In her most recent column, frequent Fox News bloviator Andrea Tantaros treated us to a tedious (and largely cribbed) criticism of Michelle Obama's vacation. Between randomly flinging around insults like "modern-day Marie Antoinette" and scathingly attacking Obama for taking a "glitzy" and "posh" vacation during a recession, Tantaros finally gets around to telling us her real beef: "Transporting and housing the estimated 70 Secret Service agents who will flank the material girl will cost the taxpayers a pretty penny."
Instead, Tantaros decides the Obamas should look to their predecessor for guidance on appropriate vacations:
For a couple that has sharply criticized former President George W. Bush so widely, they could stand to follow his example for once and select a more low-key locale, as Bush regularly did in his Texas vacations.
Yes. Tantaros actually suggested that, to save money, the Obama's should look to Bush's supposedly less "posh" vacations, and "follow his example." Let's take a look at that suggestion in more detail.
Aside from Camp David, President Bush's two favorite vacation retreats were: the Crawford, Texas ranch he bought just before coming president in order to look like a regular guy, and his father's Kennebunkport, Maine compound. Bush's Crawford ranch -- a sprawling, 1,583 acre riverfront property Bush reportedly purchased for $1.2 million, on which he built a 4,000-square-foot main house, a guest house, next to the already-existing "Governor's house" -- certainly qualifies a "posh" in my book. And I would challenge anyone to refer to Bush the elder's estate, which reportedly was built for his grandfather George Walker in 1903, and boasts nine bedrooms, four sitting rooms, a pool, tennis court, dock, boathouse, and a guesthouse -- and is reportedly worth $8 million -- as "low-key."
But getting back to her suggestion that following Bush's example would save taxpayer money. President Bush took 149 trips to Camp David, 77 visits to his Crawford ranch, and 11 trips to his father's Kennebunkport mansion. Since Air Force One reportedly cost $56,800 per hour to operate in 2004 (which Bush used to get to Crawford), and the plane can travel up to 630 miles per hour, it cost at least $259,657 to get the 2,880 miles to Crawford and back, each time Bush went, or roughly $20 million dollars just for taking the plane on the Crawford trips alone. Add in the cost of putting up Secret Service and other staff for the ranch trips, as well as the Kennebunkport and Camp David trips, and you get, well, a lot.
Probably not the best model for the Obamas to follow, if the goal is saving taxpayer money. Hopefully the Obamas will treat Tantaros' helpful suggestion with all the seriousness it deserves.
- Andrea Tantaros