This Year’s Martha’s Vineyard Scandal: Bo Obama

The first dog is the latest symbol of presidential vacation excess.

This week, President Obama and his family return to Martha’s Vineyard for another August vacation. It’s their fourth trip since Obama began his presidency, which means the opposition, outraged at his luxe choice of destinations amidst a slow economic recovery, might be looking for a new angle. As luck will have it, they got one in Portuguese Water Dog Bo Obama, who seems to have flown to the island on a separate flight.

The Telegraph reports:

Bo, the president’s Portuguese Water Dog, arrived separately on one of two MV-22 Ospreys, a hybrid aircraft which takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane.

It was the first time the Ospreys have been taken on holiday by a US president.

(Update: A White House pool report confirms that Bo was on an MV-22, but adds that the plane also transported White House staff, media, and the Secret Service. In contrast to the spin of several reports, that would suggest the plane was not brought out for the sole purpose of flying the dog to the island.)

The conservative aggregator website soon linked to the tidbit on Bo, and ahoy, we have a symbol of holiday excess to debate in columns and on cable news for the next week. (Runner up in the scandal contest would probably be this photo of Obama, leg up, leaning full tilt as if to urge his golf ball into the hole. His telekenetic attempt did not work.)

Of course, it’s a bipartisan right to complain about presidential vacations, and we saw no shortage of it with George W. Bush. But Obama’s defiant selection of Martha’s Vineyard seems to generate more column inches than actual voter backlash. After all, we see complaints every year, but except for last summer, three months before the election, Obama hasn’t changed his plans in response to them.

Even before Bo-Gate broke, the local complaining fell into the capable hands of Boston Herald pundit Holly Robichaud. Robichaud, a Republican strategist, focuses on how the vacation plays in contrast to many Americans’ circumstances:

Our president has made no simple gesture of cutting back on vacations to show that he understands the value of tax dollars or express sympathy to those suffering through this lackluster recovery. He can go on vacation without it costing millions. It’s called Camp David.

Obama seems to bet on the idea that Americans aren’t paying attention and/or don’t really begrudge him a little time away. Meanwhile, on the island itself, those residents who aren’t inconvenienced by road closures seem anxious to have him back. The Washington Post’s Billy Kenber writes:

Islanders rejected that argument, saying they thought that the commander in chief deserved a break and expressing hope that the publicity would encourage more people to visit, boosting the local economy.

One retailer was looking to cash in with T-shirts bearing the slogan “I vacationed with Obama — Martha’s Vineyard ’13,” while another store, Portobello Road in Edgartown, had already sold a handmade wooden sign reading “Obama Rules” and was touting a second.

And with that, political merry-go-round takes another turn.