Mitt Romney deemed it “The Magical Misery Tour,” a brilliant nod to the fantastic 1967 album by The Beatles. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called it “The Debt-End Bus Tour.” By whatever name, the suggestion by the president that his bus tour through several battleground states, taking place right after the Iowa Straw Poll, is non-campaign-related, is simply incidental to his role as the nation’s chief executive, and is therefore eligible for taxpayer funding, shows that he and his supporters are utterly divorced from reality. And while the bus tour is quickly drawing to a close–the president has vacation to attend to, darn it!!–questions as to the impropriety of funding the purported non-campaign events entirely with taxpayer funds linger.
Unbelievably, though, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that there should be no question as to the nature of the bus tour. During a press briefing on Monday, Carney said the following:
Well, the President, as you know, has taken some trips where he’s raised money for his reelection campaign. The fact is that the President is not engaged in a primary election and he is doing what Presidents do, which is go out in the country and engage with the American people, have discussions about the economy and other policy issues.
He’s having a Rural Economic Forum tomorrow, for example, as well as meeting with a host of local business leaders and private sector players in the economy — local economy. And that would be — to suggest that any time the President leaves Washington it’s a political trip would mean that Presidents could never leave unless they were physically campaigning on their own behalf, and he’s not; he’s out here doing his job and meeting with the American people.
Just “doing what presidents do,” huh? Hmm … if we really want Carney’s statement to be accurate, it should read as follows (changes in bold):
The fact is that the president is not engaged in a primary election and he is doing what perpetually-campaigning presidents with White House Web sites that look like a sleek campaign site do, which is go out in the country and engage with the American people, insult and demean lawmakers across the aisle and those who support them, and have discussions about the economy and other policy issues.
Have you *seen* the White House Web site lately? Have you? For the sake of expediency, I took four screenshots from WhiteHouse.Gov, representing the four main “slides” that visitors to the Web site will see. Take a look below–click on any image to increase its size–and tell me that it doesn’t look and feel like a campaign Web site.
That being said, though, I actually do understand where Jay Carney is coming from. A president needs to be able to escape the bubble that is the White House and Washington, D.C.; after all, aren’t we always complaining about the disconnect between the elected and the governed? Furthermore, if the president’s travels are by default considered incidental to his campaign due to the closing proximity of the upcoming election, would that assumption not stifle the very interaction Americans want with their president?
In other words, despite how the Web site looks, and despite the nature and route of the buses, this recent excursion–which draws to a close now that the president is ready for a ten-day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard–should absolutely be taxpayer-funded because it was not related to the presdent’s reelection campaign. As Carney says, it is wrong “to suggest that any time the president leaves Washington it’s a political trip,” because that would mean “that presidents could never leave unless they were physically campaigning on their own behalf.”
This isn’t political. He’s just “out here doing his job and meeting with the American people.” And yet, there were remarks like these below made at an August 15 town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota (emphasis mine):
So there were a bunch of things taking place over the last six months that were not within our control. But here’s the thing — the question is, how do we handle these challenges? Do we rise to the occasion? Do we pull together? Do we make smart decisions? And what’s been happening over the last six months — and a little bit longer than that if we’re honest with ourselves — is that we have a political culture that doesn’t seem willing to make the tough choices to move America forward.
We’ve got a willingness to play partisan games and engage in brinksmanship that not only costs us in terms of the economy now, but also is going to place a burden on future generations. And the question is, can we break out of that pattern? Can we break out of that pattern? Think about it: We just went through this debacle with the debt ceiling — an entirely self-inflicted wound. It wasn’t something that was necessary. We had put forward a plan that would have stabilized our debt and our deficits for years to come. But because we’ve got a politics in which some folks in Congress — not the folks who are here — but some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than America win, we ended up creating more uncertainty and more damage to an economy that was already weak.
