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24 June 2011

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J

Colonel,

Most of our past Presidents and their families since at the least FDR have taken 'family vacations' labeling them as 'on behalf of the government' to get around having to pay for it themselves. Most of our past Presidents looked upon themselves as 'American Royalty' and that 'view' transferred its imprint on to the First Family. We see the same 'Royalty' mindset in the majority of our Members of Congress as well.

We the American citizenry/taxpayers/States need to 're-write the rules' regarding both the Office of the President/Vice-President and Members of Congress. Our 'Union' exists for the benefit of the States, not the other way around. For far too long the 'federal mindset' has been too aloof from the ordinary American/State citizenry/taxpayers.

Get rid of AF1/Marine1/Presidential & Vice-Presidential support aircraft. Get rid of the extra Presidential security and support staff, a.k.a. all those needed with the President/Vice-President decides to venture outside White House grounds. Get rid of all of the Presidential/Vice-Presidential retreat (vacation) properties. There is no reason today for either the President or the Vice-President to venture off White House grounds for any reason. All other Heads of State around the globe can come and visit our President/Vice-President instead of the all too frequently we visiting them scenario.

The White House is a self-contained mini-city, the only other place that I could realistically see the President/Vice-President venturing to would be Bethesda Medical Facilities, and such trips our Naval assets could easily supply both in the equipment and personnel required for transportation to and from and all necessary security.

The First Families are NOT elected, and as such should not enjoy the 'extra perks' that are afforded to the duly elected, they are in essence along for the free ride on the coat-tails of their respective spouses.

Time to end the Presidential/Vice-Presidential/First Families/Members of Congress gravy trains.

Russ Wagenfeld

Hi Pat,
When British PM Cameron visited the US last year he flew commercial - business class I think. There might be a lesson in that....
Regards,
Russ

seb

The lesson is that there have been 2 attempts on British PM's lives in the past century and like a dozen on US presidents'.

Expensive trips paid by the government are silly, but cutting security or sequestering Obama in the White House is also silly.

Patrick Lang

seb

a British PM is not a head of state.

Nobody said anything about cuttng security for the president.

He has allowed his wife to go pff on a vacation with their children, her mother and a nephew and niece at our expense.

How much do you think this one cost? 2 million, 3 million? How much is reimbursable.

Get a grip on the idea that he and she are NOT royal.

BTW, if you call me silly again, you will be as through here as Salomon. pl

herb

I think seb was referring to Russ.

There is certainly an argument to be made both ways. I'm no Obama fan, and also not a "Presidential Royalty" fan either, but recognize that they should somehow be able to travel, and our country has a responsibility to ensure they aren't harmed while doing so.
What is more disturbing is the thought that our politicians are able to become wealthy just based on their being politicians. I would think this a better country if our presidents were NOT extremely wealthy millionaires, and we actually DID need to provide their travel costs because they would be unable to afford what it entailed as a person of more reasonable means.

I'm not sure what "good will" this trip buys, but I don't think it hurts leveraging the first African-American president's family in Africa. In fact, I think this trip is probably more legitimate than the European one.

zot23

The entire trip probably costs about as much as one hour of bombing some country, oh let's say Libya. Or say half of what it cost to have GWB land a fighter jet on a carrier to give a speech and announce "Mission Accomplished"

Reimburse the taxpayers for a state PR trip? Are these our priorities? It strikes me as odd how this only rears its ugly head when there is a (D) next to our president's name (or when it is a non-military venture.)

mbrenner

A couple of further suggestions.

1. Drop the common address of "Mr. President" - as currently used by all associates including intimate ones (e.g. a pre-dawn poker session in the Clinton White House with brother-in-law and pals had all calling the tee-shirted, boozy Bill C. "Mr. President" - according to the Branch book). Shouldn't "sir" or 'Mr. Obama' do in a Republic?

