White House luxuries

Michelle Obama personifies a White House that lives large at public expense.
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This weekend, the White House ended all public tours. But we now hear that two popular “stars” will give command performances at Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday next year. Barack and Michelle Obama have engaged in special pleading since he took office. This is now the prize example.

White House command performance

The Daily Mail (London, UK) first broke the White House command performance story on Saturday evening. “Adele” is one of many popular performing artists who go by one name only; “Beyoncé” is another. “Adele” recently won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, for her theme song for the motion picture Skyfall. Charlotte Griffiths posted this on Mail Online:

Having picked up an Oscar, Adele might have thought her incredible US adventure couldn’t get much better.

But now I can reveal the Skyfall singer has landed the biggest gig of next year – singing for Michelle Obama during her 50th birthday party at the White House.

But one “big star” wasn’t enough for Michelle Obama’s constellation. She booked “Beyoncé,” too.

Griffith’s source says that “Adele” accepted the invitation, and “waived her usual fee” for a command performance. Does that really mean she will get no fee? Perhaps. Or perhaps the true fee depends on what a “star” is after. The same source also said the Obamas would pay Adele’s expenses. Oho! What’s the difference between a fee and an expense? Who in the modern Jet Set hasn’t padded an expense statement?

And let’s get this straight: the White House can no longer afford the expense of security for White House tours. But they can still pay for the private jet and entourage of “Adele”? And “Beyoncé”, too?

The White House cannot possibly hush this up. A simple Google News search shows thirty-seven outlets carrying the story. Here are three typical examples. The Curvy Couch Crew on Fox and Friends said the White House denies the story. If they have, they haven’t posted a denial at time of writing. A White House site search turns up not one single document mentioning either name.

White House living large

Michelle Obama personifies a White House that lives large at public expense.

Michelle Obama addresses the 2010 Women’s Conference. Photo: User “lifescript”/Flickr, CC BY 2.0 Generic License

No doubt, some will call this story petty. And by itself, it would be – almost. But it’s not alone. Charles C. W. Cooke posted this at National Review Online about the White House “living large” on Friday morning, forty hours before the “Adele” story came out in The Daily Mail. Cooke mentioned several other expenses that the White House will not trim:

  • $181, 757 per hour to fly the Air Force One plane.
  • $100,000 per year for the salary of the White House chef.
  • $277,050 per year for the salaries of three White House calligraphers.
  • $102,000 per year for the salary of a chief of staff – to a dog.

All this is part of a $1.4 billion budget for White House household expenses alone. Is this the fund to pay “Adele”’s expenses? The Daily Mail’s “source” did not make that clear.

Fear ye not, serfs: Austerity may be the word of the week, but the president is by no means in any danger of being forced to live like the president of a republic instead of like a king.

Cooke cites Calvin Coolidge, who lived far beneath the means of a king in his day. The Coolidge example is telling for another reason. Calvin Coolidge famously cut government to the bone and made the Twenties roar. And he never took advantage of it. But Obama lays a crushing load of debt on the American economy and insists on his regal portion.

Ayn Rand, in her famous novel about an out-of-control government, might have said this of Obama:

Any cheap show-off who’s got nothing to parade but his cash, is bad enough. Except that he makes no bones about the cash being his. And you’re free to gape at him, or not, as you wish. (And mostly you don’t.) But [see how this person] puts on an act and keeps spouting that he doesn’t care about material wealth. He’s only serving [the public]. All the lushness is not for himself, but for our sake and for the sake of the common good. It’s necessary[, you see,] to keep up the prestige of the [country] and of the noble plan in the eyes of the [world]. That’s when you learn to hate the creature as you’ve never hated anything human.

In a Warren Buffet, such a display would be bad enough. In a President of the United States, it is intolerable.