Was “Date Night” a Good Idea?

The President may have described it as keeping a campaign promise, but should he have taken the First Lady out for dinner and a show on Broadway in the Big Apple last night? Or is this one promise that needed to be broken and just hope that Michelle would still vote for him in 2012 anyway?

The president and first lady jetted to a date in New York late Saturday afternoon, aides and media in tow.

After dining a little more than two hours at Blue Hill, a West Village restaurant touted by New York magazine as a “seminal Greenmarket haven” that features food grown by chef and owner Dan Barber on his upstate farm, the president and first lady headed to the Belasco Theater to make it in time for “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.”

To be fair here, our first observation should go out to our Republican and conservative friends who were supporters of President Bush for the last eight years. If you didn’t complain – and do so loudly and often – about President Bush shattering all previous records for presidential vacation time in the midst of two wars that he began and various other crises, you should know how you look if you complain now. All those trips to Crawford and other destinations were on the public dime, involving Air Force One, staffers, supporting crew, etc. And they cost a fortune. If you take to the streets in manufactured outrage over this evening out, you are hypocrites, and there’s really no other way to put it.

Now, for the rest of our friends, if you were critical of President Bush for his vacationing ways, will you really just shrug your shoulders and say this is “no big deal” since it’s Obama going out on the town? The trip still involved three Gulfstream Jets, a large staff and press corps following, blocking off traffic for hours across several blocks in Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon and evening and a total taxpayer bill which the White House couldn’t even estimate for us. And it took place not only in the midst of two hot wars, but on the eve of GM likely going bankrupt and a rising unemployment rate where millions of Americans are wondering if they’ll be able to afford all their groceries next month. Could the optics of this Broadway fiasco possibly be any worse?

I told my wife during our first year of marriage that we were going to take a trip to Ireland together. She’s still waiting for that trip, and the way things are going it may have to remain on hold until we retire. Thankfully she hasn’t taken that as a reason to dump my belongings on the front lawn and send me packing… at least not yet. Somehow I think Michelle Obama would have forgiven the President if their evening on Broadway had to wait for a while. This was a dumb move by the White House all the way around.

As Gail Gitcho of the RNC asked, “If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn’t the Presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?

Catch the varied reactions to this rather dim move at Memeorandum.

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  • GeorgeSorwell

    I can't believe this is controversial.

    At all.

  • EEllis

    You know I don't take the press when I go on a date.

  • tjproudamerican

    I think we need new descriptors for our political culture.

    “Petty” has lost its meaning, as Mr. Shaw amply demonstrates here.

    What actual difference did this trip to NYC make? If Obama had stayed in Washington are you seriously arguing that things would be different?

    I am disgusted with these kinds of complaints. It s good for a president to get out and see a Broadway Play. It is good for Broadway and NYC for a president to treat a night out in NYC as a special event.

    I love Moderate Voice. Moderate Voice is the last place I would expect to see someone write something so foolish and so partisan.

    I hope Mr. Shaw's essay here follows him as an example of the kind of thinker and writer he is. “Petty”? Yes, but worse than petty.

  • CStanley

    To EElilis' point, I do think that Obama's outings are a lot more public and seem somewhat contrived to give a 'cool' image- however, I'm just as inclined to look at it as a difference in personality. W's forays were mostly to Crawford because he's pretty much an outdoorsman and that's how he took his relaxation, while the Obama's are urban socialites. The latter is probably more costly to the public, but I'm not inclined to pinch pennies over the recreation of POTUS.

    On the hypocrisy issue, I do think the Dems who criticized Bush own that. The GOP who now point out Obama's recreational outings are mainly pointing out the hypocrisy, not saying that this should be a big deal but just saying that there's a double standard since many of Obama's supporters didn't think that Bush should have had any downtime or enjoyment during his tenure. Now, if anyone is truly saying that Bush should have had all the vacation time he wanted but Obama should not get away from the job, those folks are hypocrites too- but my take on it is that people are calling out the hypocrisy just like Dems who criticize family values GOP politicians who get caught up in sex scandals (they don't necessarily mean that the sex scandal is a big deal, but they point out the hypocrisy involved when the GOP supporters ignore what they otherwise would criticize.)

  • CStanley

    Just one more thought, having read the comment about pettiness. Besides the comparison to the criticisms of Bush's vacation time, I think there is an issue of presidents calling for shared sacrifice. Bush was RIGHTLY criticized, in my opinion, for putting the country on war footing in many aspects but not leading us toward the mindset of sacrifice. I think there is a similar, somewhat legitimate issue here.

