Obama, telework and Martha's Vineyard

To vacation or not to vacation, is that even a question for the president?

President Barack Obama may be getting some criticism about his 10-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard beginning Aug. 18, but could he be teleworking?

According to reports, many presidents do telework when they take a holiday or even a short weekend retreat at tranquil getaways such as Camp David. 

But with the remote movement here to stay, can more vacation days be translated into just more telework days – a fresh fix, getting away from the frenzy of Washington? Will presidential telework at any location replace the perhaps antiquated purpose of retreats such as Camp David?

If you asked a public health expert, presidents, like all of us, deserve to take a vacation. According to National Public Radio researcher Barbie Keiser, they certainly do heed that advice. It's the amount of vacation days during their term(s) and how much of that time is actually used to telework that differs among them.

Strictly by the facts, Keiser said President George W. Bush took 1,020 vacation days in his eight years and President Bill Clinton took 152 days in his two terms. President Ronald Reagan vacationed 335 days in eight years, usually just to go to Santa Barbara. So far, Obama has taken 90 days in his first two years.

Linton Weeks of NPR has proposed that vacations will be replaced by "vague-cations." With 24-7 connectivity, the state of the current vacation – a hybrid of cool breezes, coconut ointment, a mobile device and a laptop – has changed for us and probably for our presidents too. 

As reported in the Washington Post, when the president left for his retreat, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president would still be working and that "... there's no such thing as a presidential vacation."

Because the president will be giving a major speech on the economy shortly after Labor Day, perhaps this is just one of the telework tasks that will accompany him at the vineyard. And wherever the president goes, reports NPR, massive amounts of equipment follow him.

According to RealClearPolitics, Carney answered this to Jake Tapper of ABC News when asked about why the R&R now: "The presidency travels with you. He will be in constant communication and get regular briefings from his national security team, as well as his economic team, and he will, of course, be fully capable, if necessary of traveling back if that were required."

Then there's the historian at the National First Ladies Library, Carl Sferrazza Anthony, who has studied how presidential families work and play. According to his research, there is solid evidence that presidents are working while taking a respite with their families.

So, maybe presidents were teleworking before teleworking was defined.

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.

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