Sasha and Malia's trip to the Bahamas or Idaho or wherever they are is expensive, lavish, and depending on who you ask perhaps a bit wasteful—just like Bush daughters' trip to Argentina and the Carters, Fords, and Eisenhowers' trips to Europe, or any other First Family member moves with a full retinue of security.
But let's listen to Rep. Steve King's latest rant about why the Obama daughters' spring break trip is different, or at least outraging. You may remember King as the guy who sort of sided with Todd Akin, stating in August that he never heard of girls getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. King is not exactly a fiscal authority guru. The Republican Study Committee, which he is a part of, saw its proposed budget voted down by a vote of 104-132 this past week, with 118 fellow Republicans voting against it. Still, this was the tack King took while speaking on a local Iowa radio show Wednesday about Sasha and Malia's trip while other Americans are not (audio below):
You’re right on the president. He needs to show some austerity himself. Instead he wanted to tell America how bad it was going to be. […] We’ve got the president doing these things. He sent the daughters to spring break in Mexico a year ago. That was at our expense, too. And now to the Bahamas at one of the most expensive places there. That is the wrong image to be coming out of the White House.
King isn't stating the full truth. Sasha and Malia's spring break was not a White House photo-op. Indeed, the only media intent on covering it has been conservative outlets with an ax to grind, because most media organizations agree to not cover the private lives of Presidential children. The supposedly wasteful spending meme was kicked off by Breitbart.com, which had earlier reported the girls were in the Bahamas, but now points to a (now removed) Idaho TV report that said they claimed they were skiing. It doesn't really matter: either way, their point is that while the president's family is wastefully spending American money, real Americans can't tour the White House because of the sequester.
But here's how presidential vacations work: presidents pay for their vacations, taxpayers pay for security like Secret Service protection, just as they do if the President stays home at the White House. In 2009, the Obama family vacationed in Martha's Vineyard and rented a home that cost $35,000 a week which, according to NBC News, they paid for. This is the way it goes for President Obama, has gone for past presidents, and will go for every American president.
What the ire represents though, is proof that Michele Bachmann's factually-dishonest rant at CPAC about Obama's spending and Breitbart's irresponsible reporting has its fans in the conservative movement, even if Fox News host and well-paid guy Bill O'Reilly isn't one of them. King isn't putting those out. What he could say, is that presidential children traveling without their parents, or without one of their parents is a normal thing. As Doug Wead, a presidential historian and one-time assistant to George W. Bush, wrote for the conservative-leaning Newsmax in 2009:
As to children of the president traveling abroad? It is very common, one of the perks of power [...]
The Bush twins visited Europe during their father’s presidency, as did children of the Carters, Fords, Nixons, and Eisenhowers. I actually traveled with Neil Bush to Europe during his father’s presidency. And he was all over Asia. The Kennedy kids visited Europe with their mother during JFK’s presidency.
See, it's a perk—a perk that you get when your dad or mom becomes president. And if you look at the Bush twins' trip to Argentina in 2006, they stayed despite reports that the embassy suggested they leave early—ABC had reported the Embassy asked them to cut their vacation short, the embassy later denied the report. Either way, we had to for the Secret Service protection then too and will do for Obama's daughters, and any children of our future presidents.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.