    Of course in both cases there's also a counterargument- Bush's “Annoy the terrorists, go shopping” advice was a bit silly but did have an underlying point that we shouldn't alter our lives out of fear. And similarly, there's a school of thought during a recession that people who can spend, should be encouraged to spend and consume. Obama seems to be sending mixed messages on that one (his Las Vegas dustup and attempt at reversal, for instance.)

  • Dr_J

    It worked out better than Lincoln's night at the theater.

  • CStanley

    Ugh, terrible joke, Dr-J!

  • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/msr Jazz

    Even though we changed comment engines a couple of times, Google is fairly comprehensive. I wonder.. yes, I do indeed wonder.. might it be instructive or interesting to do a search on the names of some of our more liberal commentors here and some words like “Bush – Crawford – vacation” and find out exactly how loudly you were defending his vacations in the past? Hrmmm…

    From my comment to Michael this morning…

    My wife and I both work in self-employed arenas, at least in part. We too have to set up “date night” and use that exact term for it. We sometimes take in a show, a movie or a play, and usually dinner as well. I think it's great. However, when we go out we take our own car, which we pay for. We pay for the gas, the insurance and everything else. Nobody shuts down several blocks of mid-town Manhattan so that we may pass by unmolested, safe and on schedule. We do not ask others to foot the bill for two plane loads of my assistants, co-workers and aides who need to follow my every step, not to mention a bunch of photogs and reporters.

  • DaGoat

    Eh, not a big deal. It does have a little “let them eat cake” feel to it. though.

  • http://bastardlogic.wordpress.com matttbastard

    Worst. Post. Ever. When did Richard Cohen's sockpuppet start slumming at TMV?

  • GeorgeSorwell

    I'm just not really seeing any sensible basis for accusations of hypocrisy.

    1–I don't think taking a weekend trip is the moral equivalent of weeks and weeks (and weeks and weeks [and still more weeks]) of vacation. Let alone all those weeks and weeks of taxpayer-bill-footed assistant travel to another time zone.

    2–If the Obamas went to the theater in Washington DC, traffic in Washington DC would have to be shut down the same as in Manhattan. Or the same as it would have to be shut down on whatever rural roads in Texas Mr Bush traveled (where it might possibly be more difficult for the local to find an alternative route?).

  • GeorgeSorwell

    I declare Dr J the winner of this thread!

  • CStanley

    I don't think taking a weekend trip is the moral equivalent of weeks and weeks (and weeks and weeks [and still more weeks]) of vacation.

    Bush's time at Crawford and Camp David was much more in the traditional mold of presidents like FDR who operated out of the Little White House in GA during much of his presidency. They were working vacations. He hosted heads of state at both locations.

    You can certainly argue whether or not presidents should do that, but it's really something different that Obama is doing. I saw him quoted one time saying that he deliberately wanted to get out more and be more involved in the social scene (he was actually saying this in regard to boosting Washington DC as a desirable social scene, which wouldn't explain a trip to NYC though.) But he and others also make the argument that a president should be among the people more and not in a bubble. It remains to be seen how that will work out for him in terms of public opinion, I guess. It's a reasonable premise, but arguable as to how possible it is given the expense and the turmoil that it causes because of security needs.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    CStanley–

    I still don't see the basis for accusations of hypocrisy.

  • CStanley

    Jazz already mentioned it, GS- google “Bush Crawford vacation” to see just how loudly various members of the left complained- and although you seem to make a distinction on amount of time, I pointed out that he wasn't vacationing all that time. Besides, this Obama trip is hardly a one-off- he's been all over the DC social scene and has hosted Wed night parties in the WH for celebs. As a percentage of his time in office, I doubt it compares favorably to Bush's weeks of brush clearing and mountain bike riding over the course of eight years.

  • Ryan

    Jazz: I'm guessing there are not thousands, if not millions of people in the world who want you dead. I don't think it would be a good idea to chain Obama to his desk for four years, either.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    CStanley–

    What I see is a double standard–One weekend for Obama is equal to all of Bush's vacation days.

    By the way, the first story that came up when I Googled “Bush Crawford vacation” was this from CBS, tallying the number of days Bush spent on vacation at Camp David (487 days over 149 trips there) and Crawford (490 days over 77 trips).

    Students of hypocracy might also be interested in the second link is called “Crawford-Bound Bush Slams Congressional Vacation”

    The main point you get is that Bush took a lot of vacation days, which I think everyone knows. Obama takes a weekend and it supposed to be the equivalent of all that?

