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Fox News states:

In a related story, Biden will be taking another long weekend at the beach and has spent 40% of his presidency on vacation," Fox News contributor Joe Concha posted

Has Biden spent 40% of his presidency on vacation?

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    This was already news in August: Biden Sets All-Time Presidential Record with 40% off-time reached. This seems to be based on a report by The Washington Examiner based on a tweet by RNC Research which doesn't disclose the methodology used. Commented Feb 18 at 10:24
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    I remember when the DNC made a similar accusation about Trump, and the RNC about Obama before that, and the DNC about GWB before that. It seems that political parties of all stripes are united in their hatred of telecommuting.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Feb 19 at 12:22
  • He's just "working from home" like most of us. ;)
    – sfxedit
    Commented Feb 19 at 13:32
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    Should be noted as a matter of comparison that the Republican-run US House has thus far this year had 19 days in session, out of 51. That's by this kind of calculus a grand total of 63% of the year thus far "on vacation".
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Feb 20 at 16:43

5 Answers 5

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If you count all weekend days as "on vacation", which this accounting does, that's almost 29% right there, while the remaining 11% is composed of other days when Biden was not at the White House and not on an official trip.

Biden spends most weekends at his Delaware home, but often he is accompanied by his top aides and the home is equipped with all the communication equipment he might need to work with his staff, the rest of the government, and world leaders.

To say that all the time he is in Delaware is spent "on vacation" appears intentionally misleading.

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    If you count the average American's 11 days annual vacation, 12 public holidays and 104 weekend days, that's almost 35%. It is only 19 days short of Biden's 40%. Commented Feb 17 at 16:04
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    Is he never working on a weekend?
    – Simd
    Commented Feb 17 at 16:48
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    POTUS is always "on call" (except when he's incapacitated and the 25th Amendment is invoked). So by that definition he's on duty 24x7 and never on vacation. You can play semantic games either way.
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 17 at 17:56
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No. The answer by @antlersoft points out that Fox News' accounting includes weekends in their definition of "vacation". And yet, in normal colloquial American English, no one uses the word "vacation" to describe a normal two-day weekend. The dictionary too defines "vacation" as

an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.

Thus, Fox News' claim would be false even if Biden did not work for a single minute during those weekends when he is away from the White House and not traveling on official business.

Of course, the nature of the President's job is such that clearly Biden did significant actual work from his Delaware home and other places where he was "vacationing". For example, here is a New York Times article documenting some of the official business Biden had to deal with in the summer of 2023 while taking an actual vacation in Lake Tahoe. This makes the "40% of his presidency on vacation" claim doubly false.

I'll give the writer of the Fox News piece credit for one thing: he does the absolute minimum to avoid outright lying, by putting most of the mentions of "vacation" in quotes attributed to others, thus conveniently reserving for himself the role of a mere conductor for other people's dishonesty instead of its primary practitioner. The linked article never actually claims that "Biden spent 40% of his presidency on vacation" or that the claims by others that it is parroting are correct. In addition to the use of quotes, the article uses the weasel word "reportedly", as in the article's subheading: "Biden has reportedly spent roughly 40% of his presidency on vacation".

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    @Oddthinking not an officially sanctioned definition. Dictionaries are not officially sanctions of anything, they just recording the common usage. (In linguistic terms, they are describing, not prescribing, the language)
    – njzk2
    Commented Feb 18 at 12:40
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    @Oddthinking if someone uses a term in a non-standard meaning as part of a claim, and the claim is false when read with the standard meaning of the term in mind, then the claim is simply false. If I say “the moon is square”, the claim is false even if somewhere in my long article about the moon being square I mention in fine print that I define “square” as “round”. It’s false, not just misleading, and it’s clear that the writer of such an article aims to dishonestly make people believe that the moon is actually square, and doesn’t just happen to have a different opinion over what squares are.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Feb 18 at 16:06
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    @Oddthinking for the purpose of my answer above, I define “false” as “something I believe is false based on reasoning I’ve explained”. See what I did there? By your own logic, you must now accept that my claim that the vacation claim is false is correct given my non-standard definition of “false”, and stop arguing.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Feb 18 at 16:57
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    @Oddthinking "This is a standard issue with reasoned arguments." The article is not a reasoned argument about the meaning of vacation. It's not an academic paper with clearly defined terms. It is an I-cannot-put-enough-quotes-around-"news" article to convey information; they have a duty to be clear to the casual reader. The issue isn't that it's wrong but rather that it is very misleading and just so happens to distort the facts to support their position. Somebody chose to use that misleading term in the headline, and to not clarify, and some editor approved it. This is a hit piece.
    – Schwern
    Commented Feb 18 at 21:33
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    @Oddthinking I think you're focusing on the text of the question, and in doing so losing the notability. Is the claim that "Biden spends 40% of his time outside the White House" notable? Not particularly. However, the implication that "Biden spends 40% of his time slacking off" is notable. The wordplay is what makes this notable. If we ignore the wordplay and details and intent of the claim and try to force it into a binary true/false, we ignore why the claim is notable. Scientific skepticism is about looking beneath the surface to discover what game is being played. It's messy.
    – Schwern
    Commented Feb 18 at 23:14
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Not in the way anyone thinks of a "vacation".

