The President's Vacation

August 27, 1993

Why are some people criticizing Bill Clinton for vacationing with the rich and famous at Martha's Vineyard? It's what presidents are supposed to do and have always done. In President Clinton's case, he is even hitting all the right symbolic mystic chords of memory.

There is the president as recreational sailor (captain of the ship of state). George Bush went down to the sea in a cigarette boat. John Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt sailed. So it is altogether fitting and proper for President Clinton to join the Kennedy family for a little yachting.

There is the president as golfer, also on display at Martha's Vineyard this week. Presidents have been golfing on and off since William Howard Taft.

There is the president on horseback. Ronald Reagan looked righout of Central Casting when he sat astride a steed. In the pictures from the Martha's Vineyard Riding Center, President Clinton looks more like a sheepman or the wagon train's cook than a cowboy or marshal (he wore jeans and a straw hat), but the point is, he's relaxing in a traditional fashion.

We are glad to note the president is also relaxing in what is perhaps the most presidential vacation pastime, reading light fiction. Ike had his Westerns, FDR his mysteries and JFK his James Bond. In Mr. Clinton's case -- Jimmy Buffett's "Where Is Joe Merchant?" and that adolescent's golden oldie, "The Catcher in the Rye." (Maybe he bought that for Chelsea. Let us hope so.)

Among the critics of the president's vacation choice were our esteemed colleagues at the New York Times. "Fact is, the man from Li'l Abner's home state is headed smack into the belly of the beast he pledged to control: the Washington establishment," it opined in "Clinton among the Swells" last Sunday. Fact is, Dogpatch is in Kentucky, suggesting that the editorial writer probably vacations in the Hamptons, from which perspective all those Border States are undifferentiated and misunderstood. But that aside, it is certainly in the best presidential tradition to vacation with swells. We would even say that to control an establishment, it is first necessary to understand it, and what better way to do that than to observe it close up.

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