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Obama joins long line of vacationing presidents

Critics have blasted the commander-in-chief for staying on Martha's Vineyard while major events broke in the U.S. and overseas
President Obama criticized for timing of Martha's Vineyard vacation 03:56

No president ever enjoys a carefree vacation.

Global hot spots and domestic problems frequently intrude. That's unquestionably true this year, as President Obama spends downtime on Martha's Vineyard.

Through it all though, Mr. Obama, as all presidents must, found time to unwind, reports CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett.

Obama monitors Iraq crisis while on vacation at Martha's Vineyard 01:22

The president played his eighth round of vacation golf Thursday, swinging freely and shaking hands leisurely along the fairway.

Across the world, the battle for Iraq intensified, Israel and Hamas exchanged rocket fire, Ferguson, Missouri remained tense and the nation pondered the gruesome execution of American James Foley.

Midway through his vacation, Mr. Obama briefly returned to Washington for deliberations on Iraq and Ferguson, capped by a briefing room statement on both.

In addition to golf, the president's vacation scorecard included three dinners out, two beach days, one bike ride, a jazz concert and a fund-raiser for Senate Democrats. Not to mention a five-hour bachelor party Monday in the Washington home of former White House chef Sam Kass.

But Mr. Obama was hardly invisible, addressing the nation on Iraq three times, Ferguson twice and on the implications of Foley's beheading.

"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," Mr. Obama said after Foley's death. "When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done."

Every presidential vacation is a contradiction in terms.

Nancy Reagan once quipped, "Presidents don't get vacations, they just get a change of scenery."

George Washington, of course, took the first presidential vacation and reviewed Pierre L'enfant's designs for the new Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Woodrow Wilson combined a vacation and a honeymoon. Franklin Roosevelt fished in the Caribbean during the Nazi blitz of London.

President George H.W. Bush spent 25 days in Kennebunkport, Maine after deploying U.S. forces and warplanes to confront Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, telling reporters en route aboard Air Force One, "You don't want to appear to be held hostage to the White House, to events."

Lawrence Knutson chronicles presidential vacations in a new book, and says every president needs time away.

Knutson notes, "All of them have found something like golf that takes their mind off the troubles of the world, and they report (the time off) leaves them fresher and better able to deal with the job ahead."

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