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.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

27 Responses to White House luxuries

  1. DinsdaleP says:

    I took a look at the 2012 list of White House staff and their salaries provided to Congress, which is publicly available online.

    There was nothing there that could conceivably be portrayed as “Chief of Staff for the President’s Dog”, s.o please enlighten us and list the name of the person and your source. The article you link to provides neither.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Then you might want to tell a few other sources to shut-up about chiefs of staff to presidential dogs when they talk on TV about White House expenses. Charles Cooke is not the only, nor even the first, person to point that out.

      • DinsdaleP says:

        I’m saying that I checked the source you provided, and there was no evidence to support his extraordinary claim. Most other online references all point to the same article, not actual evidence.

        So I checked the official document given to Congress, and found nothing.

        So instead of passing on an unsubstantiated claim just because you like the sound of it, the onus is now on you to find the actual evidence or retract it.

  2. DinsdaleP says:

    On the topic of fiscal responsibility, a quick look at the Congressional staff policies show that the House Chaplain earns $172,500 per year, and the Senate Chaplain earns $155,500 per year. Neither of these posts perform a direct function of government on behalf of the taxpayers, and there’s no reason why the duties can’t be performed by volunteers or armed forces chaplains on rotation.

    Are you going to defend this is a Constitutionally essential use of taxpayer money? If not, let’s see CNAV start a petition to eliminate these full-time paid positions from the Congressional budget.

  3. DinsdaleP says:

    Well, it’s been a week with no response, so let me help you out with this one.

    The White House grounds are technically part of the National Park System. The management of these specific grounds is the responsibility of a Senior Parks Manager, Dale Haney. Mr. Haney manages a staff of 20, so between the functional & managerial duties and the high-profile nature of the property under his care, this is a position that delivers something of value for the taxpayers’ money. Mr. Haney also happens to like dogs, and since 1972 he’s taken it upon himself to be the primary caretaker of the first family’s dogs when they are not caring for them directly themselves.

    Here’s one reference, and a few seconds with Google will produce more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/03/dale-haney-white-house-gr_n_343540.html

    To recap, there is no “Chief of Staff to the President’s Dog”, just a person with an unrelated, legitimate position & responsibilities who happens to take care of the presidential dogs because he likes to. Promoting the “Chief of Staff” nonsense as if it were the truth is tough to sell as a journalistic mistake, because the truth is available to anyone with 90 seconds and access to Google. At best it’s as careless as the way the conservative media pushed the “Chuck Hagel takes money from ‘Friends of Hamas'” story, where the origin was a writer’s joke, but the right loved the sound of it so much they never bothered to fact-check such a sensational claim.

    That said, can the CNAV readership look forward to an editorial correction?

  4. DinsdaleP says:

    Didn’t see any comment about the Congressional Chaplains point, either. Let me elaborate on that.

    The Senate Chaplain’s duties, for which he gets paid $172,500 per year:

    “In addition to opening the Senate each day in prayer, the current Senate chaplain’s duties include spiritual care and counseling for senators, their families, and their staffs — a combined constituency of over 6,000 people — and discussion sessions, prayer meetings, and a weekly Senators’ Prayer Breakfast.”

    For $155,000 per year, here’s what the Chaplain of the House does for the taxpayers:

    “In addition to opening proceedings with prayer, the Chaplain provides pastoral counseling to the House community, coordinates the scheduling of guest chaplains, and arranges memorial services for the House and its staff. In the past, Chaplains have performed marriage and funeral ceremonies for House members.”

    There are more than a few Judeo-Christian houses of worship within 10 blocks of the Capital building, so it’s hard to imagine that the spiritual needs of Senators and Representatives can’t be met on their own personal time. I’m also doubting the necessity to pay a pair of six-figure salaries to have dedicated clerics open sessions with a prayer. Anyone can recite a sincere prayer, and I’m sure any number of volunteers can be found.

