POLITICS

Obama on a holiday

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"If you're the president of the United States, and the nation is in crisis - and we're in a jobs crisis right now - then you shouldn't be out vacationing," the former Massachusetts governor said on a Chicago radio program. "Instead you should be focusing on getting the economy going again. And, yeah, go back to the office yourself, pull back members of Congress and focus on getting the job done."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said he doesn't think the public begrudges the president a break to recharge and spend time with his family. Besides, Carney noted that the president is never really off-duty since White House advisers go with him and he still receives regular briefings on national security, the economy and other matters.

"The presidency travels with you," said Carney. He also noted that Martha's Vineyard is close enough to Washington that Obama could get back quickly if needed.

Two of Obama's counterparts had to cut short their summer vacations due to events at home. British Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from Italy to preside over the response to riots spreading across England.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy ended his Mediterranean vacation early amid fears that his country's credit rating could be downgraded.

Short of an unexpected crisis, Obama seemed determined to follow through with his Martha's Vineyard plans. He has adamantly rejected the notion of calling Congress back from its break.

"The last thing we need is Congress spending more time arguing in D.C.," he said in a speech last week. "What I figure is, they need to spend more time out here listening to you and hearing how fed up you are."

Political analyst Thomas Mann said that would be all well and good, if that were really how politicians spent their time in their districts.

"Most members of Congress go home and see people who think just like they do," said Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It would be wonderful if people in Congress actually had to confront citizens who disagreed with them."

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