Livin' it up, American style

Friday, February 09, 2007

Will she be leaving on a jet plane?

There's been a big hullabaloo about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asking for a large, luxurious Air Force plane to fly her and her family and friends non-stop between DC and California. According to some conservative spinmasters, this plane would hold 40-some people and have a crew of 16, which is an obvious reflection of how out of touch the wealthy and spoiled Pelosi must be with the common middle-class person. But this story is really just a prime example of how easily news stories can get exaggerated and spun to serve an agenda.

First off, conservatives are leaving out the little detail that former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, a Republican, also used a big Air Force plane to travel between DC and his home district of Illinois. Not because he didn't like to fly commercially, but as a security measure enacted after 9/11. After all, the Speaker of the House is 3rd in line for the presidency after the Vice President. It's not like Pelosi suddenly decided she wanted to have her own tax-payer funded private jet; it just happens to be a perk of this dangerous job, no matter which party is in power.

It is also a security concern that her plane be able to fly non-stop to California and not have to stop somewhere for refueling along the way. This is where some of the controversy has arisen. Apparently, California is a little further away from DC than Illinois is, so in order to fly non-stop to California (like Hastert used to fly non-stop to Illinois), Pelosi needs a bigger plane. I don't know a lot about planes, but seems kind of obvious to me that a bigger plane would have a bigger fuel tank, just like cars do.

Another perk of being a congressperson is the House Members' Representational Allowance. This fund pays for congressional travel to and from DC and the member's home district. So if someone were to be outraged that Pelosi gets to travel across country on the taxpayer's dime, then they need to be outraged at all 535 members of Congress. Also note that only congresspeople get to fly for free; if Pelosi wanted to shuttle around family and friends, she would have to reimburse the Air Force for their travel costs.

There's also the very important point that Pelosi did not actually request the use of this military plane; it was Bill Livingood, the House sergeant at arms. He put in the request for a larger plane that could fly non-stop for security reasons. It wasn't even Pelosi who requested a bigger plane! She actually said she would be willing to fly commercial if the Air Force didn't have a plane that could get her coast to coast. Even the White House came out defending her, with Press Secretary Tony Snow calling the story 'silly' and saying that Pelosi is 'entitled to military transport.' Yet this mostly mundane story has still been all over the news the past few days because of the creative way it was twisted to sound so juicy and negative.


  • i heard somewhere that the smaller plane hastert used could fly coast to coast as well.

    and i understand your defending pelosi for the most part.

    however, just cause she did not order the services of that particular plane does not exonerate her from the guilt of usnig a bigger-than-necessary plane -- if in fact, that was/is the case.

    yes, other congressmen use taxpayers' money to travel around, too. that does not make it unworthwhile to ask questions of pelosi. perhaps, that should lead people to ask questions about the appropriation and oversight of House Members' Representational Allowance as well.

    hey, at least the people know what they are paying for with their tax money, right?

    By Blogger सुजन, at 12:03 PM  

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