Michelle Obama in China: What's the Cost of Feeding Pandas?

Michelle Obama in China: What's the Cost of Feeding Pandas?

“It’s very rare that I have the opportunity to traveloutside of the United States, and it’s even more rare to have the opportunityto travel with three generations – with my daughters, and with my mother… Andit is no accident that one of our first trips as a family is here to China.”

That’s Michelle Obama speaking recently at a school inBeijing. And yes, this is what she said verbatim. If you don’t believe me youcan read it for yourself on the White House website, which posted the First Lady’sremarks in full.

Mrs. Obama has been, from day one, a prolificjet-setter, traipsing around the world with family in tow and at taxpayers’expense.

The cost of this China trip is still a state secret, atleast until Judicial Watch (JW) fires off its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, as wehave done with previous Obama family vacations and trips. (Newsmaxreported the cost of her 5-star, 3,400-square-foot presidential suite at $8,400per night!)

But while taxpayers are left to wonder how muchthey’ll have to pull out of their pockets to grant Mrs. Obama, her daughters, and her mother access to a Jacuzzi, sauna, and 50-inch flat screen television, JWrecently released details regarding the cost of Obama family vacations from2013.

On March19, we released flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that President Obama incurred$15,885,585.30 in flight expenses alone for the family’s June-July 2013 trip toAfrica and their 2013-2014 Christmas vacation to Honolulu.  The records came in response to a FOIArequest. 

Accordingto the Department of Air Force documents:

  • The flights to, from, and around Africa for the June-July 2013 trip totaled 35.5 hours at $228,288 an hour, which comes to a flight expense alone of $8,104,224 
  • The flights to and from Honolulu for the December 2013-January 2014 Christmas vacation totaled 36.9 hours at $210,877 an hour, which comes to a flight expense alone of $7,781,361.30. This is an increase of $3,695,006.10 from the flight expenses Judicial Watch reported the Obamas incurred for their 2012-2013 Honolulu Christmas vacation. 

Remember,these costs only relate to the flights alone, and do not account for otherexpensive line items, including Secret Service costs, transporting vehicles,etc.

FromJune 27, 2013, to July 3, 2013, Obama visitedthree countries in Africa: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. According toreports in the Washington Post,the total cost to taxpayers for the Africa trip was approximately $100 million.The Hill reported that when pressedby reporters about the “massive cost,” the White House simply responded thatthe trip offers “great bang for the buck.”

Sayinghe was “eager to skip town” Obama also took his family to Honolulu on December 20,2013, for a 17-day Christmas vacation.

InFebruary, Judicial Watch reported that Obama incurred $1,164,268.60 in flight expenses alonefor the August 2013 Obama family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.During that vacation, the Obama family spent eight days at the $7.6 millionMartha’s Vineyard home of David Schulte, founder of the private equity firmChilmark Partners.

Getting back to China, the ObamaWhite House went out of its way to point out that this trip was “not political”and therefore no press would be allowed to accompany the First Lady. This wasmore about giving a few milquetoast speeches, visiting tourist sites,and feeding the pandas,we were told. All the more reason to disclose the costs of the trip – but nodice.

The Wall StreetJournal points out the absurdity: “You cansee a video of First Lady Michelle Obama playing ping-pong in China, hear hertalk about the importance of studying abroad and view a picture of her huddlingwith her daughters with the Great Wall Of China snaking into the distance. Whatyou won’t see, however, is a disclosure of how much her week-long trip in Chinacost.”

Although the total costs are elusive,JW investigators have done phenomenal work digging out some of the hardnumbers. There is no question that the costs to taxpayers for the Obama family’sunnecessary luxury vacation travel are beyond the pale, and the secrecysurrounding these costs shows that Barack Obama’s vows of transparency arerubbish.


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