Calculating the French Connection
How's this for a summer vacation: Paris! Malia and Sasha Obama just finished classes at Sidwell Friends and are flying to France today with their mother. The Obamas will attend the D-Day anniversary ceremony in Normandy, then the president heads back to Washington while the first lady and the girls spend a few days in the City of Lights -- and celebrate Sasha's 8th birthday Wednesday.
Given the fuss over the Obamas' date night in New York, we gotta ask: Who's picking up the tab for this trip?
"Official travel is covered by the White House," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, the first lady's press secretary. "Personal travel and expenses are covered by the family."
The flights to and from France are considered official business for the D-Day ceremony. The rest -- hotels, meals, etc. -- will be paid by the Obamas, who can afford it: President Obama earned a hefty $2.5.million last year from book sales.
The cost of presidential travel, including that of the first family, is tricky to calculate: Security concerns prevent them from taking commercial flights, and they must always be accompanied by protective details. Campaigns reimburse the government when presidents make political appearances, but other trips are covered as part of the job.
Tom Fitton, president of conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, said people are more politically sensitive to travel these days because of bailouts and chief executives' jets. "Mrs. Obama traveling to meet the president for an official function seems to me to be appropriate, official business," he said. "I don't begrudge them taking advantage of the opportunity to stay in France. I'm assuming it will cost the taxpayers something extra to bring them back home."
Details of the Paris trip are a closely guarded secret -- since it's a private vacation, the White House isn't releasing any info on where the family will stay, eat and visit. One delicious tidbit: French papers report they have reservations at Alain Ducasse's restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
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