    If you can come up with a compelling rationale to spend over a million dollars of taxpayer money every three years, for a pair of in-house ministers to perform services available for free within a 10-block walk, I’ll read it with an open mind.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      All of which means that you do not even regard spiritual needs as legitimate, because you do not regard God as Real. What starts out as “being on their personal time,” in the next iteration becomes “a waste of time.”

      In contrast to you, CNAV treats God as Real. Nebuchadnezzar II learned that lesson. His descendant Belshazzar forgot that lesson, and we both know what happened to him.

      If you intend to pursue this topic, I just might (temporarily) change the motto of this site to Mene, Mene, Tekel U Parsin. Because that about describes where Obama is headed.

  5. DinsdaleP says:

    I never said that meeting spiritual needs is not legitimate, and I’m not going to defend words you’re trying to put in my mouth. I do consider spirituality to be an individual, personal matter – religions may connect people, but it’s up to each of us to find the truth for ourselves in our own way, or it has little meaning.

    My point was that the members of Congress are not cut off from places of worship by working out of Washington D.C. There are no less than 10 churches within a few blocks of the Capitol Building itself, and access to spiritual counsel before & after work or even on a lunch break is no obstacle. There is also no reason these services cant be fulfilled by volunteer clergy from D.C. or military chaplains, any of whom would be honored to serve in this way.

    There’s no need to question whether spiritual services have value to people, but it is a legitimate question to ask why the American taxpayers should be expected to pay a pair of men 6-figure salaries for services that can either be obtained for free, or fulfilled by military chaplains we are already paying for. Congress is not a house of worship, and there is no justification for keeping 6-figure ministers on its payroll.

    On a separate point, will there be a correction about the “Chief of Staff for the Presidents Dog” lie? Repeating it is sloppy journalism, but leaving it unchanged at this point is choosing to be deceitful.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      There will not be. All you have established is the Obamas’ cleverness in payroll accounting. We haven’t the resources to untangle such a trail, and we must always consider the source.

  6. DinsdaleP says:

    And what your reply establishes is that you have a greater desire to circulate and promote unflattering lies about your opponent than in reporting the truth.
    Haney has been in The national Park Service since the 1970’s, and he’s walked the dogs of every president since Nixon. There is no change in who he is or what he does, just lies and distortion about it from conservative outlets.

    Journalists hsve an obligation to check theirs sources, and the story I linked to was a re-post from the Associated Press, not a rumor rag. You have a computer and internet access, so you have all the resources you need to check this out.

    But you won’t, because you know the “Dog’s Chief of Staff” bit is untrue. You’d rather let the falsehood stand, and claim it’s too hard a conspiracy to crack as your official excuse. Funny that you have time & energy for birthed research leading to nothing, but a lie that can be corrected in minutes stands because it makes Obama look bad.

    Play games and “bear false witness” then. You don’t answer to me or any reader here, but as a Christian your denial of what needs to be answered for, and to Whom, is interesting.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      As I just said to your partner-in-crime Matthewj, I’ve conceded quite enough to you and all those like you, only to find vindication later. I refuse to concede anymore.

      If you don’t like it, then unsubscribe and drop me a line to de-register you as a user.

  7. MatthewJ says:

    So you maintain that there is a White House position for Chief of Staff of the president’s dog with a salary of $102,000? Perhaps concealed from the public by clever accounting or misleading titles, but uncovered by Charles C. W. Cooke and revealed in his 3/8/13 article on National Review Online? An individual whose sole or primary purpose is to arrange the affairs of the White House dog – dogwalking, dogsitting, arranging travel, arranging appointments, that sort of thing?

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      An effective position, yes. A creative way to shift the money around and call it different names. Enough to give the Puffington Host a fig leaf – excuse me – “plausible deniability.”

      I’ve conceded quite enough to you birds only to find vindication later. I’m not conceding anymore.

  8. DinsdaleP says:

    I didn’t realize you had exceeded a self-defined limit for “conceding” to reality being, well, reality and not what you would like to imagine it is. Doesn’t matter to me, but it’s pretty amusing, in the same way Rove was amusing on election night when reality didn’t go his way either.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Not reality, sir(rah). Just creative lies. I’ve had vindication before, and I am confident that I shall have my vindication on this question.