2. Cut the perks of former presidents. Harry Truman in 1953 drove cross-country with his wife from Missouri to visit friends in D.C. They were alone and stopped at motels. I guess today we can't go that far, but as close as we can get in accordance with logic of these posts seems a good idea.

3. Hold weekly substantive press conferences, There is supposed to be exchange between an accountable President and the informed citizenry. Presidential 'events' and behind the scenes leaks don't do it.

MRW

CBS reported that Bush took 77 trips to Crawford, the majority was vacation time. (The Obamas go to Camp David.) At a bare minimum, the flights alone were $226,072 per trip. That's $17,407,544, minus Secret Service, the cargo planes, regular security detail, etc.

Assuming the Air Force Two cost below and 24 hours to Africa one-way, that would be $349,248. Return trip: $698,496. Would she have a cargo plane with cars? How serious is her security detail? How much would we have to pay if she flew domestic in terms of advance men in every country she travels to? Is she staying in the embassies or a hotel?

http://blog.nola.com/elections_impact/2008/10/wasman.report.pdf
THE COST OF PRESIDENTIAL AND VICE
PRESIDENTIAL POLITICAL TRAVEL
PREPARED FOR
REP. HENRY A.WAXMAN

This report assumes that flight operating costs are $56,518 per hour for Air Force One and $14,552 per hour for Air Force Two. These figures are based on the per hour cost figures cited by GAO for fiscal year 2000, adjusted for inflation.7

According to the Congressional Research Service, the President’s domestic travel also involves the use of accompanying cargo planes.8 This report assumes one cargo plane accompanies the President on each trip at an operating cost per hour of $6,960. This figure is based on the per-hour cost cited by GAO for fiscal year 2000 for the C-17 cargo plane, adjusted for inflation.

MRW

How do we know she's not flying in one of the Gulf Streams from the fleet that Donald Rumsfeld bought for renditions, etc? Anyone know?

Stephanie

Well, we could get a start on de-royalizing by not referring to a First Family. Or First Lady, for that matter, but most Presidents’ wives seem to take pleasure in the “title”(except for Jacqueline Kennedy who observed that “First Lady” made her sound like a saddle horse and preferred to be called plain Mrs. Kennedy).

Mrs. Obama has said that she believes in the importance of taking time off and she seems determined to set a good example.

The trip to Spain was designated a vacation and not a state visit. At least this time she doesn’t plan on heading to Martha’s Vineyard right after the trip.

A lot depends on the details who’s paying for what. If the Obamas are footing the bills for the children and relatives it’s not so bad. True, the taxpayers are on the hook for security and a lot of the ancillary expenses.

I will say that the little African kids looked tickled pink to meet her. Not a bad thing for the US of A.

Patrick Lang

Stephanie

You are right reimbursement for the "fam" would be good. If the Spain trip was designated a vacation how can USG payment for any of it be justified? pl

Patrick Lang

MRW

You can see the aircraft in the media coverage. Not "Gulfstreams." pl

Patrick Lang

MRW

I have no complaints with PRESIDENTIAL travel. she and her family are not presidential. pl

Patrick Lang

ZOT23

"D?" Ah, another party hack heard from. You know nothing of me if you think I care which wretched party the Obamas belong to. "PR trip?" My god, what a lame excuse. Bombing and presidential travel are government activities. This vacation is just thinly veiled embezzlement and abuse of government property and personnel. pl

Patrick Lang

herb

The president's dependents have no right to have us fund their vacations. pl

J

Colonel,

I don't see anything 'wrong' with 'sequestering' the President/Vice-President, especially since there have been such advancements in NSA secured communications, neither the President nor Vice-President have any 'secure' reason to venture off White House grounds. IMO it is long past due that the President/Vice-President were 'sequestered' to the White House for their entire elected duty cycle (move the Vice-President into the Lincoln bedroom).

We're talking a lot of cheese-burgers pocket-change it takes every time they step off White House grounds.

