Michelle and Sasha’s excellent adventure

by Jim Longworth

Last week Michelle Obama and her youngest daughter returned from an overseas vacation, only to be greeted by harsh criticism from politicians, the public and the media. The official story is that the First Lady and little Sasha went on a simple mother/ daughter vacation. Then came the other official story. Michelle traveled to Spain to console a close friend who had just lost a parent. Either way, very few moms take their daughter to lunch with the king of Spain, or stay at the ritzy Villa Padierna, a plush hotel on the Mediterranean.

The five day excursion was lavish in every way, creating a bit of a PR problem for the White House, which was also having to deal with another incident. It was the same week that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put his foot in his mouth and went on a tirade about liberals who are critical of the president. This came in the midst of an offyear election in which Democrats need to shore up their base on the left if they have any chance of turning back widespread Tea Party momentum. And let’s not forget the president’s decision earlier this summer to stay in DC and kid around with the Duke basketball squad instead of traveling to the Gulf of Mexico to assess damage from the BP oil spill. All this led the media to question if the Obama family and the administration were out of touch with reality. Some Democrats are calling for Gibbs to be fired for his arrogance, but the bigger and more lasting problem from last week’s news cycle may be the fallout from Michelle’s globetrotting.

Defenders of the First Lady point out that she paid for her own hotel room, but that ignores the true obscenity of the trip. The Air Force jet which transported Michelle and Sasha cost taxpayers over $146,000. Then there were the 70 security people who had to be housed at a cost to us of over $95,000. Add to that approximately $100,000 in per diem reimbursements for the security detail, and suddenly the mother/daughter vacation turned into a monumental drain on federal resources, costing taxpayers nearly $400,000.

If In fact MIchelle needed to be wIth her grIev- Ing frIend, that’s fIne, but she should have pared down the entourage, used her own Money to pay for the expenses and stayed clear of any rItzy hotels, eaterIes or shops

This comes at a time when official national unemployment figures hover around 10 percent, and that rises to nearly 15 percent if you take into account people who have stopped looking for jobs that don’t exist, and those whose benefits have run out. But no matter how you figure it, people in this country are suffering, and many of those who have lost their jobs have also lost their homes. Meanwhile, most of the rest of us struggle every month to pay the rent, put food on our tables and hope we can afford to pay for health insurance. So the last thing we want to read about is that the First Lady and the Second Daughter have just cost us a fortune for a showy week of fun.

If in fact Michelle needed to be with her grieving friend, that’s fine, but she should have pared down the entourage, used her own money to pay for the expenses and stayed clear of any ritzy hotels, eateries or shops. That way she wouldn’t have wasted tax dollars or appeared extravagant while the rest of us are suffering through a recession.

Of course, all of the criticism and speculation would be moot if the First Lady were on official government business, so guess what the White House revealed upon her return to our shore? We are now being told that while she was in Spain, Michelle made phone calls to four senators back home to check on the progress of child nutrition legislation which, if passed, would target her pet cause, obesity. Unfortunately, making a few long-distance phone calls does not a state visit make.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus believes Michelle’s actions were not meant as a slap in the face to us peons. Said Marcus, “It was not a ‘let them eat cake’ moment.” But she also wrote that the trip was not “politically smart.”

It is ironic that for a woman who is crusading to end obesity, Michelle Obama certainly knows how to live off the fat of the land.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).