    I confess I don't know anything about the Obama's socializing inside DC, but I don't think that's very equal to loading up Air Force One and jetting off to Texas–or Manhattan.

    It seems to me that when Obamas host parties at the White House, no assistants get flown around on the taxpayer's dime and no public traffic gets shut down, so I don't see that as the basis for complaint. (Just the opposite, shouldn't it be the basis for praise?) Also, I have to guess the Bushes hosted White House parties attended by celebs.

  • CStanley

    GS, I don't see how you ignore the relative number of days in office. Obama just passed his 100 day mark. We really won't know how the percentage of time compares until he's in office considerably longer, so I don't see how people can get a pass for hypocrisy (if they felt Bush was wrong to take off) on that basis.)

  • GeorgeSorwell

    CStanley–

    Let me do a few back-of-the-envelope style calculations for you.

    George Bush was President for 8 years. A year has 365 days. So, George Bush was President for 8 x 365 = 2920 days.

    According to the link I gave above, he took 487 vacation days in Camp David and 490 vacation days in Crawford.
    That's 487 + 490 = 977 vacation days.

    977 vacation days divided by 2920 equals 33% of his Presidency spent on vacation.

    I'm sure he worked on some of those days. But I also remember him spending some vacation days in Kennbunkport, where his father owns some property. So maybe the actual number of vacation is higher?

    977 / 2920 = 0.3345.

    Obama has been President for about 140 days. He took yesterday and today off.

    2 / 140 = 0.0142.

    Rounding up–even though I was nice enough to round down for Mr Bush–that's 2%.

    2% for Obama as opposed to 33% for Bush.

    Now, I haven't been keeping track of Obama's vacation days. Maybe he took another week, which would bring him up to 9 days.

    9 / 140 = 0.0642.

    That would be up to 6% for Obama.

    As I say, these are back of the envelope calculations. Someone might double check them and find them wrong, someone might prefer a completely different set of numbers.

    In my first comment here, I said I couldn't believe this was controversial. And I still can't. And yet, here we are, nearly 20 comments later.

    If somebody dislikes Obama, they'll be likely to see bad faith in his actions. They'll see this as being elite (even though owning a ranch in Texas might also be elite). They'll see this as adding to the deficit (even they didn't complain about Bush's many trips to Texas as adding to the deficit).

    Sorry, CStanley, but this issue (is that what it is?) is a loser for you.

    Keep banging away if you like, though.

    I'm enjoying it.

  • CStanley

    GS- I'm only hammering away because you're throwing in highly rebuttable points, and in almost all situations where I take part in a discussion I find it impossible to refrain from pointing out bad logic.

    You're comparing apples to oranges. The sample size of Obama's days in office is so much shorter than Bush's two terms of office that you can't compare the data of each. If anything, the only relevant comparison would be between the number of days Bush went away or took off during his first 150 days or whatever it's been for Obama so far. I don't see the point of doing that analysis though, so if you want to check into it, go ahead. My only reason for engaging you thus far is because you asked what the basis for hypocrisy charge was and I responded, and then your response was based on a false comparison.

  • JimTreacher

    Bush might have “shattered all previous records for presidential vacation time” — not that they were really vacations, because the president takes his office with him wherever he goes — but not while simultaneously castigating the wealthy for their selfish excess, and insisting at every turn that we need to completely change our entire society because of the phantom menace of global warming. As usual, Jazz is sloppy and discordant.

  • tjproudamerican

    Kudos Matt!!!!

    This is Richard Cohen-esqe. I hope all these petty people and Mr Shaw himself get remembered for criticizing a president for going to see a Broadway Play.

    And while the hypocrisy angle is a great Talking Point, President Bush took nearly 1,000 days at Camp David and Crawford. President Bush averaged 120 some days away from the White House a year and he started and waged an unnecessary war.

    Mr. Shaw should have this essay mentioned at the top of his biography so people will know what kind of man he is. Maybe Mr. Shaw and Mr. Cohen can write a book together.

  • casualobserver

    Ryan, you and the rest of our netroot visitors, should realize you strike as much trepidation as a three year old flailing at an adult's knees.

    Go up one thread and read Stickings for your daily dose of Kos-ism.

  • baseballmaven

    The only reason that it is an issue at all is that President Obama is in the midst of an unprecedented move on the auto industry, preaching to the masses how we have to tighten our belts due to the economic conditions, conserve gasoline, move to tiny little cars….but he does not lead by example.

