Maybe itís my imagination. But we seem to have gotten awfully regal in this country. Thatís what came to mind when I heard about the kafuffle over our Secretary of Defense. Leon Panetta has been flying home to California most weekends. On Air Force jets. Costing taxpayers $32,000 per round trip.
The Defense Department says White House guys agreed to this when they hired him. ďNo we didnít!Ē the White House guys cry. You can imagine that nobody wants to admit to the deal.
Panetta says he just wants to visit his ranch and wife and family. Right. Here is a suggestion, Leon. If you want the job in Washington, how about you move your family to that area? And if you donít want to do that, then pay for your own travel.
If you tell us you sacrifice the big bucks to take the low-paying secretaryís job, we agree. You do. So sacrifice, already. If you donít want to sacrifice, take the big job in business and make millions. And donít try to make us feel sorry for you for your low pay in government. You will sign book deals worth millions when you retire. And groups will pay you $30,000 to deliver glib speeches. And you already get a lot of perks that kings would envy.
Royal treatment is in vogue in Washington. As you know from reports of the Las Vegas bash by bigwigs from the General Services Administration. The top guys may go to jail for their theft from taxpayers. But do you really believe this is an isolated instance? And do you really believe this is the end of such gouging of taxpayers by top guys in government?
Seems to me that we could do with less of the royal treatment. From the President down.
Remember when Bill Clinton went to China? His entourage was 1200 people. Plus all the advance men Ė and the hookers they hired.
A few years ago I saw the President drive down a Manhattan street. With 37 cars and a handful of motorcycles. Yes, 37 cars. But wait. He also had helicopters whap-whapping overhead. And thousands of city cops who barricaded all the intersections, stopped all the cross traffic for miles. Backed up tens of thousands of cars.
All for the Presidentís visit.
His limo-tanks were flown in, of course. Hundreds (at least) of Secret Service guys scoped out the route and building tops and manholes in advance. The other armored cars carried an army of security guys and tons of guns. When the President visits a small country his entourage is bigger than its army. He could step out of his limo and declare we had successfully invaded and were taking over.
A simple trip to New York City costs several million bucks. That seems outrageous to me. I know, I know, we must protect him. And he might have to launch nuclear weapons at any moment. But it seems a bit over the top. The Brits and French send their guys overseas without all this regal stuff. And those countries have nuclear weapons at the ready, just like us.
It might be nice once in a while to fake everybody out. Tell the world the President has gone to Camp David. Meanwhile, tuck him into a beat-up taxi for his trip to some dinner. He would be safe because nobody would know about it.
It would be good for him to experience what ordinary mortals do. (ďUhh, driverÖis this what they call a traffic jam? I think Iíve read about those.Ē)
And it would save us millions of bucks per trip. Mind you, those New York City taxis can be pretty pricey.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.
For more columns and for Tomís radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.