by Joshua H. Liberatore
For those Americans who once suffered from POTUS-envy, the high office may have lost some of its traditional luster in recent weeks. The worries attending a spiraling financial crisis, unsuccessful wars against abstract nouns, and the shenanigans of modern-day pirates serve only, it seems, to hasten the graying of more presidential hair, all under the constant scrutiny of aggressive media. Indeed, under the present circumstances, one almost pities POTUS-elect. Nevertheless, the overall package – the rent-free house equipped with both bowling alley and movie theater, the personal kitchen staffed with world-class chefs – still seems pretty good. So, with only 60 days left on the job, POTUS can’t be blamed for indulging in occasional nostalgia when contemplating the fringe benefits of his position. At the 2008 United Service Organizations World Gala on October 1, POTUS joked: “This job comes with plenty of privileges. I haven’t seen a traffic jam in 7 3/4 years.”
Not bad, when you put it in those terms, but motorcade travel has its downsides too. On most Sundays, POTUS likes to ride his mountain bike for a few hours at the Secret Service training campus, an enterprise which requires a 14-vehicle security motorcade not to mention trail companions packing heat. Not everyone’s cup of tea, you say?
Well, Members of Congress are certainly fond of hitching a ride with POTUS whenever he happens to speak in their districts. And in turn, POTUS likes reminds them of the favor, to the enraptured delight of his less well-heeled audiences. In Columbus, Ohio:
I want to thank the Members of Congress who have joined us today. Pat Tiberi, appreciate you coming, Congressman – and Dave Hobson. Very nice of them to take the afternoon off. They flew down on Air Force One, and they’re flying back on Air Force One. It’s a convenient way to travel, isn’t it, guys? (March 5, 2005)
More recently, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia:
I’m so pleased to be traveling with Congressman Nick Rahall today. I can’t thank him enough. The Congress is in session. He’s a – he’s got a chairmanship, and yet he took time to come down to fly down on Air Force One. I can’t thank you enough – it’s not a bad way to travel, by the way. [Laughter] But I appreciate you coming, Nick. (July 31, 2008)
And POTUS is right: Air Force One is definitely no shabby means of transport, especially for those quick trips to the interior. But even some of the simplest pleasures in life have garnered a new charm for POTUS during his tenure as Commander in Chief. In his remarks prior to signing an executive order designed to protect the striped bass and red drum fish populations in St. Michaels, MD, POTUS invoked another subtle advantage to traveling with a security detail:
And so we’re here today to talk about sport fishing. As a matter of fact, I’m fixing to go do some sport fishing. I can’t guarantee I’m going to catch anything. I hope that frogman out there does his job. (October 20, 2007)
As if the opportunity to rub shoulders with other world leaders on a regular basis weren’t enough! In a congratulatory speech he gave earlier this week at the Department of Transportation, POTUS offered this concise summary of his favorite presidential perks:
I want to thank you very much for the great job you are doing to make sure that across America our railways and highways and airways are working to keep our citizens moving. You have done a terrific job, as far as I am concerned. The past eight years I have not seen a traffic jam – [laughter] – waited for an airplane – [laughter] – or had my bags lost. (November 18, 2008)
Will the quiet ranch life in Crawford ever measure up?