Blaming Obama for the night on Broadway?

posted at 11:00 am on May 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Date Night at the Morrissey residence tends towards the modest.  When the First Mate and I go out on the town, we usually have a quiet dinner and a movie in the local suburbs.  Occasionally, we’ll go into the city to see a show and try a more expensive restaurant as a treat, but when we do, we usually just drive ourselves and don’t take three Gulfstream jets to go there.  Our nation’s First Couple have a different style:

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama landed in New York Saturday afternoon, and after taking a helicopter from JFK into Manhattan, drove up the West Side Highway, where the northbound lanes were shut down by police for their visit, past Ground Zero, into the Village for dinner at the Village’s Blue Hill restaurant. From there, they went north to Times Square, where they went to to see a production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at the Belasco Theater on West 44 Street.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest read a statement from Obama: “I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished.”

Asked about the cost of the trip, which Republicans have criticized as indulgent, coming just ahead of the expected announcement of GM’s bankruptcy filing on Monday, Josh Earnest told pool reporter Dave Michaels of the Dallas Morning News, that he “didn’t anticipate being able to provide a cost estimate tonight.” …

The president traveled in a smaller, Gulfstream-type plane rather than the larger planes typically used as Air Force One. Two other planes carried staff and reporters.

Sounds like a great night out on the town, Mr. President.  Glad we could pick up the tab for it. I guess the FM and I will have to skip a few Date Nights for ourselves to pay for all of that.

Presidents do go on vacation, of course, to get away from the pressures of the Beltway.  They go out for nights on the town, too.  Jazz Shaw, calling this Date Night a “dim move,” reminds us that Bush liked to move DC west every August:

If you didn’t complain – and do so loudly and often – about President Bush shattering all previous records for presidential vacation time in the midst of two wars that he began and various other crises, you should know how you look if you complain now. All those trips to Crawford and other destinations were on the public dime, involving Air Force One, staffers, supporting crew, etc. And they cost a fortune. If you take to the streets in manufactured outrage over this evening out, you are hypocrites, and there’s really no other way to put it.

Now, for the rest of our friends, if you were critical of President Bush for his vacationing ways, will you really just shrug your shoulders and say this is “no big deal” since it’s Obama going out on the town? The trip still involved three Gulfstream Jets, a large staff and press corps following, blocking off traffic for hours across several blocks in Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon and evening and a total taxpayer bill which the White House couldn’t even estimate for us. And it took place not only in the midst of two hot wars, but on the eve of GM likely going bankrupt and a rising unemployment rate where millions of Americans are wondering if they’ll be able to afford all their groceries next month. Could the optics of this Broadway fiasco possibly be any worse?

Why use Gulfstream planes at all?  Why not just use Air Force One, which would likely have kept at least one of the other planes on the ground, instead?  Perhaps the White House wanted to emphasize the non-official nature of the visit; I suspect they didn’t want AF1 to return to New York City’s skies so soon after the Scare Force One fiasco.  However, AF1 is built to keep the President in close touch with the government in times of crisis.  It exists for precisely that reason, and is meticulously maintained to ensure the safest possible flight.

But the real foolishness was the Gulfstream and helicopters for the media.  Are we to believe that the national news media has no reporters in New York City?  The BIg Apple isn’t exactly the Badlands of the Dakotas, or the remote peaks of the Rockies, in terms of media saturation.  It looks like Obama wanted to make this a media event and didn’t mind using three planeloads of taxpayer money to stage it.

And can anyone calculate the carbon footprint of three Gulfstream jets, three helicopters, and all the stalled traffic in New York City?  I’d say that it reaches Goracle-like levels.

As Gail Gitcho of the RNC asked, why not take Michelle out for a night at the Kennedy Center instead, where the President has a reserved seat and only needs to travel across DC?  I know he promised her a Broadway play, but I’m pretty sure he’d still have her vote in 2012.

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