The most important rule of presidential vacations is this: Never let people take pictures of you on vacation. Sure, it seems like it'd be okay -- you'll look relaxed, relatable, full of youthful energy. Except you actually look like a dork at best, or clueless and out of touch at worst. And you're in danger of committing the greatest presidential image sin of all: Wearing shorts. Here are some of the best worst photos of presidential vacations past.
Mitt Romney has been on vacation all week, providing incredible opportunities to take embarrassing photos. Here he is watching his grandson be thrown into Lake Winnipesaukee near his Wolfeboro, New Hampshire vacation home Friday:
The Republican presidential candidate doing laps:
Eating an enormous ice cream Monday:
And riding a cherry red jet ski with his wife Monday like your average guy:
It's not just Romney, though. Here's the famous Topless President photo, taken of Barack Obama in Honolulu in August 2008:
The president has not been photographed topless since. Is this why he's not taking a vacation this year?
Republicans have taken joy in noting that Obama has played 100 rounds of golf since taking office. This one happened in August 2011.
Eating shave ice in December 2010:
Then there's George W. Bush. Here he is back in May 2001. Does he look like the leader of the free world? Or a sweaty sitcom dad?
Bush famously cleared brush at his Crawford, Texas ranch in August 2002, like a yankee who doesn't understand the southern sun.
Looking silly in Kennebunkport, Maine, in June 2007.
Just your standard cool dad on the same trip:
At this point, we'd like to include non-president John Kerry, photographed in August 2004 not only looking like a clueless rich guy on vacation, but wearing shorts. The Bush campaign used this image to great effect in campaign ads.
In 1993, Bill Clinton made the disastrous decision to wear short shorts -- without even putting on a little self-tanner.
Clinton was a frequent jogger. He never looked cool, not even on the beach in 1994.
Back in the days of pre-history (circa 1988), George and Barbara Bush looked less presidential and more like an elderly couple about to walk around the mall in their puffy white sneakers.
But it was in January 1989 when Bush, Sr. committed his thigh crime.
That August, he hadn't learned his lesson and combined shorts with sweating.
Sure, Ronald Reagan, what with his movie star background and all, almost always looked cool. But in 1984, even he fell into the dreaded shorts trap -- white ones, no less.
At St. Simons Island, Georgia, just after he was elected in 1976, Jimmy Carter made one of the gravest vacation photo errors: wearing a funny hat.
In 1979 Carter committed the foolish act of wearing shorts with distinctive socks:
Here's Richard Nixon looking enthusiastic to be doing outdoor activities with Dwight Eisenhower as they campaigned in July 1952. Nixon was being tortured at Eisenhower's vacation home near Fraser, Colorado.
Then-Vice President Nixon in a snazzy swimsuit in Key Biscayne, Florida, on December 31, 1957.
But most awkward politician on the beach of all time did not commit a shorts violation. The award goes to Nixon wearing wingtips to walk along the shore, as seen in this photo, from the National Archives:
This, of course, is what they're all aspiring to: John F. Kennedy on his boat in 1960. Alas, all these men have fallen short.
(All photos via Associated Press unless otherwise noted.)