Monday, August 12, 2013

Regardless of What They Say About It, We're Gonna Keep It

The Snopeses have never, as far as I can tell, seen a living President whose side they wouldn't take.  It's rather touching.  Today they took on a recurrent slur on President Obama: that the family dog Bo had been flown in his own personal jet to meet the Obamas when they arrived in Massachusetts for their vacation.  I think it's a safe bet that this rumor was fostered by Republicans, because in one version quoted by Snopes, the writer asks rhetorically "I wonder if that sets well with all the unemployed, hurting, U S citizens who can't afford food, but we can pay for this."  Republicans only care about the unemployed, hurting U S citizens when a Democrat is President, or when some other partisan advantage can be gained by pretending to care.  Democrats play the same game in reverse.

So, according to Snopes, Bo is sometimes shipped out on a separate plane, but they quote a newspaper report that he doesn't have the plane to himself, or even to himself and just one handler: "there were other occupants on the plane, including several other staffers.  The presidential party took two small jets to the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton because the airport was too small to accommodate the President's usual jet."

Fair enough, I guess.  This tale reminded me of a review the late John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in a review of A Time for Truth (McGraw-Hill 1978), by former energy "czar" and Secretary of the Treasury William Simon.  (The review was collected in Annals of an Abiding Liberal, published in 1979 by Houghton Mifflin.)  As if unwilling to let the book stand on its own two feet, so to speak, Simon got introductory essays written by two ultraconservative economists, Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek.   Galbraith reported that Simon wrote
of going to Moscow in April 1975 [that is, during the Republican Gerald Ford administration] for a worthy but modest public relations exercise on behalf of Soviet-American trade.  What he calls "a staff group from the departments of State and Commerce and others" were along.  It was a relief, he says, to be on the way home, and as they soared out of the Soviet capital on Air Force Two, "seventy-eight dignified representatives of the United States of America shouted and applauded like youngsters in sheer relief ..."  A more candid man would condemn taking seventy-eight people all that distance for such a job  That, in all truth, Mr. Simon, was bureaucracy run wild [Annals of an Abiding Liberal, 104-5].
The President is a different case than a "public relations exercise," of course.  He can't really travel without support staff.  I suppose the amount of tax money that goes to pay for those two small jets is infinitesimal compared to the full Federal Budget.  And Air Force One also goes with the job.  I doubt that Republicans really want to impose the same austerity measures on Republican Presidents that they'd happily impose on Democrats.  Or vice versa.  It's funny, really.