In recent days, right-wing commentators have launched a series of attacks on First Lady Michelle Obama for going on vacation in Spain with her daughter Sasha and a small number of family friends. Some of the most vicious attacks:
– New York Daily News columnist Andrea Tantaros wrote that the “material girl” Michelle Obama is a “modern-day Marie Antoinette,” and that the Obamas “seem to fancy themselves more along the lines of international celebrities than actual leaders.”
— CNN’s Erick Erickson also wondered “How long before the Marie Antoinette comparisons start?”
— American Thinker’s Ralph Alter claimed that the “pampered” Michelle Obama has taken “maximum advantage” of her “unlimited expense account as first lady.”
— In a post titled “Michelle Obama Kicks It Euro-Style,” the blog Newsbusters called Michelle a “petty, selfish woman.”
— Mickey Kaus even speculated the trip could be the result of trouble in the Obama’s marriage.
Most of the attacks are based on the premise that the First Lady’s trip is costing American taxpayers money. Glenn Bleck told listeners that the trip “is costing you $75,000 a day,” and Tarantos claimed that Michelle Obama was bringing along “40 of her ‘closest friends.'”
Because the right wing has propagated so much misinformation about the size and cost of the First Lady’s trip, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet published an article setting the record straight today. First, Michelle Obama brought only Sasha (Malia is at summer camp) along with two close friends, each of whom also brought their daughters. Second, the entire group paid for their own lodging and personal expenses. The New York Times reported that Michelle even reimbursed the government for the equivalent of two first-class commercial tickets for the flight on Air Force Two. (Her friends flew separately, on commercial flights). Finally, most of the rooms booked at her hotel in Spain belonged to Secret Service agents, and as Sweet wrote, “No matter where she goes — domestic or international — any first lady gets protection and she does not decide how many agents are needed.”
These right-wing commentators were curiously silent when the Bush family took vacations. The New York Times noted that Laura Bush took a vacation every year of her husband’s presidency, with Secret Service agents and a government plane. Also, Media Matters calculated the cost of President Bush’s frequent trips to his ranch in Crawford, TX, Camp David, and the family compound in Kennebunkport — he took more vacation time than any president — and put the tab at $20 million for air travel only.
These facts have not stopped the right-wing commentators from going into overdrive on this story, however. Perhaps they need a vacation.