WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush is using Air Force One for re-election travel more heavily than any predecessor, wringing maximum political mileage from a perk of office paid for by taxpayers.
While Democratic rival John Kerry digs into his campaign bank account to charter a plane to roam the country, Bush often travels at no cost to his campaign simply by declaring a trip “official” travel rather than “political.”
The 68,000 miles Bush has logged this year on Air Force One include five trips to Pennsylvania.
With rare exceptions, he confines his travels to the more than a dozen states he and Kerry are fighting hardest for, and to places where he is raising campaign money.
Even when the White House deems a trip as political, the cost to Bush’s campaign is minimal. In such instances, the campaign must only pay the government the equivalent of a comparable first-class fare for each political traveler on each leg, Federal Election Commission guidelines say.
Usually, that means paying a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for the president and a handful of aides. It’s a minuscule sum, compared to the $56,800-per-hour the Air Force estimates it costs to run Air Force One.
It is an advantage that Bush and other presidents before him have enjoyed. President Clinton frequently was criticized by Republicans for his record-setting use of Air Force One in the campaign season, and Bush is exceeding Clinton’s pace…
Is it wrong for presidents to do this? Yeah, I think it is. I think it’s a waste of taxpayer money, and I think Obama is wrong for doing it. Just because previous presidents have abused this power doesn’t mean Obama should.
But let’s not make this out to be something that only Obama has done. There’s a time-honored tradition of presidents wasting the taxpayer’s money in this way—Obama is just continuing it.