Something Rotten in the State
With the number of Secret Service members and agents caught up in the partying-with-prostitutes scandal in Cartagena now at a dozen, and six already gone, how much wider and deeper does this go?
No one can take pleasure in seeing Secret Service agents—whose deserved reputation is that they will "take a bullet" for the president, his family and all whom they protect—shamed and disgraced.
Yet one would have to be naive to believe this was some isolated incident. No sooner was the first day's work done in Cartagena than 20 hookers were trooping into the hotel rooms of SS agents, supervisors and members of the military advance team.
And Sen. Charles Grassley asks a relevant question.
As the Secret Service travel and work in close contact with the White House Advance Office and White House Communications Agency, was the Obama staff oblivious to this misconduct? If they were aware of it, did no one report it to the White House chief of staff?
Hostile intelligence services often use "honey traps" to ensnare U.S. diplomats and journalists. Thus this hookers-and-agents scandal is no laughing matter.
And it hit just as we learned that the General Services Administration, purchasing agent for the U.S. government, shelled out $823,000 on a party for 300 employees at a casino-spa in Las Vegas, where the hired entertainment included a mind reader, a clown and a $75,000 bicycle-building exercise.
Jeff Neeley, the GSA western regional commissioner, invoked the Fifth Amendment rather than testify to Congress about what is now being investigated as criminal misconduct.
President Obama's appointee to head GSA, Martha Johnson, has resigned.
Infinitely larger in terms of the tax dollars looted or lost is the Solyndra scandal, where a green technology company favored by the White House went belly up after receiving an endorsement visit from Obama and an astonishing half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees.
These events all point to a culture of entitlement born of a belief that now that the Democratic Party, the Party of Government, is again running the government, we can "let the good times roll" once more.
And so we see President Obama for six months literally campaigning on the public dime. Not a day seems to pass that he is not helicoptering off the White House lawn on Marine One to Andrews Air Force Base to board Air Force One to fly to some swing state, while his staff finds an official cover event so the White House can charge most of the trip to taxpayers.
Has any other president spent so many days campaigning, half a year and a year before the traditional Labor Day start of the election season, or used tax dollars so flagrantly to buy re-election?
The sense of entitlement appears to extend to the Obama family.
In 2010, at the bottom of the Great Recession, Michelle Obama, accompanied by daughter Sasha and friends, took Air force Two to Spain for a lavish vacation. The first lady paid for her stay at a five-star hotel in Marbella, but the cost of flying her there and moving her about, with scores of Secret Service agents, had to run into the millions.
And the trip came at a time when President Obama was instructing the nation on the need to sacrifice and the number of Americans on food stamps was setting a new record every month.
How many so-called "1 percenters" project a lifestyle as lavish?
Last December, flying out of the District of Columbia in separate planes, the first couple took a two-week Christmas vacation at a resort in Hawaii, the taxpayers' cost of which has been estimated at $4 million. Winters in Hawaii, summers in the Vineyard, and with it all subsidized by taxpayers?
What kind of example is this? Where is the spirit of sacrifice here?
Is this the same president who talks about having inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s?
Lately, we learned that Leon Panetta, in the 10 months he has been secretary of defense, has spent $860,000 of taxpayers' money on 27 separate trips to his home in Monterey, Calif.
Curing Leon of his homesickness is getting expensive.
What all of the above reveals is how the Party of Government views the government. They see its perks, privileges and power as their entitlements, their inheritance, their patrimony.
And there is some truth to that.
After all, the bureaucracy was built up in the New Deal and Great Society, and remains dyed-in-the-wool Democratic.
Even when the GOP wins the White House, the conservatives are outsiders in this city. Even when Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan won their 49-state landslides, neither came even close to carrying Washington, D.C., the sole Electoral College precinct that has never gone Republican.
While John McCain lost the nation by eight points to Obama, he lost Washington, D.C., by 86 points. This is Obama's town. He owns it.
But if a noxious aroma of self-indulgence and corruption is arising from it, it is Obama's problem, and it is no longer a small one.
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