Michelle and Sasha Obama arrived back from their trip to Spain yesterday afternoon, and the whole trip has turned into a media circus. A columnist from The New York Daily News called Michelle the “modern-day Marie Antoinette” for going on a “glitzy Spanish vacation” while the country is in a recession. A Washington Times editor seconded that emotion, saying, “Obamas live the high life while America suffers.” And Rush Limbaugh made the truly bizarre accusation that the media was ignoring the lavish trip as reparations for “our slave past.”
So what’s the deal?According to initial reports, Michelle and Sasha Obama went on a trip to Spain with 40 of their friends. The group, along with an estimated 70 secret service agents, stayed at the Hotel Villa Padierna, considered one of the 10 best hotels in the world, with rooms ranging from a few hundred a night up to $2500. Reports said that the group, along with staff and secret service, was taking up 60 to 70 rooms in the hotel. They also required the closing of a public beach. And Michelle and Sasha flew to the getaway on Air Force Two. The outrage stems from the notion that this had all been on the dime of the American people.
But subsequent reports have found that a lot of this info just isn’t true. Apparently, the 40 guests tally is greatly exaggerated—the Obamas were with two friends and four of their daughters, along with staff and secret service. Which means the 70 rooms thing is probably way off base. Furthermore, the Obamas paid for their own room and board, as did all of their guests. And while Michelle and Sasha did travel on Air Force Two, they are reimbursing the government for the cost of two first class tickets. All their guests met them in Spain, making their own travel arrangements.
It is true that the government did cover the cost for the Obamas’ security detail. Which is a lot. But then again, the government has done that for every first family in modern history. And the government still would have provided security had Michelle and Sasha chosen to go to a U.S. destination, as many of the critical articles demanded. And do we really think members of the first family should stay at the Best Western? Of course they’re going to stay at the nicest hotels with the best security systems.