    What makes this problematic is that it's just another example of the “do as I say not as I do” attitude of this administration, and it's starting to smack of elitism and classism to me.

  • baseballmaven

    Ahh, it's not the vacation time or the fact that President Obama wants to take the First Lady out on the town–that would be fine if he weren't continually chiding us about driving SUVs or turning on our lights…it's a matter of wanting the President to lead by example, not have a “do as I say not as I do” paternalistic attitude. That's where the hypocrisy comes in, not in the fact that he is taking time off.

    I don't think that this is comparable to Bush being away from the White House at either Camp David or at Crawford, both of which locations are working locations anyhow. Plus, Bush wasn't taking over the auto industry and handing it to the unions, while shafting other investors who hold stock in their retirement funds from GM or Chrysler (to the tune of 40% vs 10%); Bush wasn't opposed to drilling for oil in America–so his use of Presidential planes didn't rise to the hypocritical.

    Don't tell me to drive a smart death car (and by the way, don't write me off as an SUV nut–I drive a pzev Accord) and then jet around on a Gulfstream

  • baseballmaven

    Sorry, George, but your logic doesn't apply–not only because of the invalidity of comparing days on vacation over 2920 days vs 140 days, but also because the point isn't the time off; it's the profligate use of jet fuel, limos, secret service suvs, and so on by Pres. O (think of the Chicago outing and several other 1 day /evening junkets to “town halls” where he does his post election campaigning since becoming POTUS, all the while excoriating the public for our use of cars that are bigger than clown cars, etc.

  • tjproudamerican

    This is a stupid issue. The president of the United States has the right to a life. Because we are a nation where nobody famous is safe, we protect the president. That means Jets and jet fuel and motorcades.

    An abortion doctor was slaughtered in his church today. Obama cannot travel light. It is not fair to the brave women and men of the Secret Service. As president, the more he gets out, whether Broadway Plays or church or soccer games, the better. It does not make him a hypocrite to want to protect the planet and live as full a life as he can and allow the Secret Service to do their job.

    I am a lifelong liberal and member of the Democratic party, and I regret that we live in a nation of murderers. But I do not begrudge any famous person the protection from the kind of lunatic haters we spawn. I want Dick Cheney protected, I want Rush Limbaugh protected, and I want Obama protected. I also want him and his family and all famous people and their families to live a full life.

    I think the petty carping on Obama is what passes for thinking in too many conservative circls. Obviously, Daniel Larison of Eunomia and other true consrvative thinkers are not going to play pretend gotcha, but the rest of you are a very sad and hateful lot:

    Obama puts mustard on his cheeseburger.
    Obama went to a Broadway Play.

    You are pathetic and I hope you get lots and lots of coverage because despite all the crazy people who shoot people in church, America is a great land and we are a great people. The more you show how petty you are in pretend gotcha's the more people think of Republicans as the political party not to support.

  • kathykattenburg

    This was a dumb move by the White House all the way around.

    Oh my sweet effin' god. What is the big deal? Barack Obama has done more in his first 100 days to help Americans struggling in this economy than George W. Bush or any other president for that matter has since FDR. So if Obama had reneged on his promise to Michelle and stayed at home — or gone to the Kennedy Center instead — that would mean that no one would know he's friggin' rich?

    I would have been angered by this if Obama had done this trip at taxpayer expense, but he didn't. And Jim Treacher's excuse that Bush 43 “always worked” on his vacations is so much garbage. He said he worked, but even if he did, that means he had the right to charge me to go do half an hour of work at his ranch and hang out on the porch the rest of the time? Treacher's logic about Bush vacationing on the public dime being okay because he “didn't castigate the wealthy” is perverted. That's the whole point, that he “didn't castigate the wealthy.” Everything he did was for the wealthy! Taking more vacations than any other president in modern history, at taxpayer expense, when most Americans are struggling to pay bills, is more heinous because he did everything he could to help the wealthy, not less.

    I already know that Barack Obama is a very wealthy man — as are most of our elected leaders in Washington. Taking his wife to the theater and dinner afterward in Washington, D.C. instead of New York City doesn't change that. And as far as I am concerned, he and Michelle can go to the theater, have dinner at swanky restaurants, etc., etc., all they want as long as I'm not paying for it and as long as he's doing his job for me and other Americans like me. And he is. He's not perfect, but he's a damn sight better than his predecessor.

  • kathykattenburg

    Let me do a few back-of-the-envelope style calculations for you.

    GS, you are awesome.

  • kathykattenburg

    The only reason that it is an issue at all is that President Obama is in the midst of an unprecedented move on the auto industry, preaching to the masses how we have to tighten our belts due to the economic conditions, conserve gasoline, move to tiny little cars….but he does not lead by example.

    Um, excuse me? A date night in the heart of one of the country's largest cities sends a message counter to the message that we must conserve gasoline or move to smaller cars? How?

    It's true he's not taking public transportation, but that's for security reasons. DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

    The Obamas are city people by temperament, and I doubt they're trying to send a specific pro-city message, but to say they are setting a bad example when the message is supposed to be reducing our reliance on fossil fuel and the car culture in general makes no sense at all.

  • DemocratsAreFascists

    “I can't believe this is controversial.”

    Which shows what arrogant, spoiled hypocrites you liberals are.

  • casualobserver

    Back in February, Obama went to Elkhart, Indiana and made a speech, including this:

    You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime. There’s got to be some accountability and some responsibility, and that’s something that I intend to impose as President of the United States.

    Apparently, there is an exception for lesser distances.

  • Roger86

    This site is an abomination. “Moderate” voice? It's basically an organ of the Democratic Party communications apparatus. Look at yourselves, people. You're a bunch of ideologically homogeneous apologists–not “centrists” or “independent” thinkers. The level of naivete on this site is frankly embarrassing.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    CStanley–

    If the relative number of days in office invalidates my comparison, why doesn't it also invalidate Jazz's comparison?

    Honestly, everyone knows George Bush took a lot of vacations, right? But when Obama takes a weekend off, that is to say a Saturday and Sunday off like people normally do, suddenly a bunch of so-called conservatives freak out about it.

  • JimTreacher

    kathykattenburg doesn't make much sense, but at least she's angry.

    So it's better for Obama to be a rank hypocrite than for Bush to take vacations without telling everybody else they shouldn't. Got it.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Jim Treacher doesn't make much sense, but at least he knows the talking points.

    Angry senseless hypocrisy indeed.

  • JimTreacher

    Oh noes, I just got called out by the only person on the Internet with a worse name than mine.

    Okay, George: Bush should've interspersed his many vacations with finger-wagging lectures on sacrifice and saving the environment and so forth. Better?

  • GeorgeSorwell

    JimTreacher–

    In fact, President Bush did part of a State of the union address to speechify about Americans' addiction to foreign oil. Not that he did anything to slow it down, which maybe makes him a hypocrite about burning up some oil on all those vacations.

    Also, Obama being a lecturer is one of the popular right-wing talking points, isn't it?

    <a href=”
    http://michellemalkin.com/2009/02/09/savior-hol…>
    Michelle Malkin.

    Ann Althouse. (The Instapundit liked that one.)

    The Free Republic.

    The Corner, at The National Review. (And another.)

    Nicolle Wallace at The Daily Beast.

    As for your “Oh noes, I just got called out by the only person on the Internet with a worse name than mine.” comment, I'm guessing that's not anger, that's peevishness.

  • JimTreacher

    “Obama doesn't lecture people, because those I don't like say he does.” But that's not peevish!

  • JimTreacher

    “Obama doesn't lecture people, because those I don't like say he does.” But that's not peevish!

  • JimTreacher

    I thought perhaps I'd clicked the wrong button or something, but apparently the Moderate Voice is moderating my voice. Interesting.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Jim Treacher-

    When you quote the statement, “Obama doesn't lecture people, because those I don't like say he does,” who exactly are you quoting.

    Because what I said was it's a right-wing talking point and then I showed some right-wingers using it.

    May you meant to quote yourself saying something like, It must be lecturing because people like say it's lecturing.

    (Did you see what I did, there?)

  • JimTreacher

    Presumably someone will.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Unless their vision gets interestingly moderated.

  • JimTreacher

    …okay.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    …um, yeah….

  • JimTreacher

    Well, it's tough to argue with logic like that. Well said.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Jim Treacher's full comment was

    …okay.

    My reply:

    …um, yeah….

    I can only work with what you give me.

  • JimTreacher

    And you're doing a terrific job.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Shucks.

  • JimTreacher

    Hey, you deserve it.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Well, Jim, one of us is a well-known internet humorist. And the other is me.

    I'm sure you're doing your best, but unless you can actually come up with something worthwhile here, I'm done.

    Have a nice day.