I understand a lot of the partisan divide in perception and coverage of President Obama. I don’t understand this.
The President’s persistent practice of sending his family members off on lavish vacations on the taxpayers’ largesse is unequivocally tone-deaf, hypocritical, and wrong. It’s wrong. There’s no defending it. His children’s current trip to the Bahamas and a ski resort, thanks to the necessary Secret Service detail necessary to protect them, is going to cost over $100,000….the last Spring Break vacation for them did. Wrong. Unethical. Obviously unethical.
Why are partisans—and those who aren’t supposed to be partisans, but really are, like most of the press—defending it? They can’t, mind you, but they try anyway. Why?
I know how. They do it by attacking the critics. The Atlantic, for example, in a blog post by Phillip Bump, sneeringly ridiculed the factual reporting by Matthew Boyle on the Obama kids’ expensive vacations by noting 1) the reporter works for Breitbart, and Breitbart is scum 2) that the outrage ginned up by that site over Obamaphones was phony, and 3) reporters, by news media accord, aren’t supposed to report on where First Kids take vacations, citing all the other Presidential spawn that avoided media attention.
The first is just attacking the messenger. The second is blatant “Look over there!” subject-changing—-the Obamaphone “scandal” was nonsense, this isn’t. The third is pathetic excuse-making. Yes, Presidential children should be left alone when they travel; they aren’t appropriate news fodder. But when their father the President blames Secret Service expenses cut under the sequester—that he proposed—-for the elimination of White House tours, and then sends his kids out on an unnecessarily luxurious vacation that will cost what more than two weeks of tours for other people’s school kids would cost, all while much of the nation is scrimping to save for three days at Kings Dominion, he has made their trip news, and the so-called news embargo doesn’t and shouldn’t apply. Bump’s argument is jaw-dropping in substance and tone, and, significantly, he never addresses the central question: why does President Obama think that it is appropriate for his family to spend as much money as possible on their vacations when it is being paid for by public funds? He doesn’t address it because there is no answer other than one or more of these:
- The President doesn’t care how it looks.
- The President thinks his family is entitled to live like royalty on public funds.
- The President is hopelessly without sensitivity to how this looks during a time of high unemployment and economic distress.
- The President is a shameless hypocrite.
- The President knows that whatever he does, the toadies in the media have his back, and legitimate criticism will be pigeon-holed as partisan even though it is not.
It is not just this mindset on the part of the Obamas that I don’t comprehend (but do condemn). This is the attitude I have seen in the private sector, and the non-profit sector as well, where executives see nothing wrong with maximizing their perks even though it is wasteful, unnecessary, venal, selfish, harms morale, and stresses organization finances. I have never been able to do it, when I have been in a position where such conduct was accepted and even expected. No, I will not let my non-profit pay for my family to come with me to a Hawaii convention. No, I will not let the organization pick up the tab when I stay an extra day, or two, or five, after it’s over. No, I will not go to the most expensive restaurants and have two drinks as “business meetings.” No, I will not order expensive drapes and oriental rugs and rosewood furniture for my office when we are eliminating jobs and denying raises.
Why? Because doing these things is wrong! Because they represent poor leadership. Because they are irresponsible. Why isn’t it obvious to Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, whites and blacks alike, that this is just as true when the President of the United States blithely uses public funds so his family can vacation like the Kardashians?
There is no reason in the world, none, none, none, why Sasha and Malia should go on more than one or two vacations a year. They live in the White House, and one of the most interesting and entertaining cities in the nation, within easy driving distance of the seashore, the Shenandoahs, Baltimore, Richmond, Williamsburg, Philly, and, yes, Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens. That’s the best peasants like my family can manage when we can take vacations, and not every year allows us one, either. There is no reason why the President’s family’ vacations shouldn’t be chosen responsibly, which means to maximize efficiency and cost savings to the government. There is no reason why the President’s family vacations should resemble “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous,” and every reason why they should reflect the state of the public welfare and the economy, and set an example for those who the President was elected to lead.
The best the President’s enablers on this issue have been able to muster as a defense is “everybody did it”—-but everybody didn’t do it. The Bush girls weren’t sent out to exotic locales at public expense. Chelsea never cost the Treasury $100,000 at Spring Break. Amy Carter was lucky if she could get a week at a missionary camp…but even if all of these Presidential dads had been profligate in devising vacations for their families, they were different times. This President is the one overseeing five years of unemployment that has never gone lower than 7.7%, with many more Americans dropping out of the workforce entirely, and vacations being a distant dream even for many of those who are working. This President is the one who lectured us that “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.” You do, apparently, pay for your President to send his kids to the Bahamas.
If the President want to blame George W. Bush for why his kids can’t take 1%-style vacations, for once I’ll accept it. He cannot, however blame Bush for allowing the vacations.
I think ethics rather than laws and regulations should be sufficient to stop abuse regarding Presidential vacations, but clearly with this President, and, thanks to his awful precedent, others to follow, ethics isn’t enough. Thus we need rules that hold the First Family to reasonable limits in their vacation expenses, and a cap on how much Secret Service hours can be changed to the public for non-duty related travel by the President and his family. The fact that such measures would be needed, as Joseph Curl wrote over the weekend, “tells you an awful lot about this President.”
The fact that his supporters lack the integrity to join the chorus of criticism tells you an awful lot about them, too.
Graphic: Share TV