By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The pain over Spain is easy to explain

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that complaints about Michelle Obama’s Spanish vacation are just the latest manifestation of a by-now-old ritual, in which the mainstream media allow themselves to be bullied by right-winger activists into promoting a non-story.

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  1. Mike Benedict

    While America was burning — sometimes literally — Bush spent set a record for vacation that will never be beaten: 487 days at Camp David and 490 days at Crawford.

    The mess America is in can completely be traced to President Silver Spoon. Either Daddy wasn’t that bad.

    But leave it to the GOP attack machine, aka, the mainstream media, to focus on someone who, last time I checked, is neither an elected nor an appointed government official.

  2. Christian Avard


    Thank you for writing this. The mere fact that right-wing activists are calling this trip “elitist” is unnerving. I’m not necessarily someone who will come to the defense of Barack & Michelle Obama, but vacationing in Spain doesn’t make you elitist. I would love to take my boys to Spain and immerse them in a different language and culture than theirs.

    Since when did it become so unattractive to see the world beyond the USA? Sarah Palin really sullied world travel when she was interviewed by Katie Couric in 2008. Roger Ebert took her to task for that in the Chicago Sun-Times leading up to the 2008 election.

    “How can a politician her age have never have gone to Europe? My dad had died, my mom was working as a book-keeper and I had a job at the local newspaper when, at 19, I scraped together $240 for a charter flight to Europe. I had Arthur Frommer’s $5 a Day under my arm, started in London, even rented a Vespa and drove in the traffic of Rome. A few years later, I was able to send my mom, along with the $15 a Day book.

    You don’t need to be a pointy-headed elitist to travel abroad. You need curiosity and a hunger to see the world. What kind of a person (who has the money) arrives at the age of 44 and has only been out of the country once, on an official tour to Iraq?”

    “Roger that!”

  3. BP Myers

    @Christian: I agree with and appreciate Ebert’s point. While reading though, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s been to Alaska.

  4. Steve Stein

    Add yet another thing to the list of things Presidents and their families have done all the time, yet cause apoplexy when Obama and his family does it. It’s getting to be a very long list:
    – using teleprompters
    – bowing to foreign leaders
    – talking to school kids
    – having “czars”
    – using reconciliation to get bills passed (though this hasn’t actually happened in his administration)
    – not wearing a suit in the oval office
    – bailing out failing industries
    – offering jobs to candidates to get them out of primary races
    – not attending Arlington cemetery on Memorial Day

    and now
    – taking vacations

  5. BP Myers

    @Steve Stein says: using reconciliation to get bills passed (though this hasn’t actually happened in his administration)

    Err . . .

  6. Neil Sagan

    Good list Steve Stein. Don’t forget

    – choosing to tape The View (a show Pat Buchanan, and many others who constitute the noise-machine, chided lowered the office of the Presidency) and tape an address to the boy scout rather than addressing the boy scouts in person

    – take off his coat and roll up his sleeves in the Oval Office, as if that is more egregious than violating the Bolan Amendment

    – being a magic negro (Limbaugh), and socialist, and Marxist, and communist and

    Didn’t the House and Senate each pass their own version of the Health Insurance Reform Bill before differences were reconciled through the reconciliation process?

    The Bush tax cuts which are driving our budget deficits were passed by reconciliation.

  7. Neil Sagan

    Look at the all the work Obama has done in August, last year and this, during the time Bush was clearing brush and ignoring PBDs.

  8. Steve Stein

    @BP, I stand corrected!

  9. BP Myers

    Understandable, @Steve. It was all a blur there toward the end.

  10. Christian Avard

    @ BP Myers: Not sure if Roger’s been to Alaska. As long as he’s seen more of the world than Sarah Palin, I’m happy. I think Roger has that covered : )

  11. M.J.Stevenson

    mainstream media allow themselves to be bullied by right-winger activists into promoting a non-story.
    You mean like WBZr running a 24/7 (two-per) promo, alluding to Michelle’s trip?
    It’s less being bullied and more working an ignorant public. Even news stations have a game plan.

  12. I don’t recall seeing as much criticism of Laura Bush or Barbara Bush as I have of Hillary and Michelle. And Michelle has never said anything as idiotic as what Barbara said in 2005 about the Katrina evacuees

    If they took their vacation in the reddest of the red states, the right would still find a way to criticize them.

  13. Laurence Glavin

    The headline “Spain vacation draws criticism” was NOT in the passive voice.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: From a purely grammatical point of view, you are correct. From a substantive point of view, it is entirely passive, since we are told that the vacation has engendered criticism in some way without being told who’s doing the criticizing. “Right-wing activists criticize Spain vacation” would be more useful and less passive.

  14. Kathy Ahearn

    I agree with Al. A few mornings ago, our local media, namely Mike Nikitas on NECN, used the Fox ploy “some people say that the Spain trip is indicative of the Obama’s arrogance”. I can’t even watch a softball morning news show without some criticism of the President nearly every day. Ugh.

  15. drogers

    Great article in the New York Times about the political dangers of vacationing overseas.

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