February 09, 2007
Nancy Pelosi: Come Fly with Me
The hoopla over whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should have access to an Air Force commuter jet or to a larger, more amenity-laden, 757-styled jet just goes to prove that anything in Washington DC can be politicized. Quite frankly, with Ms. Pelosiâ€™s penchant for taking pot-shots at the president, I would have thought her request would have been for a C-130 gunship.
Traditionally, members of congress have had to requisition the use of Air Force transportation through the Executive Branch. The allocation of a personal aircraft to the Speaker of the House only began after the terrorist attacks of September 11th and then it was only because the Speaker of the House was second in the line of succession to the presidency.
As the story goes, Speaker Pelosiâ€™s people wanted to upgrade the aircraft used to transport her because the aircraft that had been allocated for this task while Illinois Representative Dennis Hastert was speaker canâ€™t make it non-stop from Washington to California. The word that should be scrutinized in the last sentence is â€œnon-stop.â€
While traveling aboard an aircraft that has to refuel during the journey may be an annoyance, it certainly isnâ€™t anything to turn oneâ€™s nose up at, especially when someone else is footing the bill as the American taxpayers are in this case.
Early on in this pathetic excuse for political confrontation, Speaker Pelosi exclaimed, â€œIt's not a question of size. It's a question of distance. We want an aircraft that can reach California."
Hereâ€™s a newsflash for Speaker Pelosi, a millionaire in her own right who can afford to pay her way as far as airfare is concerned: All airplanes can make it from Washington to California; some just have to refuel in order to complete the trip.
Some would opine that landing to refuel would present a security risk for Ms. Pelosi, an opportunity for terrorist malcontents to lay siege to her aircraft. This is a hollow and uneducated argument. Any Air Force transport jet that would be shuttling Ms. Pelosi would undoubtedly land to refuel at military installations of which there are many between Washington DC and California. Security, with regard to landing for the purpose of refueling, is not an issue.
It is more likely that Ms. Pelosi simply doesnâ€™t want to be inconvenienced by a task as mundane as having her all expenses paid government issued private jet refueled while she is ferried back and forth to Washington on the taxpayersâ€™ nickel, her staff and family in tow. The request for such an extravagant upgrade leads me to ponder whether Ms. Pelosi is attempting to elevate the stature of the speakerâ€™s office to a status equal to that of the presidency.
Further, I canâ€™t help but wonder whether or not we should brace ourselves for another scathing column from William Arkin of the Washington Post. Arkin recently took our soldiers stationed in Iraq to task for the â€œobscene amenitiesâ€ afforded to them. One would think he would have a field day with Ms. Pelosiâ€™s request given the amenities offered on the Air Force C-32, a modified version of Boeingâ€™s 757 commercial intercontinental aircraft, which boasts:
â–ª Room for 45 passengers with business class accommodations â–ª A crew of 16 â–ª A communications center â–ª A fully enclosed stateroom for the primary passenger â–ª A changing area â–ª A conference area â–ª An entertainment system â–ª And a divan that not only seats three but converts into a fold-out bed
This impressive aircraft â€“ operated at an approximate cost of $22,000 an hour â€“ is typically reserved for the First Lady, the Vice President and cabinet members and members of congress upon and subject to request. The Air Force has never made transportation of this caliber available to members of congress on a regular basis, Speaker of the House or not.
The Pentagon has informed the speakerâ€™s office that Ms. Pelosi would be provided with a plane but that its size would be based on availability and that a non-stop flight could not be guaranteed. While I suppose this is a fair response to an unreasonable request, I believe there is a way for Ms. Pelosi to travel non-stop in safety without bilking the taxpayers out of $22,000 per hour each time she flies from her district to The District.
If Ms. Pelosi were assigned additional Secret Service protection each time she engaged in air travel to or from Washington to California, she would not only be afforded the non-stop flight service she so desperately desires but the flights would be made safer for all the passengers, including the taxpaying cattle in coach. Even flying first-class with her staff, this travel arrangement would be more fiscally responsible than operating a government jet at $22,000 per hour.
Aside from whether or not the utilization of a modified Boeing 757 at such an extravagant cost is in line with Ms Pelosiâ€™s campaign trail rhetoric regarding fiscal responsibility â€“ especially when the express purpose of doing so is only to achieve a non-stop flight â€“ one has to ask: Madam Speaker, what about global warming?
### Frank Salvato is a political media consultant, a freelance writer from the Midwest and the Managing Editor for www.TheRant.us . He is a contributing writer to OpinionEditorials.com and AmericanDaily.com. He has appeared as a guest panelist on The Oâ€™Reilly Factor and his pieces are regularly featured in Townhall.com and occasionally featured in The Washington Times as well as other national publications.