      I see you’re not willing to walk away. You thereby demonstrate a cardinal symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  9. DinsdaleP says:

    There’s nothing obsessive about stating the truth, and your refusal to acknowledge that truth is no reason for me or anyone to back away from it.

    Funny how Michele Bachman repeated the same lie in a speech at this year’s CPAC, and when a report tried to ask her about it afterward, she literally tried to run away, even as the camera captured the moment. When she finally stopped, she accused the reporter about badgering her over trivialities, and the report replied that it was Bachman who brought the item up in her own speech. Even Bill O’Reilly though this was poor behavior on Bachman’s part, and took her to task over it on a recent show.

    If you’re a going to make accusations about something that can easily be fact-checked, then you should at least be sure to have the facts right before you do.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      But there is something plenty obsessive about someone who visits a site for no purpose than to complain. That’s evidence enough to back up the allegation. Why should you fear an untruth? Ah, but you fear the truth. And the truth is that your heroine, Michelle Obama, and those two spoiled brats of hers, are living it up at taxpayers’ expense, and everybody knows it, and eventually everyone will get tired of the show.

  10. DinsdaleP says:

    “But there is something plenty obsessive about someone who visits a site for no purpose than to complain. That’s evidence enough to back up the allegation.”

    People disagreeing with you over something they feel is untrue does not constitute evidence that what you said is the truth.

    In this case, you’re standing behind a statement that is clearly untrue – there is no “Chief of Staff for the President’s Dog”, earning $102,000 per year (or any amount, since there is no such position).

    You’ve been handed links to evidence showing this is untrue, and you dismiss it without addressing it. You also assume taht someone will somehow show that this is true at some point in the future, therefore you can claim it is true now without doing any of the work yourself to back up your claim

    You just don’t like me, Terry, because you prefer an echo chamber to being called out on something you can’t back up. I don’t post comments here out of any personal – the insults and name-calling have all been from you, not me.

    I also don’t post out of any obsession. To paraphrase Burke, all that is necessary for the triumph of nonsense is that sensible men do nothing. You can censor my comments, as you did just the other day, or you can show that you make sense and that I’m the one in the wrong with facts and reason for every reader to see.

    The truth isn’t fragile, Terry, so you should have no problem allowing people like me to question some of your assertions and sending us back to school. Telling us instead to “Hit the road, Jack” is equivalent to saying you don’t have an answer.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Except that there’s more than that.

      I showed you the door. You did not take it. You insist on harping on this.

      Admit it. The White House found a creative way to finance someone taking care of Obama’s dog. Michele Bachmann was not nearly as far off the mark as you insist.

      And you can’t stand it when someone points out what hypocrites the Obamas are.

      You say that the matter is now personal. Well, when someone takes the side of one who would strip me of the last freedom I have, I take that very personally.

  11. MatthewJ says:

    Well, Dr Hurlbut, since you won’t provide any evidence for your claims other than to say ‘other people said it first’, let’s see where checking out those other people takes us:

    Before Charles C. W. Cooke made the claim that there was a Chief of Staff for Obama’s dog on 3/8/13, there was a chain email, reposted on a number of websites in October and November of 2012. That email/webpost had various titles but was frequently named “Barack Obama’s 32 Month Report Card by Rich Carroll”. RIch Carroll is not identified further. Among other things, it claims that Obama is the “(f)irst President to keep a dog trainer on retainer for $102,000.00 a year at taxpayer expense”. Another version states that this is an individual “on retainer in case of so-called ‘dog-training’ emergencies,” with a “$102,000 yearly income”. No sources are given for this statement.

    Looking further back in time, we find a book by Robert Keith Gray called _Presidential Perks Gone Royal_, published in June of 2012. In that work, Gray reports that the President’s dog Bo and a handler “[who] was reported to be paid $102,000 a year to walk and pick up after the first-family’s canine” flew alone together. This is in the book description on Amazon, by the way. This someone-flying-alone-with-Bo bit seems to be a misreading of a July 17, 2010 article in Maine’s Morning Sentinel newspaper, but this can’t be proven because, again, no source is given for the claim.

