended in a Friday post that when a POTUS goes on vacation, he should get some real R&R, to the point that the vice president would “take over for a week or two,” with the president “get[ting] a call if something really goes wrong.”

Klein mused that “it's probably good for vice presidents to get a few weeks in the Oval Office now and again — that way, if they do have to step up to the presidency, they have a bit of experience. If Acting President Joe Biden had delivered the US's response to ISIS while Obama vacationed with his family, that would have been better for everyone involved.”

From Klein’s post (bolding added):

[P]residents, like all human beings, need to rest. We call it "vacation," but the case for it goes beyond just pleasure: research shows this kind of rest actually makes people better at their jobs...

…The country is not well served by a burnt-out president. If there's a problem with presidential vacations it's that they're not restful enough. The way to do this right would be for the vice president to take over for a week or two — and for the president to get a call if something really goes wrong. Instead, the president takes working vacations, and the White House brags about how much work he gets done when he's supposed to be resting.

But so long as the president is still the president when he's on vacation, he still carries the symbolic weight of the role. He can't go directly from leading the nation in grieving to hitting a drive.

…A Democratic political consultant once told me that the problem with President Obama is that he doesn't care to "get caught trying." That is to say, he doesn't put on a show of trying to get things done when he doesn't think the show will help get the thing done…

And he is, in many ways, right about that. But there are days when it's bad to get caught not trying. The hours after delivering a statement about a murdered American journalist is one of them. It doesn't mean Obama needs to cancel his vacation whenever something bad happens. But those hours might be a better time to watch a movie out of the press's sight than to play golf in front of the cameras.


…The real solution here isn't for presidents to try and calibrate their vacation activities to the news cycle. It's for presidents to stop trying to have it both ways. When they go on vacation they should, temporarily, stop being president.

This might be hard if there was no one who could do their job. But there is! In fact, it's probably good for vice presidents to get a few weeks in the Oval Office now and again — that way, if they do have to step up to the presidency, they have a bit of experience. If Acting President Joe Biden had delivered the US's response to ISIS while Obama vacationed with his family, that would have been better for everyone involved.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters