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Milt Hankins: The Obamas have earned vacation time

Aug. 27, 2013 @ 08:40 AM

Despite the obvious racial nuances lingering over the White House for four-and-a-half years, the first African-American president and First Lady have excelled. The Obamas are the hardest-working and productive White House couple in several decades.

It's clear that press pictures of the president and his family boarding Air Force One madden the Republican right-wing fringe. In spite of vacation days and foreign trips previous presidents have taken, the conservative media continue to promote the idea that the Obamas are excessively extravagant.

According to CBS's Mark Knoller, who keeps tab on recent presidents' vacation time, President Obama has taken all or part of 83 vacation days. If he continues at the current pace, he will take all or part of 168 vacation days during his eight-year term. Mr. Knoller gives the following comparison: "George W. Bush took all or part of 297 days at his Texas ranch. Bill Clinton took 174 days at Martha's Vineyard and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Ronald Reagan vacationed 349 days at his California ranch over eight years."

The public has criticized travel by first ladies going back to Jackie Kennedy. People make the assumption presidential families travel on taxpayer dollars. To some extent that is true, but not entirely. For security purposes, first ladies and family members fly on military aircraft. On such trips, the Obamas pay out-of-pocket for personal expenses, food and lodging.

Even first ladies don't escape responsibilities, although they aren't elected officials. On her much-criticized vacation to Spain in 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama paid a courtesy call on King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. The Obamas paid for the First Lady's transportation, lodging and food. The friends who traveled with her paid their own way, as well. The U. S. government paid for her security; typically however, the Secret Service determined how much security would be needed.

Recently, I listed 20 major accomplishments of the Obama presidency that came quickly to mind. My list included everything from President Obama's work and signatures on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Because of President Obama, the American automobile industry was saved, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed, student loan reform was expanded, and The Matthew Shepherd Act redefined the definition of hate crimes. Restrictions on stem cell research were overturned. Combat troops are rapidly returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden is dead, and the new START treaty reduced by half the nuclear missile stockpiles of Russia and the United States.

Michelle Obama works tirelessly for America's children, and has earned a place among the top 10 most popular and productive of all First Ladies.

The only way I can account for the vicious attacks on Obama's citizenship and ostensible political philosophy, the thinly-disguised water cooler humor, snide political caricatures, and unfair commentary on the President and First Lady's private affairs is underlying racism.

Take another vacation, President and Mrs. Obama. You've earned it!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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