by John W. Whitehead
"Remember during the campaign when John McCain attacked Obama for acting like a celebrity and we all laughed at the grumpy old shellshocked fool? Well, it turns out he was right."
--Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher"
President Obama seems to be having the time of his life, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, hosting star-studded parties at the White House and jetsetting to far-flung destinations. Unfortunately, the rest of America has yet to be invited to the party.
Fifteen million people and counting are currently out of jobs, banks are folding at a record rate, businesses are going under, homes are being foreclosed on, and the looming deficit is worrisome. All the while, our new president is having a ball at taxpayer expense.
For example, during his brief time in office, Obama has:
-- entertained NASCAR Sprint Car racers on the White House lawn and talked shop about racing with the drivers;
-- thrown the first pitch at an All-Star game in St. Louis, Missouri, and flown to Copenhagen in order to personally pitch Chicago as the site of the 2016 Olympics;
-- jetted to New York City for a date night on the town with his wife (on the eve of GM's bankruptcy filing, no less);
-- hosted a luau-themed congressional picnic complete with tiki torches and potted palms and thrown a fiesta, featuring Marc Anthony, Los Lobos, and Gloria Estefan, (part of the continuing White House Music Series concerts) apparently as part of Hispanic Heritage Month;
-- welcomed the Tar Heels, the Phillies, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bulls and NBA champions to the White House;
-- enjoyed numerous rounds of golf at Fort Belvoir and countless games of basketball on his personal court at the White House, not to mention the weekend trips to Camp David with family and friends and family vacations to the Grand Canyon and Martha's Vineyard;
-- flown to California to appear on the Jay Leno Show and to New York to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman (where he was presented with a heart-shaped potato);
-- visited more foreign countries than any president within the first year of office (Iraq, Turkey, Great Britain, France, Germany, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Italy, and Ghana); he also recently announced plans to visit Japan, China, Singapore, and South Korea in November;
-- attended almost 30 Democratic fundraisers in various parts of the country (contrast this with George W. Bush who attended six political fundraisers and Bill Clinton who attended five during their first nine months in office) and campaigned for various Democratic candidates, including Chris Dodd, John Corzine and Deval Patrick, among many others.
The White House provides no exact figures for the costs of presidential trips, yet consider this: the Pentagon estimates that it costs more than $100,000 per hour to operate Air Force One--and that's not even with Obama on board. As CNN reports, "Presidential travel requires much more spending. The president's armored limousine (and its double) must be transferred in advance to the designation, where Secret Service agents may have spent days making preparations. Numerous presidential, military and security aides go with the president, and they must be housed, fed and paid." Thus, these trips cost in the millions of dollars--again, we taxpayers are footing the bill.
This isn't to say that Obama is the only president who has ever enjoyed such lavish perks of the office at taxpayer expense. Ronald Reagan took frequent trips to his California ranch to chop wood and clear brush, while Bill Clinton traveled at taxpayer expense to a variety of glamorous vacation spots. However, it's time for a reality check.
What Americans need right now is a hard-working president, one who stays at his desk and does his job. We certainly don't need a president who's enjoying a jet-setting lifestyle at taxpayer expense--partying while wars rage around us, deficits soar and the economy crumbles. In fact, the money being spent on glitzy White House soirees and foreign travel would be far better spent on other much-needed programs to help the American people.
America is hurting on many fronts, but we're especially hurting for leaders who take their jobs seriously and recognize that we are grappling with critical issues. We need a president who understands the urgency of the situation and reflects that sobriety and represents all the people.
Barack Obama promised to be that kind of president. Thus far, however, he has fallen far short of his campaign promises. Instead, he is busy trying to stay in power, keep his party in power and add to his legacy, but that's not his job. His job as president is to get this country back on its feet economically and to represent all of the people--again, whether they be Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Party activists or people who watch the FOX News Network (a network he has been making war with).
Thus far, a large part of Obama's presidency has been taken with attending fundraisers for the Democratic Party. It's as if he's working for the Democratic Party instead of the American people. In fact, if he's going to raise money, he should be raising money for all the parties because he should be representing all the people.
However, the point is he shouldn't be raising money for any political parties or candidates. That's not his job. That's not what we elected him to do.
Mr. President, it's high time you represented us all and focus on getting this country back on its feet.