President Obama, who spent 95 days overseas during his first term despite a prolonged reelection bid and coast-to-coast PR campaigns for Obamacare and gun control, is on course to spend more time out of the country than any president in history, edging Bill Clinton by two days, according to a new analysis.
The National Taxpayers Union Foundation, making a two-term projection based on Obama's travel practices and the pattern of second-term presidents taking more overseas trips, told Secrets that Obama will likely spend 235 days out of the country, two more than Clinton's 233. That is nearly two-thirds of a year overseas.
First lady Michelle Obama is also proving to be a frequent-flier, spending 55 days overseas in the first term. But that is 22 shy of Laura Bush, the most traveled former first lady. Bush during her eight years in the White House spent 212 days out of the country, a record Michelle Obama isn't likely to break based on her travel patterns, said NTUF.
The first family's official travel and frequent vacations have come under fire from critics upset that the president is breaking records while his government is on a sequester-forced spending diet. His recent trip to Africa, for example, cost $6.5 million to fly Air Force One alone, according to the taxpayer group. Another watchdog group, Judicial Watch, has criticized the first lady's vacation travel spending, including magazines bought for her to read on flights.
"With lingering economic uncertainty, enduring controversy of sequestration, and decades-long controversy over transparency, the growth in international presidential travel will continue to attract attention," NTUF's Douglas Kellogg told Secrets.
Supporters, however, defend the president, claiming his is simply acting as America's top diplomat.
Obama has already started out his second term as a regular overseas traveler and has multiple trips planned for the rest of the year. Second term presidents starting with Dwight Eisenhower have traveled more, a practice that stepped up under Ronald Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush.
"Regardless of whether President Obama ultimately sets the record for foreign travel, recent trends make it clear that presidents are going abroad more often, and that necessarily comes with a higher price tag for taxpayers," said NTUF's Michael Tasselmyer, the author of the related "Up in the Air" report on the costs Obama has racked up flying Air Force One. That report revealed the former President George H.W. Bush traveled the most of any first term president with 102 days out of the country.
Kellogg said that Obama is changing the typical travel practice of presidents by spending fewer days in countries he's visiting. As a result Obama could end up visiting more countries than any other president, but spending fewer days doing it.
Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.