THE ROYAL PRESIDENCY: MARK STEYN
From the New York Daily News:
“Snooki Gives Kate Middleton Advice on Being a New Parent.”
Great! Maybe Kate could return the favor and give Snooki and her fellow Americans some advice. About fiscal prudence, for example. Say what you like about a high-living, big-spending, bloated, decadent, parasitical, wastrel monarchy, but, compared to the citizen-executive of a republic of limited government, it’s a bargain. So, while the lovely Duchess of Cambridge nurses her baby bump, the equally radiant president of the United States nurses his ever more swollen debt belly. He and his family are about to jet off on their Christmas vacation to watch America slide off the fiscal cliff from the luxury beach resort of Kailua. The cost to taxpayers of flying one man, his wife, two daughters, and a dog to Hawaii is estimated at $3,639,622. For purposes of comparison, the total bill for flying the entire royal family (Queen, princes, dukes, the works) around the world for a year is £4.7 million — or about enough for two Obama vacations.
According to the USAF, in 2010 Air Force One cost American taxpayers $181,757 per flight hour. According to the Royal Canadian Air Force, in 2011 the CC-150 Polaris military transport that flew William and Kate from Vancouver to Los Angeles cost Her Majesty’s Canadian subjects $15,505 per hour — or about 8/100ths of the cost.
Unlike a republic, monarchy in a democratic age means you can’t go around queening it. That RCAF boneshaker has a shower the size of a phone booth, yet the Duchess of Cambridge looked almost as glamorous as Snooki when she emerged onto the steps at LAX. That’s probably because Canada’s 437 Squadron decided to splash out on new bedding for the royal tour. Amanda Heron was dispatched to the local mall in Trenton, Ontario, and returned with a pale blue and white comforter and matching pillows. Is there no end to the grotesque indulgence of these over-pampered royal deadbeats? “I found a beautiful set,” said Master-Corporal Heron. “It was such a great price I bought one for myself.”
Nevertheless, Canadian journalists and politicians bitched and whined about the cost of this disgusting jet-set lifestyle nonstop throughout the tour. At the conclusion of their official visit to California, Their Royal Highnesses flew on to Heathrow with their vast entourage of, er, seven people — and the ingrate whining Canadians passed the baton to their fellow ingrate whiners across the Atlantic. As the Daily Mail in London reported, “High Fliers: Prince William and his wife Kate spend an incredible £52,000 on the one-way flight from LA to London for themselves and their seven-strong entourage.” Incredible! For £52,000, you couldn’t take the president from Washington to a state visit to an ice-cream parlor in a Maryland suburb. Obama flew Air Force One from Washington to Williamsburg, Va., requiring a wide-bodied transatlantic jet that holds 500 people to ferry him a distance of a little over 100 miles. And, unlike their British and Canadian counterparts, the American media are entirely at ease with it.
Just for the record, William and Kate actually spent an “incredible” £51,410 — or about $80,000 — for nine business-class tickets on British Airways to Heathrow. At the check-in desk at Los Angeles, BA graciously offered the Duke and Duchess an upgrade to first class. By now you’re probably revolted by this glimpse of disgusting monarchical excess, so, if it’s any consolation, halfway through the flight the cabin’s entertainment consoles failed and, along with other first-class passengers, Their Highnesses were offered a £200 voucher toward the cost of their next flight, which they declined.
By contrast, in a republic governed by “we, the people,” when the president of the United States wishes to watch a film, there are two full-time movie projectionists who live at the White House and are on call round the clock, in case he’s overcome by a sudden urge to watch Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet (1953) at two in the morning. Does one of them accompany the first family on Air Force One? If the movie fails halfway across the Pacific, will the president and first lady each be offered a $2 million voucher in compensation?
In his recent book Presidential Perks Gone Royal, Robert Keith Gray, a former Eisenhower staffer, revealed that last year the U.S. presidency cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion. Over the same period, the entire royal family cost British taxpayers about $57 million. There’s nothing “royal” about the current level of “presidential perks”: The Obama family costs taxpayers more than every European royal house put together.
In the American republic, even the dogs cost more. The Queen is a famous corgi lover and has been breeding them since she was a young girl. Now in her late 80s she’s slowing down and only keeps four. The president has one pooch, a photo-op accessory called Bo, who unlike the corgis requires a full-time handler. In contrast to the stingy remuneration offered by the royal household, the presidential dog-walker is one of 226 White House staff earning over $100,000 a year. For many centuries, the King had a courtier whose somewhat intimate duties were reflected in his title: the Groom of the Stool, a position abolished in 1559. Now, after two and a third centuries, the American presidency has evolved to the point that it has a full-time six-figure Groom of the Canine Stool. Will he be accompanying the president on Air Force One to liaise with the Keeper of the Privy Flatscreen over screenings of Lassie?
In 2003, the advance team for President Bush informed Buckingham Palace that he would only be able to stay there if they took out all the windows and replaced them with blast-proof glass. The Queen, keeping a straight face, politely refused, and the president was forced to spend three nights in an insecure palace. Happily, in Hawaii, the flood-the-zone “security” can proceed unimpeded by cheeseparing monarchs who feel the job of head of state entails assuming a modest amount of risk or at least a passing acquaintance with reality. So local residents who will never catch a glimpse of their hermetically sealed-off sultan are expected to put up with walled-off neighborhoods, closed beaches, and residential streets clogged by 40-car motorcades. The Secret Service is installed in luxury hotels, no doubt with their Colombian hookers, and their hookers’ Colombian glaziers, fresh from installing bombproof windows on Bo’s kennel.
The fish rots from the head down, and so do republics. A $1.4-billion president has a defense secretary with a private plane to fly him home every weekend, and a chair of the “White House Council on Women and Girls” with her own Secret Service detail, and all of them ever more detached from the rhythms of American life. In the wake of the Cartagena hooker scandal, the Secret Service with predictable obtuseness imposed a new rule prohibiting agents from having “foreign nationals” in their rooms. The salient fact surely wasn’t that they were “foreign” but that they were hookers. Yet now, at the luxury Moana Surfrider resort, Obama staffers passing through the lobby and bumping into minor princesses and arch-duchesses staying in the cheap rooms on the lower floors won’t even be able to ask them up to their federally mandated ocean-view suites for tips on deficit reduction. In the Brokest Nation in History, it would be unreasonable to expect the president to pretend to have a regular all-American family Christmas for less than five million bucks.
As Ben Franklin famously said: “A republic, if you can keep it in the style to which it’s become accustomed.”
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