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.
“The idea of an individual mandate to control health care costs, however, is not new. It goes back to 1989 and a man named Mark Pauly. An expert on health care policy, Pauly was part of a group of academics brought to the White House by President George H.W. Bush.
The group’s task was to fix health care; its solution was to let the marketplace solve it and create an individual mandate. Pauly tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that, at the time, many Republicans, including the president, loved the idea.”
The article goes on to say how when it was first introduced, Democrats in Congress declared the idea DOA. So what has changed now? Only the person who put the idea forward. In this case, in an effort to prove that he was open to all kinds of solutions to the problem of health care, Obama reached out and incorporated this originally Republican idea. For Republicans, agreeing with Obama about anything is anathema to their base, so immediately they had to be against it in the same way that Democrats opposed the idea in the 90′s—it didn’t come from their team, so it had to be bad.
This is one of many problems in American politics. Politicians are more interested in playing team games than helping the American people. Governing should be very simple: either it’s a good idea or it’s not, and you vote that way. But that’s not how it works (I’m not sure it ever has), and the current behavior and hyper-partisanship of our politicians, all of them, is contributing to the divide in this country’s citizenry.
When the citizens are so divided, the majority in each area have been electing more and more heavily partisan politicians. This is true much more of Republicans than of Democrats. There are no versions of “Tea Party” candidates on the left. The Tea Party has guaranteed that in districts and states with Republican majorities, the people there are voting for more and more conservative candidates. They no longer vote for moderates, and it’s represented very well by the low opinion of and enthusiasm for a moderate like Romney (who’s trying his best to say he’s not a moderate). And when those highly conservative Republicans get into power, “compromise” becomes a dirty word. Nothing gets done. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Mike Pence all went on the record in 2010 to declare that there would be “no compromise” with the President, and they’ve stuck to their word.
The result? Gridlock and partisan demagoguery that sees senators voluntarily leaving their jobs because the environment has become so hostile (see: Olympia Snowe and Evan Bayh). The loser? As always, the American poor.