Today the President of the United States will be in North Carolina, but it’s not for some sort of domestic economic summit or an official meeting with the governor. He’s going there to campaign on the 2016 election trail, and he’ll be giving his friend Hillary Clinton a lift in Air Force One. This is rising the usual questions among quite a few people, including Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump. (CNN)
President Barack Obama will give Hillary Clinton a lift on Air Force One Tuesday when they fly to North Carolina for their first joint campaign appearance.
It’s a powerful symbol of the presidency that Obama appears happy to confer upon his preferred successor. Clinton’s presumptive Republican opponent, meanwhile, wants to know who’s paying.
“Why is President Obama allowed to use Air Force One on the campaign trail with Crooked Hillary?” Donald Trump tweeted Monday. “She is flying with him tomorrow. Who pays?”
Well, the “who pays” question is already a known issue. Since this isn’t an official White House business trip, but rather a specific campaign stop, the public doesn’t foot all of the bill. Clinton’s campaign will have to reimburse the taxpayers for a portion of the expenses, but it’s only a drop in the bucket. As the CNN report indicates, they will likely be billed at a rate comparable to booking passage on a private jet. That cost, however, will be minuscule compared to the actual expense of operating the President’s airplane, which clocks in at nearly a quarter million dollars per hour.
But that’s not the real issue here. The President is legally entitled to go out on the trail and stump for his party’s nominee no matter how much the public may grouse about it. And he can use Air Force One to do it because, hey… that’s how the POTUS rolls. But Hillary Clinton is not the President, the Secretary of State nor even a senator at the moment. She’s a private citizen just like Trump. And she gets a lot more out of this than just a luxury air ticket. She gets to arrive and be filmed getting off the presidential plane with all of the symbolism and messaging that entails. She shows up on the arm of the leader of the free world with the obvious public message that this is his successor. It’s a distinct media advantage which wouldn’t be afforded to the Republican no matter who the candidate was. I was doing some searching of the archives this morning and I can’t find any instances of John McCain riding to campaign stops with George W. Bush. (Perhaps it happened, but it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact if so.)
Rather than asking who is paying for this trip (which we already know), perhaps Donald Trump should be asking why Clinton gets to assume the trappings of the Oval Office before she’s even the official nominee? In the meantime, the Presidential arm twisting continues.