By Bradley Blakeman
Just this past week, while appearing before an audience of automobile workers, President Obama said, again, that our nation continues to suffer through a recession not seen since the Great Depression.
The national unemployment rate still hovers at 9.5%, while our outstanding public debt as of August 7 at 11:30 p.m. is $13,319,405,507,272.33.
That's in trillions by the way.
Just a few months ago, the president, while sitting with local business owners in Florida during a visit to the state, urged Americans to come to the Gulf coast for their summer vacations. He stated how important it was that Americans support their fellow citizens at a time of crisis.
Well. Those words have fallen on deaf ears when you look at the actions of the president and our first lady.
When the president and first lady decided to take their family on their first summer vacation did they visit the Gulf? No. They visited Bar Harbor, Maine in July. I guess the Obamas thought it was better to cruise the pristine waters of Frenchman's Bay than the oil slicked waters in the Gulf.
If that was not insensitive enough, for the family's second summer vacation, First Lady Michelle decided to leave the country all together and trek through the countryside of Spain. The first lady left the president to blow out his own birthday candles and traveled to Spain with one of her daughters and some friends this past week.
It is being reported that Mrs. Obama's "personal visit" to Spain is costing U.S. taxpayers $85,000 a day.
The first lady flew to Spain on board a U.S. Air Force Special Missions 757 presidential aircraft.
In addition to that airplane, I can tell you from personal experience that there is also a back-up aircraft nearby and there must have been U.S. Air Force planes dedicated to transporting the limos and Secret Service vehicles for the first lady and her daughter as well as White House Communications personnel and equipment.
The unseen costs of moving around the first lady are staggering. The number of Secret Service working 3, 8 hour shifts, U.S. embassy personnel, military and White House staff is huge and costly. All these people need to be transported, fed and given per diem stipends for the time they are abroad. Advance teams travel at least week in advance of Mrs. Obama's arrival and stay throughout her stay. Many stay a few days after she departs to break down equipment.
The White House announced this past week that after Mrs. Obama returns from Spain the family in late August would vacation for 10 days on Martha's Vineyard -- a favorite haunt of the rich and famous Democrats like the Clintons. They are also expected to make a brief trip to the Gulf between vacations.
Presidents and their families are certainly entitled to time off and to experience a "family vacation." However, the president and first lady are role models and leaders. They must practice what they preach and lead by example.
At a time of deep recession, when millions of Americans are out of work and cannot find jobs and at a time when we are facing record deficits and economic uncertainty our leaders should not be traveling lavishly and to places that do not match their public statements.
Many American families have been forced to forego vacations this year all together. The fact that they are employed is a blessing. Even those families lucky enough to have work are still victims of the recession. High energy costs coupled with economic uncertainty have forced many to tighten their belts and ride out the storm.
The fact that the president and first lady chose NOT to vacation FIRST and modestly in the Gulf States shows a lack of leadership, judgment, compassion and common sense. By Labor Day weekend, the Obamas will have taken some 6 separate vacations.
It is disgraceful that our president and first lady are so out of touch with the plight of the average American. This "let them eat cake" attitude will come back to haunt them.
The people are going to seek their revenge at the ballot box and heads will roll.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University.