LOS ANGELES –
He’s going on vacation.
Such a job.
There’s a war in the Middle East. Thursday was Israel’s deadliest day yet. Iran is said to be rushing to resupply Hezbollah. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites rallied last week in the largest anti-Israel, pro-Hezbollah demonstration to date. It took place in Baghdad’s largest Shiite district, with the demonstrators dressed in white and waving the Hezbollah trademark yellow flag and shouting “Death to Israel” and burning George Bush and Ehud Olmert in effigy.
Are these the people we’re fighting and dying for? Nice.
There is a war in Iraq that could turn into a civil war anytime now, according to the generals who are running it; where ethnic tensions are worse than they’ve ever been, worse than we expected them to be; where the Iraqi forces have not developed as well as we hoped; where we could be facing increased casualties in Baghdad in the near future.
And then there’s Castro and the uncertain situation in Cuba, where no one knows for sure about the state of the health of the longest serving dictator in the western hemisphere, or how things might be different if his brother were to take control.
You might say the president’s plate is full.
That’s not to mention midterm elections and his historically low approval ratings, which of course are his problem, not the country’s.
Still, the question remains, why would he go on vacation? Or, at least, why now?
And there is only one answer.
Because he wants to.
The “spin” out of the White House is that the president is “cutting” his vacation to 10 days. Seriously, is he really planning to relax with two wars and a possible revolution happening? For only 10 days of course.
Can he really tune everything out so effectively?
And if the answer to that is yes, are we supposed to feel better?
The president’s vacation comes the day after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld finally found the time to testify before the Senate Armed Services committee, after initially telling committee members that he himself was too busy to come. When he did show up, accompanied by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and General John Abizaid , the head of U.S. Central Command, the talk was of possible civil war, higher casualties, and the worst ethnic tensions yet to be seen in the Iraq, along with disappointment in the development in the Iraqi forces and acknowledgment that a year ago, we had no idea we’d be in such bad shape.
Oh happy days. Such a nice going-away present for the president. Clearly, it gave him no pause in leaving for vacation. You might think it would. Or should.
Remember last summer, when the president was in Crawford when Katrina hit. And stayed in Crawford. And stayed in Crawford. And ended up taking a plane ride over the site. Last year, he took a month off, and ended up cutting short his holiday by all of two days. This year, he’s being a positive workaholic by comparison. Even so, two wars and a revolution…
Of course, the answer we’ll be given is that in this modern age, the president can work from anywhere: he can run the country as easily from Crawford, Texas as from Washington DC. Certainly, that’s true in terms of the mechanics of communications or the issuance of executive orders.
Still, what message does it send about what the American president thinks about the urgency of what’s happening in the world right now if he feels comfortable carving out 10 days for ranch work? Whatever the crisis, it can’t be that big.
At least he’s making time next Thursday for a fundraiser. There’s always time for money.
No one wants to begrudge the president the rest he needs to run the country. But maybe he could find some time to get it when there isn’t a war or two going on at the same time. Otherwise, he may find those historically low approval ratings going even lower.
Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.
Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.