You and I think "vacation" means "not working".

The numbers use "vacation" to mean "not in the White House". This is misleading.

The articles want you think "vacation" means "not doing their job as President". This is a lie.

The source is the Republican National Committee

After digging through several layers of articles (see 'New York Post "Report"' below), I found the actual source for the numbers are the Republican National Committee.

In Truth About Biden's Vacations published by the RNC...

In fact, Biden has spent 354 days on vacation since taking office, including all or part of:

  • 237 days in Delaware (188 days in Wilmington and 49 days in Rehoboth Beach).
  • 91 days at Camp David.
  • 26 days at other destinations (12 days in Nantucket, seven days in Kiawah Island, SC, and seven days in the U.S. Virgin Islands).

Their definition appears to be "not at the White House".

They go on to offer numbers for other presidents...

  • Trump 26%
  • Obama 11.2%
  • Bush(43) 34.9%
  • Clinton 11.8%
  • Bush(41) 36.5%
  • Reagan 11.5%
  • Carter 5.4%

These line up with the numbers in the Fox article.

I don't doubt the RNC's numbers, a lie is so much more powerful when it's wrapped around a kernel of truth. Their no-context presentation of the numbers and choice of "vacation" pushes the implication that Biden is not doing his job 40% of the time...

Biden is already the least popular and least accessible president in modern history. Now, he can add another accolade to his collection.

What is a Presidential "vacation" like?

CBS News White House Correspondent .5 Knoller in 'Reporter's notebook: When presidents go on "vacation," controversy follows' talks about the problems of reporting on Presidential "vacations".

Of all the numbers in my files on presidential activities, none generates more controversy than "vacations."... I deliberately put quotation marks on the word "vacation" as recognition that a modern U.S. president is never really on "vacation," not the way most people understand the word.

In a book, author Vincent Bugliosi used my "vacation" numbers to support his contention that President Bush "could not care less about the human suffering and carnage going on in Iraq, or anywhere." It's an unfair claim, since presidential "vacations" have more to do with a change of venue than a getaway from the duties of office. Presidents can do things on "vacation" they can't do at the White House, but they remain on-duty 24/7.

Knoller carefully defines and contextualizes his reporting so as not to be misleading.

In What a beach vacation looks like for President Biden, NPR describes what a "vacation" is like for a modern president.

While families heading to Rehoboth this summer might haul coolers of food and beach toys with them in the car, the president has a far bigger packing list.

"You have to bring national security aides, you have to bring a [communications] apparatus, obviously you have to bring the football — which is the nuclear codes — so a presidential vacation is much more complicated than just loading up the minivan with some peanut butter sandwiches and suitcases," [Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and former White House aide] said.

Biden has interrupted past time away from the White House in order to sign the Inflation Reduction Act and postponed plans to head to Delaware in order to speak about the evacuation of American citizens from Afghanistan.

This is in contrast to what the Fox article claims the numbers mean.

The Fox Article

The Fox article never defines nor discusses what a Presidential "vacation" is like. Instead, they surround their statistics with the very implications that Knoller tries to avoid. Only once does the Fox imply that "vacation" means "time outside Washington, D.C".

Biden is on pace to spend about 40% of his presidency on vacation, compared to former President Trump who spent 26% of his time outside Washington, D.C., and Obama's 11%.

The article implies when Biden is on "vacation" he is unreachable...

According to a New York Post report last fall, Biden was home in Delaware during several tumultuous moments, including the early days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and during the first discovery of Chinese spy balloons over the United States.

Note the article carefully just says Biden was at his home in Delaware, not that he wasn't also being President.

The New York Post "Report"

The Fox article refers to a New York Post "report" about Slacker-in-chief Biden which says vacations are "personal overnight trips away from the White House" according to the RNC.

