President Barack Obama is sending the wrong message with the fact that his family will be enjoying a sunny, 17-day Hawaiian vacation funded in part with U.S. tax dollars while millions of Americans settle for a blue Christmas, critics say.
For example, Dana Perino, who was White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, told “Fox and Friends” Monday morning that the Obama vacation simply looks bad.
“I know that a president always works. They set up the command center and it’s like the national security room,” Perino said. “For me, it is perception — Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii. If you are going to places like that, and for 17 days, you are asking for trouble.”
Obama and his family will use their own money to rent a private beach-front residence in Kailua, Oahu, for their vacation. Described as a “Winter White House,” the rental costs up to $3,500 a day or $75,000 a month, according to AOL travel blog Gadling.
But taxpayers probably will kick in more than $1 million to cover the added security and accommodations for the president’s entourage and transportation, based on estimates from Hawaiian media organizations.
Last year, the Hawaii Reporter calculated the taxpayer bill for one Obama vacation in Hawaii to be in excess of $1.5 million — for a running total of about $6 million since the Hawaiian native was elected president.
The Plantation Estate at Paradise Point, where the Obamas vacation, was featured on the cover of Ocean Home Magazine in the April 2010 issue, according to Gadling.
The 7,000-square-foot rental features “five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, a media room with surround sound, a kitchen suited for a master chef, a dining room and great room, a secluded lagoon-style pool with tropical waterfalls and a lavish island spa.” The ocean lanai and garden lanai also showcase ornate landscaping and “stunning views” of Kailua Bay and Mount Olomana.
The Honolulu Police Department spent $228,247 for the president's most recent Christmas/New Year's visit, according to the Hawaii Reporter, which noted that city taxpayers have never been reimbursed for $350,000 they spent on police overtime for Obama trips in 2008 and 2009.
It costs about $1 million to take Air Force One to Hawaii, and an additional $140,000 for each U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft that is used to transport presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment, according to the Hawaii Reporter.
The Secret Service and Navy SEALs rented a total of six beachfront homes during the president’s 2010 Christmas vacation for between $1,000 and $1,250 a day, the newspaper reported. Coast Guard personnel also patrol the beach in front of the vacation spot with 30-foot speedboats mounted with high-powered firearms and two smaller boats.
About two dozen Obama staff also stayed at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, on Waikiki Beach last year, which carries a non-government rate of between $350 to $450 a night.
Obama told 300 supporters during his November visit to Hawaii that he would be back “shortly” with Michelle and daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 9.
"It is great to be home, great to feel that Aloha spirit. And Michelle and the girls will be back shortly for Christmas vacation, as we do every year,” he said at that time. “We'll see if Washington gets its business done, so I can get here as well. But that's always a challenge."
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