Washington, May 28 (ANI): Presidents are never really off the clock, even when they go on vacation, but President Barack Obama's decision to skip the traditional Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington for his second vacation since the BP oil spill began has left some wondering about his priorities.The retreat this weekend is marked by a side trip to Louisiana to inspect the damages from the oil spill.
Obama, who was headed to Chicago Thursday night, will not be at Arlington National Cemetery for the Memorial Day ceremony. Instead, the president plans to be at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, while Vice President Biden takes his place in Arlington for the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Fox News quoted Pete Hegseth, director of the conservative Vets for Freedom, as saying: "It doesn't mean he doesn't care, but I think it is a reflection of priorities. We're still at war ... and he's not called out to the carpet on that."Dana Perino, former Bush White House press secretary, called the decision a "curious choice."
"I do think that symbolically that probably was not a very good choice," she told Fox News.
The Arlington visit is a fairly recent tradition. Former President Ronald Reagan attended four of them in his eight years in office, while former President George H.W. Bush sent Vice President Dan Quayle to every one. Former President Bill Clinton, though, attended every year and George W. Bush missed only one, in 2002, when he was in France.
Philip Molfese, a Chicago-based Democratic political consultant, dismissed the idea that Obama would somehow be stepping away from the oil spill crisis in the Gulf while in Chicago.
The president plans to visit the Gulf coast Friday before returning to the Windy City.
"He's never really out of touch with what's happening," said Molfese, president of the political firm Grainger Terry, Inc.
He said: "These guys are never off the clock. ... They're constantly surrounded by people, they're constantly getting updates. Whether they're operating in Chicago or they're operating in the White House, they're still going to be getting constant communication."
The Obamas have not made an extensive visit to Chicago in more than a year, and in a sense, are trying to make good on prior pledges to visit their hometown more often.
But critics point out that the trip is their second since the Gulf oil rig exploded April 20 -- the first family traveled to Asheville, N.C., that weekend. (ANI)