The members of the media who savaged my stepmother Nancy Reagan for buying new china for the White House -- dinnerware that will last for decades -- have for the most part either ignored the cost and the significance of Michelle Obama’s regal visit to Spain or downplayed it.
Those who criticized this display of Mrs. Obama’s royal pretensions -- the cartoonish depiction of the First Lady as Marie Antoinette -- she of “Let them eat cake” infamy, reaching for a sweet, got right to the heart of the matter. Others simply went into ecstasy over her comings and goings, all but swooning over her meeting with genuine royalty, the King and Queen of Spain.
It was said that after having endured an unannounced visit to her Newport estate from Jackie Kennedy and little Caroline, a dowager from one of the nation’s economic royalty sniffed, “Who were these people?” I suspect His Spanish Majesty at least harbored similar thoughts.
Presenting themselves as “private tourists,” the First Lady and her vast entourage of guests and Secret Service agents spent a lot of the public’s money.
Rather than lowering herself to use public transportation for herself and her large entourage of pals, she used Air Force planes. Cost? According to CBS News, a whopping $146,000 round-trip cost for the U.S. Air Force 757 jets. This, the network explained, did not include the cost of time on the ground.
The tab for lodging about 70 security types -- Secret Service and U.S. military -- amounted to something on the order of $95,000 in hotel costs. In addition, security personnel got a government allowance of $273 per day. Added to that tab were the costs of keeping the dozen-or-so cars in her motorcade chugging along.
It’s not the money alone that should rile her fellow Americans. As I see it, the outrageous aspect of the whole episode is the time she picked to go jetting off to Spain with her daughter and some 40 close friends. As she hobnobbed with Spanish royalty and went sightseeing with her coterie of chums, back home unemployment stood at 9 1/2 percent; last month alone some 131,000 of her fellow Americans lost their jobs.
She has been called “tone deaf” by some media observers, suggesting that she sees herself as being above it all. The hubbub about a pricey coat put together by a designer who also caters to the illustrious anti-American Spice Girls certainly so indicates. After all, she has to be suitably clad when she appears in public, even if the public wears street clothes while standing in the unemployment lines.