The safety of the first family shouldn’t be a political football.
That was my argument four years ago, facing conservative criticisms about the high cost of keeping the Obamas safe. At the time, my article received liberal praise.
Today, with a less media-popular President in the White House, the media narrative has shifted. Each week, we get a new report about why the Trump’s kids are too expensive to protect. The hypocrisy is self-evident. But it’s also pathetic for another reason. That’s because, at this very moment, President Obama is racking up his own major taxpayer bills. But instead of criticism, Obama is receiving media adoration. The discrepancies are glaring.
Last month, lamenting the costs of protecting Trump’s children, the Huffington Post offered a not-so-subtle opinion. “The idea,” said a HuffPost reporter, “of taxpayers footing higher bills to protect the wealthy Trumps may not sit well with critics of the harsh federal budget the president released last week. Trump’s plan proposes eliminating a number of antipoverty programs.”
The reporter’s Oliver Twist-like implication: protecting Trump’s kids keeps poor kids hungry. But that’s only the first side of the coin. Consider another Huffington Post story from this morning. It concerns former President Obama’s latest vacation off the coast of Mo’orea, French Polynesia. More specifically, his getaway on billionaire David Geffen’s massive (and very eco-friendly) yacht. Obama isn’t alone. Others in attendance include Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Oprah, and Mrs. Obama. Regardless, the Huffington Post’s tone here is a little different:
“The star-studded sail marks yet another envy-inducing aspect of Barack and Michelle Obama’s lives over the past month. Since January, they both hung out in Palm Springs and joined Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands; he then holed up in an exclusive private island once owned by Marlon Brando, and she eventually joined him for some tropical paddle boarding.”
But it’s going to be a very expensive trip for U.S. taxpayers. After all, I sincerely doubt Barack and Michelle’s Secret Service details (they each have their own) are staying on Geffen’s yacht. Excluding crew quarters, the yacht probably has 7-10 guest cabins. Those will be taken by Bruce, Tom, Oprah, Barack, and Michelle, etc. And that means the Secret Service are almost certainly staying on Mo’orea.
Still, as even a cursory search of Mo’orea hotels will attest, the island doesn’t come cheap. Confidently assuming that the Obamas have at least 15 agents each per detail (shift rotations included, it’s probably 30+), that’s a lot of taxpayer money for food, lodging, and logistics. On that latter point, logistics, it’s important to remember the Secret Service never travels alone. The world’s finest protective force, its agents and officers prepare meticulously for any protectee trip. They will have brought doctors and medical supplies, boats (perhaps specially deployed coast guard vessels) to guard the yacht, and likely also an evacuation plane (Mo’orea is isolated, so they will have staged capabilities to rapidly evacuate the Obamas). These are just the bare minimums for a protective mission of the Obamas level. And they are not cheap.
Of course, Obama is a liberal President hanging with cool celebrities, so the media doesn’t judge. Trump’s kids? They deserve only scorn. Remember, they keep poor kids hungry.
It’s hard to emphasize the pathetic quality of this divergent reporting. Let’s be clear. We should have no problem with Obama taking an expensive trip to the middle of the Pacific. He’s a former President, but he’s also a private citizen. His former office means a mix of wackos, terrorists, and hateful individuals wish to harm him. He thus requires protection, and so does his wife. The Trump family receives protection for the same reason. Like their parents in office, a President’s kids are at risk of assassination, but also kidnapping. As I once noted about the costs of protecting the Obama daughters, “we must remember that when we hear stories of expensive vacations, we’re not gaining insight to a couple of profligate prima donnas, we’re just ensuring that this vacation doesn’t end with an al-Qaida video.” This is deadly serious stuff.
Again, it remains no less true now that Trump’s kids are in power. And just as Barack and Michelle Obama will deserve protection wherever they decide to go next, so will Barron, Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Tiffany.
It’s that simple.