Now, we can’t have patience with that kind of behavior anymore. I know you’re frustrated, and I’m frustrated, too. We’ve got to focus on growing this economy, putting people back to work, and making sure that the American Dream is there not just for this generation but for the next generation. (Applause.)
Basically what we need to do is we need to cut about $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Now, that sounds like a big number — it is a big number. But if we were able to, as I proposed, cut about $2 trillion in spending, if folks who could best afford it — millionaires and billionaires — were willing to eliminate some of the loopholes that they take advantage of in the tax code and do a little bit more, and if we were willing to take on some of the long-term costs that we have on health care — if we do those things, we could solve this problem tomorrow. I put a deal before the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, that would have solved this problem. And he walked away because his belief was we can’t ask anything of millionaires and billionaires and big corporations in order to close our deficit.
There is nothing that we’re facing that we can’t solve with some spirit of America first; a willingness to say, we’re going to choose party — we’re going to choose country over party, we’re going to choose the next generation over the next election. (Applause.) If we are willing to do that, then I have absolutely no doubt that we can get this economy going again, we can put people to work back again, small businesses can start growing again. But I’m going to need your help to make it happen. You’ve got to send a message to Washington that it’s time for the games to stop. It’s time to put country first. (Applause.) It is time for the games to stop.
And from remarks at a town hall meeting on August 15 in Decorah, Iowa (emphasis mine):
The fact of the matter is that our debt and deficits are manageable if we make some intelligent choices and make sure that there are shared sacrifices as well as shared opportunities. (Applause.) And had we made some decent decisions over just the last two, three months. Had we been willing to seize the opportunity that was before us, then there is no reason why we had to go through this downgrade, because that did not have to do with economics, that had to do with politics. It was an assessment — (applause) — that our Congress is not able to come up with the kinds of compromises that move this country forward.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty frustrated about that. (Applause.) I am pretty frustrated about that because, given the challenges we face, we don’t have time to play games. There are a lot of folks, a lot of our neighbors, a lot of our friends who’ve been out of work too long. We’ve got too many small businesses that are struggling. I see a lot of young people in the audience here today, and they’re thinking about what are their prospects for the future — graduating from college knowing they’ve got a lot of debt, needing to find a job. They don’t have patience for the kind of shenanigans we’ve been seeing on Capitol Hill. They understand that now is the time for all of us to pull together and do what it takes to grow the economy and put people back to work.
So there are a whole host of ideas that we could be implementing right now that traditionally have had bipartisan support. The only thing that is preventing us from passing them is that there are some folks in Congress who think that doing something in cooperation with me or this White House, that that somehow is bad politics. Well, you know what, you guys didn’t send us there to be thinking about our jobs. You sent us there to be thinking about your jobs and your future.
Well, we do have to make some cuts on things that we don’t need, and that allows us to invest in the things that we do. But there’s got to be balance, and there’s got to be fairness.
And that’s not just my view; the majority of Republicans agree with that view. Although I have to tell you, when I saw the other day — my friends in the Republican presidential primary, they were asked, “Would you take a deal in which, for every $1 of tax increases, we cut $10 in government spending?” Ten-to-one ratio, and nobody was willing to take that deal. And what that tells me is, okay, you’ve gotten to the point where you’re just thinking about politics, you’re not thinking about common sense. (Applause.) You’ve got to be willing to compromise in order to move the country forward.
And this, at the closing of the so-called “Rural Economic Forum” on August 16:
So I hope that I can count on you in the days ahead to lend your voice to this fight to strengthen our economy. I need you to keep your pressure on your elected representatives for things like the payroll tax cuts or road construction funds or the other steps that will help to put our country back to work.
That’s our great challenge. It has been my central mission for the last two and a half years. It has to be all of our central missions going forward. That’s what ought to unite us as a country, regardless of party or ideology, because if we can do that — if we can put country ahead of party — I know that our future is bright. I know that our best days are ahead of us.
