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Just when President Obama is trying — properly — to get Congress to spend money to extend federal benefits for long-term unemployed Americans, his administration will be billing taxpayers for a Hawaiian birthday gift for his wife, Michelle. Talk about bad timing.
The President and his two daughters returned from the family’s two-week vacation in Hawaii on Sunday. But he invited the First Lady to stay there for an extra week as a gift in advance of her 50th birthday on Jan. 17.
That’s a generous present from one spouse to another, but the public should not have to cover the cost. Since Mrs. Obama will be returning home apart from her family, a separate military aircraft will be needed for the trip.
Some pundits are fuming about the high cost of flying a near-empty Air Force plane to Hawaii and back for her, but a plane already based there could be used. Either way, it’s bound to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that Mrs. Obama will travel back to Washington on a government aircraft. He said that “as with all personal travel, the First Family will appropriately fund personal expenses.”
That could best be done by booking Mrs. Obama and her security detail on a commercial flight and partitioning them off in a first-class compartment. It’s what the British royal family does. Other passengers would be none the wiser.
A husband’s birthday gift to his wife is a husband’s responsibility, even when he’s the President. Mr. Obama should reimburse the public for the full, true cost of Mrs. Obama’s extra week in Hawaii and her trip home. That would be considerably more than the expense of a first-class airline ticket.