The PJ Tatler

The Tone-Deafness of Obama on Martha's Vineyard

When your staunchest defenders criticize your cluelessness, you’d be wise to listen up.  Colbert King, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at The Washington Post, pulled no punches in his clear-eyed critique of the President’s upcoming vacation on chi-chi Martha’s Vineyard, where the likes of Mr. King’s late boss, Katharine Graham, had a house, as did the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as do Carly Simon, Walter Cronkite,  James Taylor, Meg Ryan, Woody Harrelson, Caroline Kennedy Scholssberg, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, film producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, to name a very few.  Oak Bluffs, an inter-racial community since the 1930s, is second home to Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., he of the Cambridge Police “teaching moment” of 2009, and is where Paul Robeson and Martin Luther King, Jr. also vacationed.  Spike Lee now owns an estate at Oaks Bluffs, above which he proudly flies the flag of the original Brooklyn Dodgers.

That said, today, Colbert King let Mr. Obama in on a little secret that’s been making its way around the country for weeks, now: what a tone-deaf, horribly-conceived idea it is for him to fly off with his family to that particular destination.  Mr. King is an admirable and accomplished man.  Here is his webpage from The Post’s own site:

Colbert I. King
Colbert I. King
Opinion Writer

Colbert I. “Colby” King writes a column — sometimes about D.C., sometimes about politics — that runs on Saturdays. In 2003, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “for his against-the-grain columns that speak to people in power with ferocity and wisdom.” He is also a regular panelist on ABC’s “Inside Washington” and a regular commentator on WTOP Radio. King joined the Post’s editorial board in 1990 and served as deputy editorial page editor from 2000 to 2007. Earlier in his career, he was an executive vice president of Riggs National Bank, U.S. executive director of the World Bank, a deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, Democratic staff director of the Senate’s District of Columbia Committee, a State Department diplomat stationed at the U.S. embassy in Bonn and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Adjutant General’s Corps. King grew up in Washington and attended Howard University. He is married to Gwendolyn Stewart King and has three adult sons.

He has been so a staunch an editorial ally of the President’s that his column today comes as something of a shock, as if Charles Krauthammer had criticized George W. Bush. Entitled, It’s No Time For a Presidential Vacation, Mr. King calls the President to task in no uncertain terms.  In his strongly-worded column Mr. King enumerates the many, many luxuries the taxpayers afford the President in not one but two magnificent residences, either of which would be deemed a more than adequate vacation spot for the tens of millions of staycationing Americans:

What is he thinking? 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.

And if the president ever feels the need to get away, let’s say to seek a little solitude and tranquility beyond the confines of hot and humid Washington, the American taxpayers have thoughtfully provided a secluded country residence for the first family’s exclusive use in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park. It’s called Camp David. A hardship post it is not.

Camp David comes equipped with 24-hour guard service, including fighter jets, to keep gawkers and riff-raff out of sight. For presidential enjoyment, Camp David’s wooded mountaintop has a swimming pool, a sauna, tennis courts, a bowling alley, a trout stream and movie facilities, again with first-run features on demand.

Plus there are guest cottages should the Obamas wish to have a few friends over.

And, of course, highly trained chefs are also on hand to provide top-quality meals.

The Washington Post is the local newspaper in Washington, D.C., although one often has the feeling that if his aides spot a column such as Mr. King’s today, the President’s own copy is, as the saying goes, “redacted.”  As Mr. King himself asks in the first paragraph of his column, “Is there anyone in the White House with nerve enough to tell Barack Obama that Martha’s Vineyard is the last place on earth that the president of the United States should find himself next week?”

It would appear that the answer is a resounding “No.”