Hotel rooms and car service for Vice President Joe Biden’s Thanksgiving trip to Rome and Croatia cost over $300,000, according to recently released government contracts.Omigod! $300,000! What a massive tax expenditure! Why, that means every one of the 300 million-plus U.S. citizens had to kick in ... approximately one tenth of a penny!
The vice president, his wife, Jill, and other relatives are spending the holiday abroad. Biden is first making a stop in Zagreb, Croatia, for meetings, before heading to Italy on Wednesday.
The State Department issued four contracts for hotel rooms in Rome from Nov. 25 to Nov. 29, for a total cost of $208,582.
The government also spent $7,676 for “ambulance support” for Biden’s Rome trip.
For the Croatia leg of the trip, the government issued multiple contracts for car services....
But the conservative political media knows that its audience won't do that math. Angry consumers of right-wing news sources interpret any amount of non-military government spending in excess of a typical middle-class annual income, whether it's $4 trillion or $2 million or $300,000, as "a large number," and all such spending infuriates them.
But what was Biden doing on this trip? On Wednesday, there was this:
Former Balkan rivals on Wednesday pledged joint efforts with the United States and the European Union in protecting European borders from a record surge of asylum-seekers amid fears that Islamic militants may have infiltrated the flow.And in Rome, on Friday:
Southeast European leaders met at an urgent summit in the Croatian capital attended by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the crisis....
Biden's trip came amid a heated debate in the U.S. about whether to admit Syrian refugees following the Islamic State group's Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and hundreds wounded.
Vice President Joe Biden met today with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss bilateral relations, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, energy security, and other global issues. The Vice President thanked Prime Minister Renzi for Italy's contributions to international security, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Mediterranean basin. The two leaders discussed our common efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, counterterrorism cooperation, and efforts to counter violent extremism. On Ukraine, the Vice President and Prime Minister agreed on the need for full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Finally, the Vice President and Prime Minister also discussed energy security and the importance of diversification of sources, supply routes, and fuel types.And?
Afterwards, the Vice President [held] a bilateral meeting with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See.So, y'know, just chillin', right? Just indulging himself.
Is overseas travel typical for Biden over Thanksgiving? No.
For the last four decades, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made a tradition of spending Thanksgiving with his family in Nantucket, Mass.Um, I'm pretty sure that if the vice president of the United States were spending Thanksgiving weekend in Nantucket, a number of security personnel would need to accompany him and his family, at some expense to the taxpayer, because, y'know, that's what we do for presidents and vice presidents. We'll do it for the next Republican president and vice president, and the vast majority of Americans will understand.
But just six months after the death of his son Beau, he could not bring himself to go to the island this year, and so he is skipping the holiday altogether....
Mr. Biden will bring his wife, Jill, and some other relatives as well [to Europe]. He hopes the change in scenery in a part of the world that does not celebrate Thanksgiving will allow the family to avoid the emotional pain that a long weekend in Nantucket might have brought.
But this became a scandal in the right-o-sphere. Here's a story at Newsmax. Here's another one from England's Daily Mail, which publishes a lot of material aimed at the U.S. right.
The stupidest response came from Allen West, a former Florida congressman and Iraq War veteran who had to resign from the military to avoid a court martial on charges that he abused a prisoner. On his website, West wrote:
ThanksTAKING: What Joe Biden did for Turkey Day is simply disgustingSo what would West propose as an alternative to this trip?
... maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll have leadership in America that doesn’t spend taxpayer dollars for a Thanksgiving boondoggle....
One of the great traditions in America is principled, servant-oriented leadership -- and it is sorely missing.
I think it would have been lots cheaper to spend Thanksgiving with our troops, here stateside or abroad. There’s my first duty station, Vicenza Italy, which isn’t that far from Croatia. Or how about visiting our men and women serving in the unilaterally declared “end of combat operations zone” combat zone, Afghanistan? I’m of the mindset that it would have been lots cheaper to take a C-17 and visit as many troops all over the globe as possible in a 24-hour Thanksgiving period....Oh, right, that "would have been lots cheaper" -- especially if Biden had taken West's advice and decided to "take a C-17 and visit as many troops all over the globe as possible in a 24-hour Thanksgiving period," including troops in or near active war zones. Granted, it probably wouldn't have been necessary to take quite as many precautions as the ones described in this story about a brief 2006 visit to Iraq by President George W. Bush, but I'm sure a fair amount of advance prep would have been necessary at every stop (forgive the lengthy quote):
Can any of you imagine how awesome it would be to some troops at a distant Forward Operating Base (FOB) to have the commander-in-chief or vice president fly in on a CH-47D helicopter to serve them a hot Thanksgiving meal and take pics with them to send back to their families back home? Perhaps if Barack Obama and Joe Biden were out there and saw what it’s like to be on the front lines, they wouldn’t take such a dismissive tone with our troops.
Why not visit those deployed into Iraq for...well, maybe Obama and Biden could see what they’re doing and fill in that blank.
At approximately 7:45 on the night of June 12, Bush left the presidential retreat at Camp David by helicopter. Leaving from Camp David increased operational security (OPSEC)....Hey, you could have something similar to this for Biden in multiple global locations, including several hot spots, for pocket change! It would have cost way less than $300,000!
Bush traveled from Camp David to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C., where the 89th Airlift Wing maintains aircraft for transporting high-ranking U.S. government officials.... By 9:07 p.m., the president was airborne aboard Air Force One -- in this case, a VC-25, a military version of the Boeing 747 modified for use as a VIP transport and fully outfitted with communications gear and defensive systems.
Any time the president flies, a secure air corridor patrolled by fighter and surveillance aircraft supported by aerial refueling craft is established, and normal air traffic is routed away from the corridor....
Once it was over Baghdad, Air Force One descended to Baghdad International Airport (BIA) in a "corkscrew" maneuver designed to thwart surface-to-air missile (SAM) attacks. Also, the VC-25 is equipped with a full suite of countermeasures designed to defeat heat-seeking and radar-guided SAMs. These include decoy flares that burn hotter than the aircraft's exhaust and laser systems to turn heat-seeking SAMs off course, and strips of metal that eject from the aircraft to confuse radar-guided SAMs....
Throughout Bush's visit, the USSS would have been at the center of security operations, with support from U.S. military units in Baghdad. At BIA, Delta Force, military countersniper teams and other specialized units working with regular units would have secured the airport's perimeter. The USSS would have provided a secondary internal ring and had much the same functions as the units on the perimeter. The Technical Services Division of the USSS would have been on site to provide hazardous material response, explosives disposal and countersniper teams.
The helicopter flight to the fortified "Green Zone," where Bush met with al-Maliki, was the most dangerous part of the visit. The flight, in a heavily armored U.S. military helicopter, took approximately six minutes. Decoy flights departing BIA at the same time as Bush's aircraft could have been used to add to OPSEC. The U.S. helicopters would have flown low and fast over Baghdad's rooftops in order to minimize exposure to potential attackers.
Delta Force would have facilitated movement to and from the Green Zone. Inside the Green Zone, Bush would have been surrounded by an inner core of USSS agents from the Presidential Protective Detail, with additional security provided by U.S. military units. An armored motorcade would have been standing by to evacuate Bush in an instant in any emergency.
The security precautions implemented in Baghdad would have required advance planning and coordination between the USSS and U.S. military authorities in the city....
By the way, Biden does visit troops -- in Iraq this past July, at Pearl Harbor in 2013, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 2011, in Afghanistan in 2011, in Iraq in 2010 ... need I go on? However, it ain't cheap.
Oh, but I always forget: to conservatives, the military is always free. Only civilian spending is high-cost "big government."