Backlash Over Obama's Time Off

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 18, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SARAH PALIN, R - FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He's v ery very tone deaf. I can't believe that he after three days in the heartland did not hear those things that I hear when I'm in the heartland and anywhere else across the U.S., and that is, come on, let's buckle down. Let's be serious about getting the country back on the right track. I do predict that he is not going to be gone the full 10 days. I think he's gonna hear from enough Americans that he will come back early.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Talking about the president's vacation, as he started in Martha's Vineyard tonight, this as the market took a big dive today on Wall Street. There you see the Dow falling almost 420, and the rest of the market, the S&P down 54, The NASDAQ 131. This comes as the government says the number of first-time applicants for unemployment benefits rose by 9,000 last week, climbing as you see here to 408,000. Essentially economists believe that the economy is adding jobs when initial claims come in lower than 400,000. This as the president starts this vacation. What about the image here? The economy and what it means politically. We're back with the panel. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: I think politically obviously the timing is not good. I was --

BAIER: But they don't seem to care, right?

ZELENY: Ya know I think it's one of those things -- that this is another example of this president is operating under the Washington schedule. I mean, for a guy who -- who, ya know, does not like Washington, or seems like Washington -- he's operating under a Washington schedule. But that means -- he has been criticizing members of Congress and things, he's saying that they should go and listen to people in their district, but now he's going on vacation.

I was with them on his bus tour for some of it this week and I asked a couple of people, ya know, what they thought of him heading up on vacation. Not many people are concerned. Of course most of those were his crowd. I asked Rick Perry about that the other day. He said, oh, everyone should get a vacation. So, this is one of those things that happened, I mean he's taken fewer vacation days, specifically than President Bush did. But the timing could not be worse. And he is going to have to, ya know, endure day after day after day of this. But I think the reason he is, is because Mrs. Obama, Michelle Obama and the kids are there. And this is, ya know, his one time with them. And they think it's worth the hit he is taking and he will take a hit.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think his problem about this is not the choice of time, the length of vacation. It's the choice of the place. I think everyone understands the president, any chief executive has to have time off. And they wouldn't begrudge him.

But as an example, if he had chosen to be spend it at Camp David, which is not exactly a marine boot camp. It has all the amenities. But it's understood, it's a place where a president goes, Eisenhower spent a lot of time there. In fact, it's named after his grandson. Presidents go there, everybody accepts it. It wouldn't have been an issue.

But choosing an exclusive enclave like the Vineyard after spending three days on the road raving against the rich and the wealthy, and the millionaires and the billionaires, and the corporate jet owners who vacation exactly in the same place, and then spending 10 days in their company, speaks of a kind of dissonance or hypocrisy. Ya know, the Vineyard doesn't have any bridges into it. You either get there on a ferry in your Maserati or on a jet or a helicopter. It's not exactly where ordinary folks will take a vacation.

BAIER: Well, remember, in 1995, then-President Clinton changed his vacation. Usually went to Martha's Vineyard but that year, ahead of a re-election effort, went to Wyoming at the advice of then-consultant Dick Morris. After he won re-election, he went back to Martha's Vineyard. Steve, political imagery here, a problem for the president in this economy?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Ya know, it's a small point that you make by showing that contrast. But it is -- I think it tells you everything. I mean, I think the president doesn't care. He says, basically, this is what I'm doing. I'm gonna do it my way and to hell with the consequences.

I agree with Charles. I think if he had chosen somewhere else -- people don't generally begrudge presidents the opportunity to take a break. And I think, ya know, the old saw that presidents are never really off duty, they're always working. Well, that's actually true.

BAIER: White House travels with the president.

HAYES: It's very true. I mean the extensive entourage that goes with him to these places to allow him to have the satellite hookups with his generals in the field. I mean he is going to be working, he's going to be spending a fair amount of time working on this. But I guess it's more the hypocrisy, the fact that he's saying yesterday, as he did in the town hall, we're not going to rest for a minute until we solve these economic problems. Well, except after my vacation. It just doesn't make a lot of sense.

BAIER: Right. Jeff, last thing, he is also going to give this big speech after Labor Day on the economy. There are many here in town who say, just hand us a piece of paper, we'll digest it, then you can give the speech.

ZELENY: Ya know, I mean, I think that ya know, he is the president so he wants to use this bully pulpit. But, again it's this "Washington schedule," why not give it now? Why follow this rigid, ya know "when Congress returns." I think he could, sort of, ya know, show that he's working by doing that now. It just strikes me how -- how he is following Congress again it looks like.

BAIER: That's it for panel. But stay tuned for an interesting comparison on the campaign trail.

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