Do you see anything wrong with my 'sequestering' argument?

walrus

I think we should cut Obama some slack in this matter and focus on the guiding principle - what American National Interest does this trip serve? It is far too easy for emotions of envy to overtake common sense in such matters while forgetting such things as equity as well as our interests.

For a start, no one can evaluate the national benefits of the trip without reviewing the First Lady's daily running schedule, and you cannot trust the media to do this fairly. Is it full of meetings or downtime, and who is she meeting and for what purpose?

Then there is the question of equity. I see no reason that travel benefits should not exist considering that she is doing a job, and a difficult and punishing one, as is her husband. Some compensation for the kids is also warranted. Just ask any of the British Royals how it feels to live in a Goldfish bowl?

Then there is the question of public envy. The pleasure of the overseas business trip wears off about the Third trip. Air Force one may be nice, but......

To put it another way, if all Michelle and the kids were doing is lying on a beach or sightseeing that ain't good, but you need to see the program.

I'm speaking as one who left the public service after I was ordered to lead a one week trade mission to Detroit from Australia, traveling in my own time on weekends, and my request to break the return trip in LA for a day or Two at my own expense was rejected, because my boss was afraid of one of those "public servant is holidaying in LA at Government expense" allegations. To put that another way, if I have to spend a week in Detroit, helping Australian businesses make introductions to the automotive industry in winter, and lose Two family weekends in the process, that's above and beyond the call of duty.

Col. Lang, there are better targets. The Obamas penchant for expensive vacations and recreation is a valid observation best made at election time. Don't pick on individual trips.

Patrick Lang

walrus

"the question of public envy" What? Who do you think you are talking to? do you think I care about the fact that she can plant her hindquarters in Air force 2? My god, man, Get a grip. I spent decades riding in first class sections or chartered jets.

"Cut Obama some slack? Why? What has he done that makes you think he should be granted the perquisites of a sovereign?

We have seen the progam. It is nonsensical nonsense.

"considering that she is doing a job." She is NOT doing "a job." She was not elected. She was not hired. She is not paid a salary. Only her flunkies are paid a salary.

"First Lady" should be struck from the vocabulary of the Republic. pl

"Don't pick on individual trips?" When I want your advice I will ask for it.

Jackie

Sir,
If these trips help with goodwill towards America, then I'm inclined to say good for us. I hope the good folks of Africa enjoy hosting the family of the first African-American president.

mbrenner,
Years ago, we were travelling across the inter-city viaduct (currently I-70 between Kansas City, KS and KC,MO) and dad passed a car. It was Harry and Bess going home on a Sunday evening from a trip. Back in those days, the reporters in Kansas City shielded Truman and didn't hound him to death.

Allen Thomson


walrus said,

"I think we should cut Obama some slack in this matter and focus on the guiding principle - what American National Interest does this trip serve?"

I would agree. Diplomacy has many dimensions and sending the popular and photogenic presidential family around to raise good will does qualify as a good thing. If they happen to have some fun doing it, well, so be it.

How much it costs, like heavy security, several airplanes and such is a slightly different question. I'd think something like a 767 for the people and a C-17 for the vehicles and other equipment would be more than adequate.

Patrick Lang

jackie

Goodwill is a much exagerated thing. pl

Patrick Lang

Allen Thomson

At that level of expenditure, maybe so. pl

eakens

AIDS awareness, physical fitness for children, emphasis on education?

Why fly to Africa when you can take the train to Baltimore?

J

eakens,

Why take the train to Baltimore when all those items Mrs. B appear to care about can see in downtown D.C.. She doesn't have to venture very far from her doorstep, and if she'd focus on the problems at hand right under nose, it would help our nation's pocket-book.

It's all a dog-n-pony show anyway, more lip-service than substance anyways.

J

eakens,

The offices of the President/Vice-President/Members of Congress need to be handled like cloistered monks, sequestered from unnecessary travels for their tenures of duty.

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