And saying things like this during a speech on August 17 in Atkinson, Illinois (emphasis mine):
When you look at this debacle we had with the debt ceiling and raising it, what you realize is, is that our politics — engaging in partisan brinksmanship and potentially seeing the first default of the United States of America — that that has no place in how we move forward together.
Now, the fact of the matter is, is the economy has gotten better than it was when I first took office. I mean, we’ve seen over the last 17 months 2 million — over 2 million private sector jobs created. But everybody here knows we’ve still got a long way to go, and it is urgent for us to make sure that we are joining together and not thinking about party first, not thinking about elections first, but thinking about country first. That’s the message that we need to send to Washington.
As I was driving in here — (applause) — as I was driving in here, I saw that a new fire station is being built, right — (applause) — thanks to the Recovery Act.
If everybody took an attitude of shared sacrifice, that we’re not going to put the burden on any single person, we can solve our deficit and debt problem next week. And it wouldn’t require radical changes, but it does have to be balanced. I don’t want a tax break, as lucky as I’ve been, if that tax break means that a senior citizen is going to have to pay an extra $6,000 for their Medicare. That’s not fair.
I think it makes sense before we ask that student to pay a little more for their student loan, we should ask those oil and gas companies to get rid of some corporate tax loophole that they don’t need because they’ve been making record profits. (Applause.)
Now, what’s been striking as I’ve been traveling through over the last few days — you guys, you’re all fulfilling your responsibilities. You’re working hard, you’re looking after your families, you’re volunteering at church, you’re coaching Little League — you’re doing everything right. And all you’re asking for, if I’m not mistaken, is that your political representatives take their responsibilities just as seriously. (Applause.)
And part of that means that you have to put politics aside sometimes to do what’s right for the country.
And that’s why I’m enlisting you — that’s why I’ve got to enlist you in this fight we have for our future. I need you to send a message. I need you to send a message to folks in Washington: Stop drawing lines in the sand; stop engaging in rhetoric instead of actually getting things done. It’s time to put country ahead of party; it’s time to worry more about the next generation than the next election.
And I’ve been concerned that Speaker Boehner has already said that the folks he assigned, none of them can vote to increase revenues. That’s a concern of mine. I was concerned when I saw the Republican presidential candidates — somebody asked them, well, if you got $10 of spending cuts for every $1 in additional revenue, would you be willing to accept it, and all of them said no. Now, that’s just not common sense.
No campaign rhetoric there. Of course not. In fact, so thinly-veiled is the true reasoning behind this bus tour that even the sycophantic mainstream press has seen right through Jay Carney’s attempted rationalization. On Sunday, August 14, 2011 the Associated Press stated that Obama, on his bus tour, was engaging in a “political counteroffensive.” The following day, Reuters claimed that the president was in “campaign mode,” and exhibiting an “unmistakable campaign style.” Even Jon Stewart was mocking the president (excuse the poor quality of the video):
All kidding aside, here’s the problem — I don’t plan on contributing to Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. I’m, uh, keeping my money close to the chest on that one. However, given that the president is funding his campaign-style, Canadian bus-driven swing through a smattering of battleground states with taxpayer money, it appears that I already have. The same argument has been made for years with regard to banning the use of federal funding for abortions — just as doing so would ensure that folks who find abortion objectionable would not be funding abortions in any way, requiring that Barack Obama’s campaign engage in that “shared sacrifice” he’s always yammering on about and foot at least part of the campaign bus tour bill would go a long way toward ensuring that minimal taxpayer funding is used to reelect this wholly unpopular president.
Frankly, I don’t want to be funding campaigns for Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich or anybody else, for that matter, unless I pick up my pen and make a donation. So far, bus travel and other expenses incidental to campaigning for each of those people, as well as the other 74 Republican candidates, have been paid out of each candidate’s respective campaign funds. They didn’t get taxpayer help; surely, the president–who in mid-July was reported to have raised $86 million so far in 2011–should not, either