I had to work to pay taxes so 13-year-old Malia Obama, daughter of "Dear Leader" President Barack Hussein Obama, could take a trip in March 2012, to, of all places, Mexico. It seems that Malia and as many as 12 of her friends (and 25 Secret Service agents) went on the trip, which took place shortly after the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued a statement advising students "to avoid Mexico" on spring break. But I guess since Texas was not in the Obama reelection column, its advice could be ignored. Texas DPS raised safety concerns and advised students to avoid Mexico, citing continued violence, with DPS Director Steven McCraw saying "Mexican drug-cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas."
So, President Obama chose to ignore Texas' warnings, and sent Malia to Mexico anyway. Certainly, the wives and children of other presidents have taken vacations at taxpayer expense as well. But how many presidents have ignored safety warnings and sent family members on trips anyway? Readers, please help me here.
The trip cost us taxpayers "only" $115,500.87. While the cost is significant (to me, anyway - I would love to be given over $115,000), the trip caused controversy after the Obama White House reportedly ordered the removal of press reports detailing the trip. From Dylan Byers at The Politico:
The AFP, the Huffington Post and other websites have scrubbed a report about first daughter Malia Obama's school trip.
On Monday, the AFP reported that Obama's daughter was on a school trip along with a number of friends and 25 Secret Service agents. The story was picked up by Yahoo, the Huffington Post, and the International Business Times, as well as UK publications like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph and other overseas publications like The Australian.
But on Monday night, the story had been removed from those sites. The AFP page for the story now links to a story titled "Senegal music star Youssou Ndour hits campaign trail," as does the Yahoo page. The Huffington Post page now links directly back to the Huffington Post homepage. The Daily Mail, Telegraph, and Australian stories now lead to 404 error pages, reading "page not found." The International Business Times story also links to the IBT homepage, though a version of the original story still exists online.
And even the White House joined the fracas. Kristina Schake, Communications Director for First Lady Michelle Obama, said that the removal of the spring-break trip stories was "a White House effort":
From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls." [emphasis mine]
I guess that now the White House is the final arbiter on what is "newsworthy." Can Republicans use the same dodge, the same news suppression when they regain (and they will) the White House? After all, "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." The point here is not about privacy and security, but about the arbitrary determination of what is newsworthy. Does the White House action rise to the level of censorship?
By the way, a breakdown of the spring-break trip costs follow:
- Airfare: $47,767.34
- Lodging: $21,682.92
- Ground transportation: $23,964.81
- Vouchers (not itemized): $21,636.14
- Support charges: $449.66
Were any of these costs reimbursed, and I just missed it?
And here are some other vacation costs incurred:
- Michelle Obama's February 2012 President's Day weekend ski vacation to Aspen, CO, with her two daughters, cost "only" $48,950.38. That's just for Secret Service-agent expenses. We got off light on that one.
- Michelle Obama, her family and her staff, flew to South Africa and Botswana, costing us taxpayers "only" $424,142 for the flight and crew alone. Other expenses, such as off-flight food, ground transportation, and security, were not included. We will never know if we got off light on that one.
- Michelle Obama's August 2010 vacation to Spain cost "only" $467,585.
- And while we're at it, let's not forget those vacations to Martha's Vineyard and Hawaii, all at taxpayer expense.
Sending Malia on a spring-break trip is well and good. But (and there's, in Obama's case, always a "but"), sending her on the trip at taxpayer expense while ignoring a safety warning is not so well and good, especially with the present (and recent past) economic conditions. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, "In these economic times, with huge public debt and high unemployment, spending $115,000 in taxpayer funds on a Spring-Break trip to Mexico is inappropriate. Is this what Americans are being asked to pay higher taxes for?"
True, these "vacation" costs are inconsequential when the entire US budget is considered, particularly when entitlements are considered. But, again, that is not the point. Obama is free to send himself, his wife, and his daughters anywhere he pleases. The "rub" comes in when he repeatedly takes rather lavish vacations at taxpayer expense. Many will say that George W. Bush took vacations. That is true, but that's like comparing apples to oranges. Bush took vacations to his ranch near Crawford, TX, and Kennebunkport, ME, so entire hotels did not have to be rented. And, he never (that I can find) defied a safety warning, tried to define what is "newsworthy," or had Internet sites censor and/or eliminate stories. And, never did Bush's family leave separately on vacation (at taxpayer expense), nor did he leave his family on vacation while he returned to Washington D.C. (again, at taxpayer expense). No one is quibbling about Obama (and his family) taking vacations, even at taxpayer expense. But Obama's actions have been a little ... excessive. After all, appearance is everything, as we learned on November 6, 2012.
And, here is another point. Is there any way the MSM can somehow "spin" (cast) this spring-break trip as a "diplomatic" mission, as they have previous vacations by the Obama family?
But that's just my opinion.