BY SKEPTIK SINIKIAN
I’m not a fan of Gore Vidal. Come to think of it–I’m not a fan of anyone named Gore–except for that Armenian singer Gor Mkhitarian. And the only Vidal I like was a Sassountsi as far as I’m concerned. But the other day as I watched footage of the President and Senator Kerry raising money at different events–I remembered a quote from Gore Vidal. He said "The more money an American accumulates–the less interesting he becomes." I’m going to paraphrase that and then copyright it and say "The more money is raised in a campaign–the less interesting it becomes."
Looking at the figures of how much Kerry and Bush have raised–I yelped like Howard Dean at a campaign rally. Putting aside the ridiculous statistic that Bush has out raised Kerry 3 to 1–their combined campaign war chests exceed the combined gross domestic product of the world’s six poorest nations. Bush has amassed a 158.8 million dollars and Kerry has collected 41.4 million dollars. (It’s important to note however that all of the Democratic candidates collectively have raised 201.8 million dollars.) All of this information is available online at www.opensecrets.org.
Here’s the real kicker though. What bugs me the most about the gargantuan amount of money raised so far is that it really hasn’t elevated the level of debate in the campaigns–nor has it prompted the press to focus on the real issues. Now maybe that will change after the Democratic and Republican conventions–but I have a feeling that we’ll still be forced to watch inane late night news magazine specials on what a loving caring mother Laura Bush is–and a very special special on how Kerry met Theresa Heinz. Meanwhile gas prices continue to rise–the environment is being raped–American troops still have no exit plan–we’ve run up the worst deficit in decades–jobs are being lost at home–Armenia’s foreign aid is cut every year Bush is in office–Azerbaijan is arming itself thanks to my tax dollars–and the reaffirmation of the Genocide by the US is not even an afterthought in the President’s mind. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. And instead of focusing on real issues–we have to watch Bush and Kerry thump their chests to see who’s the bigger war hero. One guy has a legitimate record of service in an amoral war while the other is attacking countries with the ferocity of a child with Attention Deficit Disorder.
You know what issue I would like to have discussed? (Aside from aid to Armenia–Artsakh’s independence–the Armenian Genocide and sanctions against Turkey and Azerbaijan). Vacations! I want serious debate between the candidates and in the media about policies regarding vacations–and I’ll tell you why. As I felt burned out from work this week–I watched as my neighbor’s kids ride around the block on their bikes and I remembered how great it was to be a kid. The best part about being a kid was going on vacations–taking weeks off from school in the Spring–and Winter–and having the entire Summer off. Is there anything better than that? Well–it’s been so long–I wouldn’t know. But if I wanted to know–I should ask Senator Kerry and President Bush. Kerry isn’t even President yet and he’s snowboarding in Idaho–cutting powder like George W. Bush in college. Wait–that was a totally different kind of powder. My bad. I read an interesting statistic that I wanted to share with the rest of you.
In August of 2003–the Washington Post reported that President Bush has spent all or part of a total 166 days during his tenure as President–at his ranch in Crawford–Texas or en route to the ranch. Combine this time with the time that he spent at the Presidential retreat at Camp David–and at various Bush family estates–and he has taken 250 days off as of August 2003. That’s 27% of his presidency spent on vacation. By the way–most people I know have to work at least one year at any job before they quality for one week (7 days) vacation.
ONE WEEK! In Europe–everyone from the guy flipping hamburgers to the assistant to the CEO of corporations–gets at least three to four weeks off paid vacation. Even the workaholic Germans take month long vacations. So if we’re working so hard–how come the Euro keeps kicking our ass? I’m not an economist and I’m sure someone could give me a very detailed and dull answer. At the end of it–I still wouldn’t have a month paid vacation. Can you imagine how relaxed we would be as a nation if everyone received a month of paid vacation?
Its too late for me–I’m old. But to all of you out there raising children today–I want to give you some advice. Raise them to run for President. They’ll be millionaires and have months upon months of vacation time. Just make sure that when they do become rich and decide to run this country (hopefully–not into the ground)–that they will still be interesting.
SKEPTIK SINIKIAN hasn’t been on vacation since the first Bush administration. He hopes one day to save up enough vacation days to visit exotic places like North Hollywood or Toluca Lake. Until then–he and his fellow tax payers will continue to pay for the President Bush’s and Senator Kerry’s vacations. Skeptik can be reached at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com.