October 26 2012

Marbella on the Potomac: White House Entertainment "Budget" Out of Control

Charlotte Hays

Understatement of the Day (so far):

A knowledgeable government official who made the documents available to The Examiner said the extravagant spending seemed unfair with so many Americans out of work.

This quote comes from a story in the Washington Examiner reporting that the Obamas have spent more lavishly on official entertaining than other administrations. For example, the 2010 state dinner for the president of Mexico cost nearly $1 million or $4, 700 per guest, according to the story.

Beyonce performed for the president of Mexico. She’s not exactly Pablo Casals but I think it is safe to assume that she performed gratis so that is not an expense for the republic.

Reportedly the tab was half million dollars each for dinners for the president of India, the Chinese premier (more appropriately feted quietly, given the human rights abuses in his country), and the U.K. prime minister.

Gary Walters, who ran the White House for 21 years as chief usher, called the expenditures “excessive.”

The chief usher of the White House from the Reagan to George W. Bush presidencies, Walters consulted a former White House colleague and said neither of them could recall entertainment costs anywhere near those revealed in the documents provided to The Examiner.

"The highest [cost] event we could remember was $190,000 to $200,000 range, and that was for a very large dinner outside that was probably somewhere in the vicinity of 500 people with two different tents," Walters said, noting that the event was held under President Clinton.

President Obama has never shown much fondness for budgets, but I had always assumed, based on reading about life in the White House, that there is an entertainment budget. I know from one book on the Ford administration that the first family is billed for its own food. If there is not a budget for entertainment, perhaps it is because in the past we have been able to trust that the people who lead us will be respectful of our money.

We want our state dinners and ceremonies to be seemly for a republic. We don't begrudge reasonable expenditures on entertaining. This disregard for both decency and the taxpayer, however—seen earlier in the GSA scandal—reflects reflects the attitude of government officials that they are a new class that demands of us expensive parties and airplane travel at the snap of fingers.

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