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When It Comes To Time Off, Bush Is Far Outside the Mainstream


Fresh off his “in your face, Senate!” recess appointment of John Bolton, President Bush is hightailing it out of town for his annual August vacation at the Crawford ranch (wouldn’t that make a great commercial: “President Bush, you’ve just thumbed your nose at the U.S. Senate and sent to the UN a man who thinks it should be demolished, now what are you going to do?” “I’m going on to Crawfordland!”). This visit marks the president’s 50th trip to his Texas ranch since taking office -- an average of 10 visits a year.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea, this isn’t going to be one of those ”Why doesn’t the president work harder?” rants (although I do trust that if a Daily Briefing comes his way saying that anybody is “Determined to Strike In U.S.,” he’ll pay more attention than last time). Actually, I’m glad the president is able to get out of Washington and recharge his batteries so frequently… unlike most Americans, who only get an average of 12 days of vacation a year. Compare that with workers in Germany who get around four weeks off a year.

Making matters worse, Americans don’t even use all the time off they have coming to them. A poll commissioned by Expedia found that U.S. workers will fail to use more than 421 million vacation days this year -- in no small part because they feel they have “too much work” and can’t afford the time away. Which is not to say that Americans couldn’t care less about taking vacations. Indeed, a Salary.com poll found that, if given the choice, 39 percent of U.S. workers pick more time off instead of a $5,000 raise.

This poll finding echoes Paul Krugman’s column this week about “French Family Values,” which explains that the main reason the French don’t work as much as Americans is so they can spend more time with their families.

Conservatives should be eating that kind of thinking up, right? Especially someone like Rick Santorum, who was out flogging his book on this very subject this past weekend.

According to Scott McClellan, Bush will use part of his August vacation encouraging Americans to become more physically active. That’s great. But how about the president encouraging employers to give employees more time off -- or even just encourage them to take the vacation time they are owed -- so they can both get physically active and spend more time with their families?

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that pronouncement. If Bush did that, he’d be dangerously close to advocating a policy wherein what’s good enough for his family is also good enough for other peoples’ families. And as we’ve seen from the war, the environment, healthcare, military service, taxes, and telling the truth (hey, John Bolton; hey, Karl Rove) -- that’s just not the George W way.