BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – President Barack Obama shouldn’t be relaxing in paradise this holiday season while so many Americans are out of work and facing difficult economic times.
That was the criticism from Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney today when he spoke about Obama’s upcoming 17-day “golf-in-the-sun” Hawaiian holiday vacation.
During a townhall teleconference meeting in Iowa with likely GOP voters, the former Massachusetts governor, said: “I just think it’s time to have a president whose idea of being ‘hands on’ doesn’t mean getting a better grip on the golf club.” He suggests giving Obama a “permanent vacation.”
Romney also accused Obama of a double standard, because while he is urging Congress members to postpone their holiday vacations until they pass tax breaks for the payroll tax, he is planning to travel to Hawaii for more than two weeks, beginning December 17 and through the New Year.
Obama originally announced his vacation plans on November 14, at a campaign fundraiser on Oahu’s Leeward Coast that his wife Michelle and daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 9, would be returning to Kailua where they have spent every Christmas holidays since he was elected in 2008.
“It is great to be home, great to feel that Aloha spirit. And Michelle and the girls will be back shortly for Christmas vacation, as we do every year. We’ll see if Washington gets its business done, so I can get here as well. But that’s always a challenge.”
With the President and his family returning to Hawaii, local and federal taxpayers will again be charged for their Hawaii visit.
The President’s family uses their own resources to a rent private beach front residence in Kailua, Oahu, for their vacation – a so-called “Winter White House” that can cost $3,500 a day or $75,000 a month, according to Gadling.com.
But the local and federal taxpayers help pay the bill for travel and security.
Besides the $1 million to bring Air Force One to Hawaii, there are additional transportation costs for the Presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment to be brought in on USAF C-17 cargo aircraft, which costs about another $140,000 per aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps provides at least one Presidential helicopter that is also transported to the site via a C-17.
There is the expense for Secret Service members to travel to Hawaii ahead of time to scout locations that the president may visit. There are additional charges for the Secret Service and Navy Seals to rent beachfront or canal front homes at strategic locations to ensure the President’s safety.
During the 2010 Christmas holiday, the Secret Service and Navy Seals rented a total of 6 beachfront homes for the duration of the President’s stay for anywhere between $1,000 and $1,250 per day. The U.S. Coast Guard personnel also operate 30-foot speedboats mounted with high-powered firearms and two smaller boats in front of the President’s rentals 24 hours a day during the family’s visit.
The President’s staff that travels with him, even on vacation, find their way into upscale Waikiki hotels. In December 2010 and January 2011, about two dozen staff spent their holidays in at the quaint Moana Surfrider (A Westin Resort & Spa) on Waikiki Beach. The hotel, which usually rents rooms for $350 to $450 a night does offer government rates, but citing security, the White House and the hotel refused to disclose this total or give a breakdown.
Up to 18 automobiles accompany the President when he travels via car to include several police cars, Secret Service manned SUVs, and an ambulance.
Louise Kim McCoy, press secretary for Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, said that a City ambulance that accompanied the Presidential motorcade during the 2010 holiday cost about $10,000.
The Honolulu Police Department spent $228,247 for the President’s most recent Christmas/New Year’s visit. In 2009, city taxpayers were charged $250,000 in police overtime to guard the President and another $100,000 in 2008 when Obama was the President-elect. The city has never been reimbursed for these expenditures by the federal government.
Last year, Hawaii Reporter research documented that the President’s Hawaiian vacation for one year alone cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million, with additional expenses virtually impossible to estimate without the White House’s cooperation.
That is about a $6 million tab for taxpayers for Obama’s family vacations in the islands since he became President.