Obama's busy Memorial Day weekend: Arlington cemetery loses out

The first family will spend Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, but Obama will make a day trip to the Gulf Coast on Friday. Vice President Joe Biden will lay a wreath at Arlington cemetery.

By , Correspondent

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    President Barack Obama makes opening remarks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday. The first family will spend Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, but Obama will make a day trip to the Gulf Coast on Friday.
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Can the Obamas catch a break?

Just about every time the first family tries to take a vacation, national events conspire to throw a wrench in their plans.

Their Christmas break in Hawaii was delayed due to the health-care debate. Two months later, health care again drove them to cancel a spring-break-timed family trip to Indonesia. (It's rescheduled for next month.) Three more of the president’s recent trips, including ones to Asia and Copenhagen, Denmark, have been rejiggered or delayed at the last minute.

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And Memorial Day weekend? More rejiggering.

It’s the first time the first family will be together in Chicago in more than a year (the last time was Valentine’s Day weekend 2009), but the BP oil spill is mucking up President Obama’s plans (as well as the Gulf Coast's).

And so, Mr. Obama is jetting off to New Orleans for a day trip Friday, hours after he arrives in Chicago Thursday night.

And then there are Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and the anti-Obama machine.

They’re raising a storm on the blogosphere, with Mr. Beck saying that Obama has "decided not to honor our troops on Memorial Day."

From the May 26 edition of “The Glenn Beck Program”:

"The president has decided not to honor our troops on Memorial Day and go to – can you find out the last president that decided to take a vacation and then ... come back for – a Paul McCartney concert, but not for the laying of a wreath on Memorial Day? Maybe this has happened before. I don't recall it."

In fact, it’s happened before, and with Republican presidents, no less.

In 1983, President Reagan attended a Williamsburg, Va., summit and sent Deputy Secretary of Defense W. Paul Thayer to lay the ceremonial wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush spent Memorial Day weekend at the Bush family's famed Kennebunkport, Maine, vacation spot, where he attended a wreath-laying ceremony at a local American Legion hall (and squeezed in a round of golf). Vice President Dan Quayle went to the Arlington ceremony.

And on Veterans Day 2007, President George W. Bush was in Texas while Vice President Dick Cheney attended a ceremony in Arlington.

But Memorial Day is different, conservatives and military backers say. This time, the Unite States is at war. With so many Americans serving overseas, is Obama’s decision not to lay the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery disrespectful?

That argument might have carried some weight, given that more rejiggering has happened. Specifically, Obama has added another item to his weekend itinerary: He will speak at a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., the White House announced Thursday. (Vice President Joe Biden will lay the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.)

Is that enough to quell the storm?

From some quarters, yes.

“We don’t really see the big deal, so long as he’s taking time to honor our fallen war heroes throughout Memorial Day weekend,” Ryan Gallucci, spokesman for AMVETS, told The Washington Post. “After all, it’s not groundbreaking for a sitting president to visit other national cemeteries or overseas ... cemeteries over the holiday. Arlington is certainly not the only place our fallen heroes are buried, so why not pay your respects to veterans around the country?”

But plenty of others aren’t satisfied.

“Arlington is hallowed ground and the center of our nation’s attention on Memorial Day,” Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The Washington Post.

“Of course, Obama really doesn’t like the military, does he,” wrote commentator Erick Erickson on the conservative site RedState.com.

And you can bet the blogosphere is still having a field day with the news. “Obama blows off Arlington” got over 100,000 hits on Google Thursday.

But still, after a frenetic week of oil-spill gushing, Korean-crisis escalating, and stock-market swinging, the guy probably needs a break.

Related:

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