The White House wants you to believe that tomorrow’s looming “sequester” cuts will be so devastating and draconian that once they take effect, America as we know it will cease to exist. But on Wednesday perhaps the fear-mongering reached a new level of insane when the vice president announced publicly he would no longer accept military aircraft escorts during his weekend sojourns, and instead take public transportation to save “taxpayers” money:
As the federal budget goes off the rails, Joe Biden's getting back on -- with Amtrak.
The looming sequester is forcing the veep to once again take the train -- as opposed to military aircraft -- to his weekend trips home to Delaware.
Biden said Wednesday he initiated the change, calling it the one thing about the sequester that's working to his "benefit."
Speaking at the National Association of Attorneys General, Biden said that while he took nearly 8,000 train trips as senator, the Secret Service made him travel by air because the Amtrak "gives too many opportunities for people to interact with me in a way they wouldn't like to see."
But because of the looming budget cuts, Biden said: "I was able to say, 'Look guys, I've got to take the train now -- it's cheaper than flying.' So I get to take the train again."
The implicit message is clear: sequestration could very well put the vice president’s personal safety at risk. Why do I say this? Because the express reason Mr. Biden initially stopped taking Amtrak in the first place, according to the Secret Service, was because too many people had unrestricted access to him in “a way they wouldn’t like to see.” In other words, they frankly thought it was unsafe. But now -- because of these coming budget cuts -- Biden heroically agreed to start taking the train again (a less secure option) every weekend. See how this works?
Never mind that the proposed cuts are far from draconian (indeed, projected federal spending levels will still be higher in 2013 than they were last year even if the cuts take effect), but there’s scores of other government programs that could obviously be cut way before the vice president should even consider traveling without the protection he needs. But Biden’s public declaration fits nicely into the president’s narrative that the “meat cleaver” approach to governance is bad for America, and Republicans are to blame.
And yet this isn’t to say that military escorts are inexpensive, and that the White House couldn’t find cheaper or better ways to transport the vice president to and from where he needs to go. Nor do I doubt that the Veep actually enjoys taking the Amtrak or mingling with the public. But it does seem as though the White House is once again using fear-mongering and scare tactics to win a political argument. The looming, across-the-board spending cuts will hurt the economy, of course, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should jeopardize the safety and well-being of our vice president. And that’s exactly what the White House seems to be implying.