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Thursday, December 29, 2011

READER'S POST #1 (Continued Analysis) - Using Math and Common Sense to Fact-Check the Media

By: 32slim32

Well President Obama is off on another vacation and this one with a price tag of over $4 Million to the taxpayer. What’s that? Oh, “Bush took over 1,000 days of vacation”. Yes, we have all heard it. Whether you read it at Politifact or somewhere else, it all comes back to CBS’s Mark Knoller. He keeps “detailed records” of the Presidents scheduled (since Gerald Ford) appearances, speeches, travels, and vacation days. He has somewhat been the authority on Presidential “vacation days” because of his “detailed records”.

First, let’s define what a “vacation day” is in Mr. Knoller’s “detailed records”.  A “vacation day” is a “day OR a PARTIAL day” that the President is not at the White House or Camp David (although he does keep track of days and trips to Camp David, he does not count them as “vacation days” since they are usually week end trips). Notice, I said Knoller does not count days at Camp David as “vacation days”, however, when you hear people saying “Bush took over 1,000 days of vacation” those are still Knoller’s  numbers because he does keep track of days at Camp David. It is the combination of Knoller’s “vacation days” and Knoller’s days at Camp David records.

While Mr. Knoller has not published an “official list” (that I have been able to find) of Bush’s numerous “vacation days”, he does consistently publish his numbers (you know, every time Obama goes on vacation), and they are consistent.

The main claim I want to address in this article is, according to Mr. Knoller, “President George W. Bush spent even more time away from the presidential mansion in the nation’s capital than Reagan. Of the 77 total "vacation" trips the former president made to his Texas ranch while in office, nine of them — all or part of 69 days — came during his first year as president in 2001, according to Knoller.” Again, notice the “all or part of 69 days”. 

As I mentioned above, I have not been able to locate an official list that Mr. Knoller has published, however, I did find a list that a local television station maintained of all of Bush’s visits to Texas at This list is very detailed. There were eight instances in which they did not list a departure date. In all eight instances I used a Monday departure date, as the majority were listed as “Weekend Visit”.

After having to make 8 assumptions on departure days (that were unlisted), I came within 3 days of Mr. Knoller’s number. His number was 77 trips for 490 days or partial days away from the White House, I came up with 487 days. Not too bad, I thought.

What is missing from Mr. Knoller’s report is a whole bunch of asterisks. For instance, a weekend visit to Camp David does not count as a “vacation day” (by Knoller’s standard). Mr. Knoller’s numbers include 130 days or partial days that would not be charged as “vacation days” with a Camp David destination, just from weekend visits to the Crawford ranch.

Another little asterisk that Mr. Knoller could have included would have been that at least 29 “vacation days” were meeting with leaders from other nations at the ranch, like:

- Vladimir Putin in November 2001
- Tony Blair in April 2002
- Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah April 2002
- Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan August 2002
- Chinese President Jiang Zimen  October 2002
- Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar  February 2003
- Australian Prime Minister John Howard May 2003
- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi May 2003
- Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi July 2003
- Mexican President Vicente Fox March 2004
- Egypt President Hosni Mubarak April 2004
- Mexican President Vicente Fox & Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin March 2005
- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon April 2005
- Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah April 2005
- Colombian President Alvaro Uribe August 2005
- NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer May 2007
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel November 2007
- Danish Prime Minister February 2008

How did Mr. Knoller’s “detailed records” forget those little details? 

Another little asterisk that Knoller could have included would be how Bush was charged with 4 days or partial “vacation days” by flying off to Iraq in November 2003 to visit the troops. Or another 7 “vacation days” while visiting wounded troops.

Another thing Knoller doesn’t come right out and mention, the 2 hour flight from Washington to Crawford counts as a “partial day” vacation each way. So there are 154 “vacation days” right here. And that brings me to the biggest anomaly in his record keeping. While a four hour round trip counts as two “days or partial days” away from the White House, a five hour golf outing doesn’t even register as time away from the White House.  How does that work, four hours on a plane is two “vacation days” and a five hour trip to the links is like you never even left the White House? 

So of the 490 days or partial days away from the White House (aka “vacation days”) it breaks down like this:

- 130 days or partial days on weekend visits to Crawford (that wouldn’t be counted if @ Camp David)
- 29 days (At the minimum) of meeting with world leaders while “on vacation”.
- 11 days of “vacation” visiting troops
- 154 “partial days” of vacation travelling to and from

That leaves 166 days of “vacation”, but in that, there are still meetings with economic advisers and security advisers, and some day trips that Bush took during his extended August stays at the ranch.

The next time you hear someone referring to Bush’s vacation days and using Mark Knoller’s numbers you now know how he inflates the numbers.  Maybe then ask how Obama hasn’t run up more days or partial days away from the White House than he has with 90 trips to the golf course.

Interesting little tid bit about Camp David. I believe the main reason Mark Knoller does not count time at Camp David as vacation time is because Jimmy Carter spent 376 days of his 4 years in office at Camp David, according to Mark Knoller. 

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  1. I really like this article. Thank you for writing it. Great analysis, great facts, data, connection. People really should see this, and they REALLY should see how it exposes the mainstream media. It gets old. Thanks to this blog for supplying the avenue. Will continue to follow.

    Pachyderm Pride all the way!

  2. Daniel - Thank you for your comments, and yes, thanks to 32slim32 for his outstanding posts. It should give any conservative goose bumps... especially those that can't stand the liberal MO of chant, rant, and live in a world of myth. This is great... It's

    Challenge a point
    Collect data
    Create counterpoint
    Use data for analysis
    Use analysis to back counter point
    Refute your challenger

    MMMMM damn good! This is how conservatives live... liberals: "well, Bush is bad because he was bad" or "the rich aren't paying taxes." It gets old, but unfortunately, people mindlessly start to believe it. It's our job to spread truth.

    The main reason I commented, however was because I LOVE the last part: "Pachyderm Pride!" That's the username of one of our contributors... and I've always told him that should be a mantra. I love it. I wish it would spread.

    Thank you to both of you! We hope to hear more.