Saturday, August 7, 2010

First Lady's Trip Sparks Criticism

Andrea Tantaros has penned a scorching editorial for the New York Daily News deeming First Lady Michelle Obama a "modern-day Marie Antoinette" for her vacation in Spain with her daughter.

"The First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her 'closest friends,'" Tantaros writes, pointing to a CNN report that Michelle Obama and her group are expected to occupy 60 to 70 rooms. "Not exactly what one would call cutting back in troubled times."

The Chicago Sun Times reports the following:

Mrs. Obama’s U.S. Air Force jet landed at Malaga on Wednesday; she skipped celebrating her husband’s 49th birthday with him. (Daughter Malia, 12, is at overnight camp.) Mrs. Obama pays for personal expenses — as do her friends who arrived on their own — but that only covers a small part of the expense. Taxpayers pick up the tab for staff and security at the exclusive hotel and most of the expenses for the plane.

First ladies often go on vacations, with and without the president. An issue for Mrs. Obama may be how many: New York in March; Chicago, over Memorial Day; Los Angeles in June; Camp David — sort of an extension of the White House — in July; Maine in July, to highlight Acadia National Park, and now Spain. Mrs. Obama is glamorizing Spain’s coastal resorts before her Aug. 14 first family weekend visit to Florida’s Gulf Coast, to encourage tourists scared away by the oil spill. Starting Aug. 19, the Obamas will spend 10 days in Martha’s Vineyard.

Personal expenses are being paid by the Obamas and by friends traveling with them, but there are always related taxpayer-paid costs when a First Family travels. Of course with the Obamas, everything is worse, because of the glare of attention they generate from all who despise them.

If the First Lady stayed a Holiday Inn in Bayonne, would that be okay? I doubt it.

The White House also disputes Tantaros's claims about M. Obama's Spanish jaunt. Katherine Skiba of the LA Times Top of the Ticket blog writes,

A White House official said Obama had a "small" group of friends and "minimal" staff on the trip, and said personal expenses, such as hotel rooms and meals, were being paid for by the Obamas."

Any additional footprint, including rooms needed for security support and transportation, falls under the same rules as have applied to any previous first family travel," the official said. That is, private expenses are paid for privately and government expenses are picked up by Uncle Sam.

All this may not sway Tantaros much, however, as it's clear who she wants the Obamas to emulate:

For a couple that has sharply criticized former President George W. Bush so widely, they could stand to follow his example for once and select a more low-key locale, as Bush regularly did in his Texas vacations.

"Regularly" is right — in 2008, Bush set a record for most vacation days taken during a Presidential term. On July 17, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Obama had taken 65 days off — Bush, by the same point in his term, had taken 120. And Obama didn't go with Michelle and Sasha to Spain — because he's working

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