    In the Mornins Sentinel article, which reported on an Obama family visit to Mt. Desert Island in Maine, the Obama’s arrival at the airport in Trenton, Maine was described. It was stated that Bo and the president’s ‘body man’, Reggie Love, arrived “in a small jet before the Obamas”. The paper subsequently posted a clarification that two planes were taken because the airport in Trenton can’t accommodate Air Force One, and that the first flight had other occupants, including several other staffers.

    Reggie Love was President Obama’s personal aide (or ‘body man’) from 2009 to 2011. His 2011 salary was listed as $102,000 in the White House annual report to Congress on White House staff. This can be compared to Blake Gottesman’s salary of $95,000 in 2006 or Jared Weinstein’s 2008 salary of, wait for it, $102,000 as body men to George W Bush.

    So, it would appear that a newspaper report about Reggie Love, Bo, and others arriving on a flight separate from that of the Obama family mutated into a claim that Bo and Love flew alone to Maine, and then to a claim that Bo and an unnamed ‘handler’ flew alone to Maine. Once Love’s name was stripped away, his position changed (in Robert Keith Gray’s book) from the President’s body man to that of “a dog walker…on hand…paid $102,000 to walk and pick up after the first-family’s canine”.

    From there, Rich Carroll (whoever he is) changed things again, and now there is supposedly a dog trainer on retainer for $102,000.

    Lastly, Charles C. W. Cooke writes in the _National Review Online_ that Obama has a Chief of Staff for his dog, with the same salary.

    So, ultimately, I think that Cooke’s claim that Bo has a chief of staff can be traced, telephone-game like, back to a newspaper report that Reggie Love and Bo were on a plane that arrived before Obama’s plane in Trenton, Maine in 2010. Now, perhaps you would argue that Obama shouldn’t pay his body man the same amount that George W Bush paid his, or that Obama shouldn’t have a body man like Newt Gingrich’s body man Andrew Bell or Mitt Romney’s body man Garrett Jackson. But unless you can come up with some corroborating evidence, I don’t see why we should believe that the President’s dog has a chief of staff at all, much less one with a salary of $102,000.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      I answer that BHO shouldn’t be paying such exorbitant salaries while he is canceling White House public tours just to spite the public!

  12. MatthewJ says:

    OK, so White House staffers should take a pay cut.

    Does that address the question of whether you have evidence of a chief of staff for the President’s dog with a salary of $102,000?

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Does it matter what title he carries? Do we really have to obsess over that?

  13. MatthewJ says:

    “Does it matter what title he carries? Do we really have to obsess over that?”

    Well, the whole point of Cooke’s statement, and your point in repeating it, was to invoke outrage at the hubristic excesses of the Obama administration: A Chief of Staff for a Italics Dog End Italics! How Outrageous! Salary of $102,000! My Laws! Why, He’ll Name That Dog a Senator Next!

    Cooke said there was a Chief of Staff of a dog. I asked if you thought there was a White House position with a salary of $102,000 for “(a)n individual whose sole or primary purpose is to arrange the affairs of the White House dog – dogwalking, dogsitting, arranging travel, arranging appointments, that sort of thing?”, and you said that there was “an effective position, yes”.

    Clark didn’t claim, nor did you, that someone on salary in the White House occasionally walks the President’s dog as a favor (or as a reward!), or that the President’s body man once rode in the same plane as Bo, or that someone once saw Bo with a Parks Service employee instead of an Obama family member. The whole point was that it is outrageous to have a chief of staff for a dog, let alone one with such a high salary – a statement that I would agree with in principle, by the way. If there was such a position in the Obama White House, it would be outrageous.

    So what evidence can you present for this $102k outrage, whether you call it a chief of staff or amanuensis or batman or trainer-on-retainer? All I’ve been able to find is a telephone game of unsourced claims repeated and altered from one pundit to the next, with each alteration more inflammatory than the last. If you’re just going by Cooke’s, or Carroll’s, or Gray’s say-so, why not just own it?

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