Reagan And Obama: Does Time Off Mean Time Out?

Mitt Romney's complaint this week about President Obama's 10-day vacation on Martha's Vineyard is further proof that some issues just tend to recycle themselves.

Mr. Obama's holiday comes amid the overthrow of the Khaddafy regime in Tripoli, prompting Romney to say that Obama "should not be vacationing" during such turmoil.

The very same type of complaints were leveled at Ronald Reagan, who was very fond of his 688-acre ranch near Santa Barbara, Rancho del Cielo.

As Californians we can understand the president's yearnings for the Golden State. So fond was he that Mr. Reagan spent large amounts of getaway time here. 

Collectively, almost a year's worth during his two terms in the White House.

It seemed that President Reagan had a knack for being at his ranch, not in Washington, when historic events broke out.  Given what's happening this week in LIbya, it's worth a look back.

He was at Rancho del Cielo, for example, in September of 1983 when Soviet fighters shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over the Sea of Japan.  Among the 269 passengers killed was Georgia Congressman Lawrence McDonald.

I was in Santa Barbara at the time, and remember that morning, when the White House initially said Mr. Reagan was not going to cut short his vacation. By the afternoon, that had changed and the president had packed his bags. 

That was the exception. As White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes told me at the time, "The president is the president, no matter where he is."

Like all presidents, Mr. Reagan was accompanied on his West Coast vacations by the national security and communications apparatus that is a part of all modern White House operations.

Where was Reagan when Soviet leaders Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko died?

Or when he fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in August of 1981?

Or when the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed in April of 1983?

You guessed it: California.

Ultimately, though, the public didn't seem to begrudge Ronald Reagan's vacation time. 

It's a tolerance the Obama White House appears to be counting on.

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