When a president runs a tab
Taking a vacation from the White House is complicated and very, very expensive
Only the fiercest partisan churl begrudges the president, any president, a few days out of the Oval Office. Everybody looks forward to a summer vacation, and presidents have the same wants and wishes their constituents do.
Only this same churl would expect President Obama and his family to spend their Christmas holidays at Disneyland, shoot miniature golf and sup at Cracker Barrel, but the Obamas have really put on the dog over the eight years of the Obama era. Our Dave Boyer reports in The Washington Times that their getaways have cost $35 million, give or take, over these years.
No modern president can take a vacation on the cheap, or even on a tab that would be familiar to anyone else. He takes with him an enormous tail of attending people and paraphernalia, Secret Service agents, military aides and other government employes to guarantee their safety and comfort. The president takes the White House with him.
It wasn’t always this way. Abraham Lincoln retired to rooms at an old soldiers’ home in what was then suburban Washington. Grover Cleveland had a summer home in a suburb that was named for him and is now not very far from downtown Washington. Woodrow Wilson rented a palatial house overlooking the Gulf of Mexico on the Mississippi coast, and Franklin D. Roosevelt spent trysts, not with Eleanor but with his mistress, in Georgia. Straight arrow Harry Truman and Bess vacationed at a Navy base in Key West, Fla., and Dwight Eisenhower often retired to his farm near the iconic battlefield at Gettysburg. John F. Kennedy had a family compound in Florida. Bill Clinton employed a pollster to find out where his constituents thought he should vacation and alternated between Martha’s Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. George H.W. Bush relaxed by speeding through the Atlantic surf in his cigarette boat near the Bush compound in Maine.
But the Obamas have no established vacation digs of their own, and must resort to renting. But renting is not, not to put too fine a point on it, all bad. This year they’re renting an ocean-front house in the town of Kailua, on the northeast corner of the Hawaii island of Oahu, where houses in the neighborhood typically fetch $10 million if you’re buying, and up to $10,000 a night if you’re renting.
The president’s itinerary on one day last week, as described by Mr. Boyer in these pages, was typical, a workout in the gym at a nearby Marine Corps base, followed by a motorcade to Bellows Beach, described by an accompanying White House pool reporter as “a wide strip of mature pines edging up to a white-sand beach. The water offers four distinct shades of aquamarine going out to what appears to be a reef, where white breakers form a boundary with a sapphire blue Pacific beyond.”
Such luxurious bed and breakfast is paid for by the Obamas. Everything else is on the taxpayer. Judicial Watch reviewed government records which revealed that the Secret Service spent $1.2 million on travel costs for the Obamas’ idyl in Hawaii last year, including $671,000 for hotel accommodations and $165,000 for 103 rental cars.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, thinks presidents abuse the Secret Service and the Air Force. “Unnecessary presidential travel for fundraising and vacations on the taxpayer dime would be a good target for reform by the Trump administration.”
Keeping a president is expensive. Perhaps the Donald could vacation at one of his own resorts next year. He might even get a presidential discount.