Archive for August, 2010

I always wondered how United States President Barack Obama and his family get time to go on vacations. In India, our leaders hardly get time for their personal affairs during power to go on such vacations and here is a family which makes time to have their own time!

As expected, I stumbled on a report which compared Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States, to Marie Antoinette.

Yes, I remember learning about Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and Queen of France in my History classes. How can anyone forget her? Every student who has gone through History pages despise her, or teachers make them to despise her, for a simple reason that she uttered the most insensitive remark after hearing peasants’ complaints that there wasn’t enough bread to go around. Maybe she would have not remembered today if she had not said “Let them eat cake”!

And today, Andrea Tantaros has penned a scorching editorial for the New York  Daily News pointing a finger at the First Lady’s luxurious vacation with daughter  and friends, and compared her to a “modern-day Marie Antoinette”.

Michelle will spend the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her ‘closest friends’. They will occupy 60 to 70 rooms in the hotel.

Tantaros criticized the First Lady for travelling abroad instead of within the United States, something that would help the U.S. economy. “Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette – the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight, than an average mother of two,” she wrote.

“… I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime — the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders,” she added.

On the other hand, the White House said that Michelle Obama is travelling with minimal staff and a small group of family friends for a mother daughter trip.

And the important thing to note here is this is not the first time that Michelle has been criticized and compared to Marie Antoinette. On May 20, Glenn Beck remarked on his radio show that a state dinner at the White House in honour of Mexican President Felipe Calderòn made him “feel like I am watching King Louis and Marie Antoinette.” Beck said “we could be much more frugal” and that “there’s no need for all of this extravagance.” Beck then asked, “How are these people treated as the common man? This isn’t the common man.”

Beck’s criticism didn’t stop just at this. He continued his attack on his show on  July 14. He highlighted the outfit of Michelle on her visit to the Gulf Coast. He  even claimed he’d “never been more embarrassed for the First Lady” and said, “this is the biggest outrage I think I’ve ever seen from a First Lady.” Beck said Obama was wearing “a white designer dress with black splotches — splotches — all over it.” Beck then suggested “if that doesn’t look like Marie Antoinette saying ‘oh you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to relate to the problem. I’m going to have a designer dress that’s all white but looks like it has oil spots all over it. Let them eat cake. I’m just like you, oh peasants!’”

Now it was time for me to check out some other small, but significant facts on how did she reach the place, which flight, how much did it cost, etc etc. Then, I saw the report of CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who said the C-32A (757), Michelle used to fly to Spain is one of the planes that usually serves as Air Force Two, and sometimes Air Force One and operates at a Department of Defense reimbursement rate of $11,351 per hour. So a 6.5 hour-flight to Spain costs $73,781.50, double for the round trip!

According to policy, official trips by the first family are paid by the government, but all personal elements are paid personally. Since the White House has termed it as a private trip, maybe be it seems to suggest that the Obamas are personally paying all the costs associated with the vacation.

But still, there is some confusion here, as the Secret Service is supposed to protect the First Family and the cost to taxpayers would presumably go up during their travel! So, I wonder if the Obamas are living very large at the taxpayer’s expense without even giving it a second thought?!