Blaming the automatic budget cuts called sequestration, the administration has locked the doors to Americans planning to make a White House tour part of the Washington vacation this year.
But when it comes to an Obama family vacation, it's game on ... and spare no expense.
Last week's trip to Africa by the Obamas cost the American taxpayers an estimated $100 million. Most of us can't even comprehend a number that large. In 1998, Bill Clinton took heat for spending $42 million on a trip to Africa. Obama more than doubled that with last week's trip, which went ignored or under reported by most in the national media.
The costs of flying the president anywhere, let alone another continent, are staggering, given the number of Secret Service agents and staff members. For the latest African trip, military cargo planes had to transport 56 vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with bulletproof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the Obamas were staying.
Rep. George Holding of North Carolina is one elected official who, like millions of Americans, feel that Washington spending is out of control, and that includes the globe trotting Obamas. Last week from the floor of the House of Representatives, Holding stated that the Obama administration has repeatedly shown a lack of judgment when it comes down to budget cutting. He said for what it cost for Obama's trip to Africa, this nation could have 1,350 weeks of White House tours.
"The American people have had enough of the frivolous and careless spending," Holding said. "The numbers don't lie: either the administration is bad at math, or they simply don't see a problem with their excessive spending."
Obama's job approval numbers have taken a hard hit due to the scandals consuming his second term and administration officials have been in a damage control mode for the last three months. With the national debt speeding toward $17 trillion and state and local governments having to reduce their budgets and lay off workers, this hardly seems the time for $100 million Obama vacation.
But Obama's minions in the administration defended the African trip, stating that he is giving invaluable attention to a region that has been ignored. When asked for the cost figures of the trip, however, Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes could not provide an accurate accounting.
"We don't have the exact figure on costs," Rhodes answered when quizzed about the African trip. "Frankly we don't own or control those numbers."
We've seen this kind of reaction in the past from other administration officials - even the president himself - in attempting to skate around or sidestep a valid question. Typically, their memories are fuzzy, they have no recollection, blame someone else or promise they will get back to us with an answer. Their hope is that the press will tire of pursuing a controversial subject and it will simply fade away.
Rhodes told us that Obama's trip will give the U.S. "a great bang for our buck for being in Africa" since "it can have very long-standing and long-running impact from the visit."
So Africa receives a $100 million visit from King Obama while American school children or vacationing families who want to tour the White House get snubbed.
Something is wrong with this picture.
By Jim Zbick