October 27 2010
Since a bookie is reputed to be already paying out on the prospect of a sea change in the House of Representatives, I am going to make a pre-election request of the next Speaker: please, go easy on those expensive perks. I'm thinking, in particular, about that airplane.
CBS News, not the most rabidly anti-Democrat entity on the planet, has a long and devastating piece on Speaker Pelosi's use of the plane. It notes:
The next speaker will control the House of Representatives, and with it one of the biggest perks in politics: free flights on luxury jets that are the military versions of a Gulfstream V. Well, they're free to the speaker, but paid for by your tax dollars.
The plane was first made available to speakers after Sept. 11, when there was concern about the safety of such an important official. The arrangement first attracted controversy in 2006, when then Speaker Dennis Hastert sent it to give a pal and fellow member a lift to a press conference. Speaker Nancy Pelosi routinely invites fellow members to hitch a ride. Even more grandly, she allows her family to fly on the Speaker Shuttle. They pay the price of government coach class and get quite a few perks. There is an amusing email exchange among military officials when the Speaker wanted the plane "repositioned" for her convenience:
"(T)he jet will not reposition to Travis," says a military official, "Jet will depart from SFO."
"(W)hy can't the jet reposition to Travis?" asks another military official. "You know this is a firestorm waiting to happen."
"We can't reposition the airplane such a short distance. It is not a judicial use of the asset. It is too expensive to operate the jet when there is truly no need to do so."
The exchange between apparently frustrated military officials continues.
"You know I understand and feel with you...but, this is a battle that we are bound to lose if we tell the speaker office..I wish that I could say this is a one-time request, but we know it will probably happen again in the future. We know you are correct in your justification, but this is still the request from the speaker's office."
And you were thinking that the House was designed to be the more democratic chamber?
There is no reason for this. In the greater scheme of things, this is a small expense. But elected officials who are routinely supplied with private planes tend to forget that money is hard to come by for most of us. They live in an unreal world. If the idea of Speaker Pelosi on a commercial plane is inconceivable to you, then you need a refresher course in the style and values of this republic.
Asked if he has given thought to the private plane, a spokesman for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio.), likely next speaker, said he hadn't thought about this yet. Mr. Boehner, give some thought to flying just like the rest of us.
If you're stuck in an airport, you'll have to listen to us. Several times, I've wondered if the administration's health care bill could have passed if Ms. Pelosi had to change planes in a midwestern airport. (National Revies's The Corner spotted the CBS story.)