Bad Optics


President Obama has been enjoying his holiday vacation in Hawaii, a fantastically expensive excursion that dragged staff and security personnel on a five-thousand-mile journey, at a cost the Hawaii Reporter figures to exceed $1.5 million.  Just to throw out a few of the diamond-studded line items, it cost $63,000 for Michelle Obama to fly out early, and the Secret Service needed to rent six beachfront houses at a cost of $1000 to $1200 per day, just for their agents and the Navy SEALs.  The President passed up excellent accommodations at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station to blow $3500 per day on a lush beachfront house that’s only a few minutes away.

Considering these numbers, the Washington Examiner adds in more expenses the Hawaii paper could not have calculated, including the cost of office space and car rentals for White House staff, and the cost of sending advance teams to evaluate security at the vacation site.

By way of comparison, George W. Bush and his wife spent their holidays at Camp David, a permanent presidential retreat close to Washington.  Before that, the Clintons and elder Bushes rarely left the White House for Christmas vacation.

Obama has also spent a lot of time on the golf course during his first two years – an astonishing 52 rounds of golf, by the count of Human Events’ Emily Miller. 

This is a bad case of what political observers like to call “bad optics.”  On the one hand, it would be unreasonable to deny any President vacation or leisure time, and such excursions are bound to cost a lot of money.  However, Obama is deliberately choosing opulence when the country is suffering through a terrible economy, made vastly worse by the policies he squeezes out between rounds of golf.  His Party endlessly lectures us on the need to make sacrifices on behalf of the government, and cough up more of our income, while the President ostentatiously cuts no corners when it comes to his own comfort. 

Hawaii is an especially irritating choice of vacation during a tough winter, when the big story of the holiday week is a monster blizzard.  Of course, the vacation was planned and undertaken long before the blizzard struck, but it wouldn’t be an issue at all if Obama had emulated the Bushes or Clintons and stayed in Washington, or perhaps gone to his nominal hometown of Chicago.  (Do people in Chicago bristle when he passes them up to hit the beach in Hawaii?  Or do they not blame anyone for taking a pass on a Chicago winter?)

It’s true that we can’t balance the budget just by cutting down on million-dollar presidential getaways… but we shouldn’t be letting politicians who rack up trillion-dollar deficits take posh vacations on our nickel.  I hear the White House is lovely this time of year.