Biden has spent all or part of 382 of his presidency’s 957 days – or 40% — on personal overnight trips away from the White House... according to data calculated by the Republican National Committee and confirmed by The Post using White House reports of Biden’s movements.

These are accompanied by lots of pictures of Biden relaxing creating the impression that Biden is not being President for any of that time. They also mention all those weekends Biden is not spending in the White House on "vacation".

The president’s “vacation” days include 100 of the 135 weekends since his inauguration spent secluded in one of his two Delaware homes, at Camp David in Maryland, or in the mansions of billionaire pals.

If I spent 25% of my weekends at work, I'd be applauded (or told to go home). This is all just another way to lie with statistics.

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    "I don't doubt the RNC's numbers" A quick search came back with Trump visiting some Trump property during 428 of the days during his presidency (29%.) Seems like something doesn't add up to me.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Feb 19 at 17:31
  • @JimmyJames Could be another question. I didn't dig far enough to see if the RNC published their data.
    – Schwern
    Commented Feb 19 at 20:53
  • Probably a side question. Otherwise a great answer, BTW.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Feb 19 at 21:42
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    @JimmyJames Trump owns a golf club in DC. Working all day at the White House and commuting to Delaware to stay overnight = vacation. Playing golf all day but sleeping at the White House at night = working. Truly, none of us have worked a day in our lives...unless maybe it was a night shift. Commented Feb 20 at 13:11
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Biden’s “vacations”, according to a NY Post article, consisted mostly of “personal overnight trips away from the White House”. That means he probably takes a helicopter to his home in Delaware to sleep on a lot of nights.

It’s not going on vacation, it’s called commuting to work.

A lot of people commute to work, and among executives, it’s very common. For Biden, in a helicopter, it’s about a half-hour commute.

When you see claims like that, consider your source.

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    Please provide references to support your speculation that Biden regularly commutes to Delaware by helicopter.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 18 at 22:34
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    "Consider your source" - so what is your source on interpreting "personal overnight trips" to mean "going to his home to sleep"?
    – qwr
    Commented Feb 19 at 2:58
  • Biden usually commutes to his Delaware home using either Air Force One (jumbo jet) or Marine One (helicopter). msn.com/en-us/travel/news/…
    – Foo Bar
    Commented Feb 19 at 12:34
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The term "on vacation" might be misleading as it really means "away from the White House" but not on official business. Compared to other presidents:

  • Biden 40%
  • HW Bush 36%
  • Trump 25%
  • Obama 11%
  • Reagan 11%
  • Carter 5%

You can decide for yourself what you believe any of them are/were doing while away, but he is gone more than other recent Presidents though Bush was close. Weekend days while at the White House are not counted as "on vacation".

For those complaining about the Post as a source, it is straight out of the Fox article. And the Cleveland source is straight out of the Post article. All these articles define "vacation" the same way, which is what the OP was asking about. Disregarding the source that explains the 40% number in favor of numerous baseless opinions makes no sense.

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    How do the stats < 29% reconcile with the fact that weekends make up 29% of each week (as pointed out in the other answer)?
    – Neal Young
    Commented Feb 18 at 1:32
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    @Pilothead And your only source is a clear attack piece, which always have dubious veracity. That's exactly the type of article that would brought up here to ask if the information included is correct. I mean, that's exactly what this question is: Fox said something, and then they're asking if it's true. You need unbiased sources for fact checks.
    – trlkly
    Commented Feb 18 at 2:32
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    I didn't say anything about preferring the previous answer. I simply said your answer has problems, letting you know what you should improve it before the "Want to improve this Answer" tag can be removed. But, yes, no citation would in fact be better than a bad citation. Because then at least it is obvious the information is not cited. You seem to have found an better source for pre-Trump presidents, but you need to find ones for Trump and Biden.
    – trlkly
    Commented Feb 18 at 3:28
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    The other Answer doesn't use a bad source. Thus the template is sufficient to let them know that they need to provide a source. You provided a bad source, but your comment suggested you thought you had a good one. So I explained to you why it wasn't good, and why you should change it to a more neutral source. You seem to be too concerned with other Answers and not your own, and you seem to be trying to start a fight with anyone telling you how to improve. This will not help you. Your biased source makes you come off as biased, and then you'll have trouble getting upvotes. Fix it, and we'll see
    – trlkly
    Commented Feb 18 at 6:24
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    "The term "on vacation" might be misleading" – That's a massive understatement. According to this definition, watching TV at the White House is "work", whereas working from home is "on vacation". Commented Feb 18 at 9:08

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