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On Friday, in yet another report tagged with the word “unexpected,” economic growth in the United States slowed to a 2.2 percent annual rate, well below economists’ predictions of 2.5 percent. This anemic trend represents part of the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Most Americans understand that such a reality requires a certain amount of belt-tightening on their part. President Obama and the First Family? Not so much. A series of upscale vacations, substantial portions of which are underwritten by taxpayers, continue to be an integral part of the Obamas’ lifestyle.
Few reasonable Americans begrudge “down time” for the president or his family. Yet at a time when the word “staycation” has become an increasingly familiar part of the American lexicon, one might think a president who both vilifies the rich and reminds Americans that he wasn’t born ”with a silver spoon in my mouth” might be a bit more sensitive to the kind of vacations taken by the president and his family.
In a rather odd way, he is. When the president’s 13-year-old daughter, Malia, took a Spring Break trip to Mexico with 12 of her friends and 25 Secret Service agents–one that reportedly cost taxpayers $2.5 million–it was covered by the mainstream media. AFP filed the initial report, and the story was subsequently picked up by Yahoo, the Huffington Post, and the International Business Times, as well as foreign publications, such as Daily Mail, the Telegraph and The Australian.
Yet by the same evening, all of the stories had been removed from each of those sites. The updated links either directed one to a site’s home page or 404 error pages, reading “page not found.” What happened? The White House got a compliant media to scrub the story. Kristina Schake, Communications Director to the First Lady, confirmed this to Politico: “From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.”
Again, such concerns for the safety of First Family members are entirely legitimate. Yet some questions remain unanswered. Why would the president allow his daughter to travel to Mexico despite a Texas Department of Public Safety warning not to go there because “cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas”? Why was it necessary to include a dozen friends, making the trip more expensive and security far more complicated? Why are members of the mainstream media taking marching orders from the White House? Why did the trip cost taxpayers $2.5 million?
Perhaps, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Last week, Judicial Watch released a report revealing that First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to Costa Del Sol, Spain in 2010 cost taxpayers $467,585. Again, no reasonable person begrudges a woman in the public spotlight some rest and relaxation. But as the New York Times reports, part of that R&R included a stay at the “five-star Hotel Villa Padierna near Marbella, where at least 30 rooms were reserved for the entourage, including those for security. The hotel is one of Spain’s more luxurious establishments, with rooms ranging from $500-a-night to a $6,600 suite with 24-hour butler service.”
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