Jeff Stein · Thursday, February 23, 2017, 9:03 am
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — Sarah Chaulk says she remains “extremely bitter” about how much taxpayer money was spent on President Barack Obama’s travel and family vacations during his time in office.
“When Obama put his dog on Air Force One and then told us to give more to help poor people, it was a slap in the face to the entire country,” Chaulk, 60, a graphic designer from Columbus, Ohio, said on Wednesday at CPAC, the marquee annual conference for conservative activists.
Her friend Elaine Kent, 58, chimed in: “And when Michelle Obama and her friends went to Spain and spent millions of dollars on a vacation? They did so much nickel-and-diming of taxpayers."
They are less concerned — which is to say, not concerned at all — with recent reports that suggest President Trump cost taxpayers nearly as much in his first month in office as Obama did in a year. Their sentiments were widely shared here at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where attendees gave a wide array of explanations for why they were outraged by Obama’s travel spending, but not Trump’s
“Mr. Obama went on so many vacations and played golf every week. The news media can say, ‘Trump went to Mar-a-Lago,’ and their hair catches on fire. But if they will look at this honestly — and I’m all for the truth — they’ll see Trump is just using his own resources and money to take care of things,” Chalk said. “It doesn’t bother me one bit.”
Over the course of the Obama administration, outrage over the president’s travel expenses became a major talking point in right-wing circles. Though debunked by fact-checkers, one rumor claimed that first pup Bo Obama got his own personal flight to join the family in Hawaii. Another faulted Michelle Obama for her allegedly lavish Spanish getaway — though the Obama’s personally paid for the bulk of its expenses.
Since taking office, Trump appears to have opened himself to a similar attack. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s three trips to Mar-A-Lago have already cost a combined $10 million — compared to an average annual travel budget for Obama of $12 million. The Post reported that the first family’s “unusually elaborate lifestyle” poses massive new logistical hurdles, creating new strains on the Secret Service that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.