WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his family are heading off Friday for the weekend to a spectacular national park on the coast of Maine, no doubt hoping this latest jaunt doesn’t fall victim to the Obama family travel hex.
That would be the one in which events seem to scramble the plans whenever Obama has his wife and daughters in the mix.
In a mere 18 months on the job, Obama has rolled up an impressive record of diversions, interruptions, delays and outright cancellations of planned family travel — all thanks to the nonstop demands of a turbulent presidency.
On Friday, the first family was to fly to Bar Harbor, Maine, and spend much of the weekend in Acadia National Park, enjoying its breathtaking ocean views and nature trails.
Bar Harbor and its surroundings are famed as a summer getaway for the rich and famous, from the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts who built homes there to the Hollywood stars who often turn up. But aides say Obama’s visit will focus on Acadia, whose 47,000 acres include Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the East Coast.
The park visit follows last summer’s Obama family trip to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, which included whitewater rafting and peach-picking.
But the schedule for that trip was altered to insert town meetings in Montana and Colorado, so Obama could address the growing furor over his health care plan.
It set a pattern, which has continued through this summer.
Consider the most recent full-family holiday: a Memorial Day weekend in Chicago that was overtaken by the Gulf oil spill. After the Obamas slept at their Chicago home for the first time in a year, the president got up and left for a daylong Gulf inspection tour.
That diversion followed the Obamas’ Christmas trip to Hawaii, interrupted repeatedly for briefings and comment on the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound jet.
And it followed last summer’s Martha’s Vineyard stay, interrupted by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Boston funeral Obama and his wife, Michelle, attended.
Then there was the planned visit to Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his youth. He’d hoped to show daughters Malia and Sasha his old haunts. But the trip was scrubbed, first in March as health care neared its climax, then again in June because of the oil spill. It’s now expected late this year.
In fact, the spill could further scramble the family’s plans. In an NBC interview Thursday, Obama didn’t rule out a vacation trip to a Gulf beach.
Despite two wars and an economic collapse crowding his plate, Obama’s taken comparatively little time off.
According to a tally kept by Mark Knoller, a CBS News reporter long recognized by the White House as authoritative on such matters, Obama has spent all or part of 65 days on vacation, including days at Camp David. At this point in his tenure, George W. Bush had spent 120 days. That included 13 trips to his Texas ranch.
That hasn’t stopped critics from complaining. GOP Chairman Michael Steele, for one, has been scathing — calling it incredible that Obama goes on golf outings while oil flows into the Gulf.
The White House dismisses such gripes.
“I don’t think that there’s a person in this country (who) doesn’t think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind,” deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. He added that a little presidential R&R “probably does us all good.”