Late Friday afternoon, just before jetting off to Hawaii, where he and his family will spend the Christmas holiday, President Obama made a surprise announcement. According to Business Insider, he told the White House press corps:
I want next year to be a year of strong economic growth…. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I still think we can get this done.
It was a refreshing change in tone from his dour posture of recent days, which included the declaration on Thursday that he’s met the GOP “more than halfway” on spending cuts and adamantly refuses to budge on raising taxes on the top 2 percent. (It is interesting as an aside that the Democrats consider spending cuts a concession to the Republicans. With the government having spent $3.5 trillion in 2012, don’t they see reining in spending as a positive goal for the nation as a whole?)
As for the president’s close-of-business remarks yesterday, what a difference a day made. One might wonder whether the president had gotten in touch with his Christmas spirit. He did after all urge members of Congress to “cool off, drink some egg nog, sing some carols” and eat Christmas cookies.
A more likely explanation for the sudden transformation was not the holiday but the chance for a holiday. Obama’s motto as president, after all, has long been “vacation first.”
This is not to begrudge the man a Christmas break, but he himself warned during the campaign that the election would determine whether the U.S. as a nation sinks or swims. With our economy on the verge of drowning, is it too much to ask for him to stay in Washington at least through the weekend? The clock is winding down on January 2, when tax rates will increase for all Americans. Wouldn’t it behoove him as commander in chief to lead the nation he was elected to lead in a time of crisis?
If one were a true Grinch, he might even suggest that the president stay in Washington over the holiday. It is not as though his family is at some remote outpost waiting anxiously for him. Besides, there are worse places to celebrate Christmas than the White House. As liberal Washington Post columnist Colbert King wrote in August of 2011, when Obama was heading off for his annual Martha’s Vineyard vacation, while the rest of the nation suffered:
It’s not as if the Obama family is living in deprivation in Washington.
Without leaving the White House grounds, they have access to five full-time chefs, a tennis court, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a jogging trail, a putting green and a movie theater that shows first-run films on demand. That’s hardly roughing it.
But for Obama, shared sacrifice is something someone else is expected to do. So, sure, everyone drink a little egg nog, and trust the president’s optimism that a deal will be reached. Besides, if it’s not, hopeless optimist is the last thing Joe Q. Public will be calling him once the country hits rock bottom.
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