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Politics // Mostly Politics
Dan Boylan

Obama, Lincoln Travel Costs Draw Ire

President Barack Obama and his family spend their Christmas vacations in Hawaii. Why not? It’s warm, it’s sunny, and – the whackos’ rumors not withstanding – it’s home.

But Obama has taken a truckload of grief for every one of the five yuletides he’s spent in the Islands, including his most recent visit for Christmas 2013.

Outraged critics cite the cost to the overburdened taxpayer, in excess of $7.5 million. They mutter “shame, shame” for the bad example the Obamas set for countrymen still suffering from the Great Recession. They note with disdain Obama’s personal profligacy adding to the nation’s $16 trillion national debt.

I’ll admit even I, a credentialed Obama apologist, was taken aback by that $7 million-plus price tag. It costs more than $228,000 an hour just to fly Air Force One. That’s a first-class ticketing run amok.

Now believe me, apologist though I am, I’m no fan of people who figure out ways of getting other people to pay for their lavish trips. Mainly I’m no fan because I’ve never figured out how to do it myself.

Instead, green with envy, for more than 40 years I’ve watched my academic colleagues jet off across the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian – pick your ocean – to conferences on all manner of subjects, both obscure and sublime.

Me? Some, but little such luck.

So I look askance at a guy who figures out how to get me and my 11 regular readers, taxpayers all, to ante up for his super first-class tickets to paradise.

That said, Obama is commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military. He is the steward of the world’s largest economy. And everywhere he goes, even on vacation, a man follows him with a briefcase that carries keys to launching nuclear war.

For that he gets paid the paltry sum of $400,000 per annum. Pffffft. The Detroit Tigers have a first-baseman who makes $30 million a year.

Still, one day that obnoxious tea party congressman Darrell Issa may figure a way to haul Obama before his committee to explain his personal use of taxpayers’ dollars. But Issa would best beware. Obama is an Illinois lawyer and he might just invoke another Illinois lawyer as a precedent for his behavior. A fellow named Abraham Lincoln.

In 1846, Lincoln won a seat in the United States House of Representatives. With wife Mary and two young sons in tow, Lincoln traveled from his home in Springfield, Ill., to Lexington, Ky., to visit Mary’s family on the way to Washington.

“Lincoln’s chosen route was twice as long as necessary,” writes Amy Greenberg in her A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1946 U.S. Invasion of Mexico. “It included lengthy trips by river steamer down the Mississippi and then up the Ohio and Kentucky rivers to Frankfort, Kentucky, followed by a train to Lexington.”

After a three-week visit, the Lincolns “returned to Frankfort, went by steamer to Pennsylvania, caught a stagecoach to Cumberland, Maryland, and from there traveled by train first to Relay Station, Maryland, and then by the Baltimore and Ohio to Washington. Lincoln’s trip of 1,626 miles cost the taxpayers $1,300.80, approximately $30,000 today.

“Lincoln, like most congressmen, assumed he was entitled to inflated mileage to offset his low congressional salary. The wealthy didn’t have to worry about such things, of course, but for the common man, mileage was one of the great benefits of serving in Congress.”

So there, Obama and Lincoln, both with their hands in taxpayers’ pockets.

dbboylan@yahoo.com

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