Blue Hawaii: Obama should cover his wife’s birthday present

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Just when Barack Obama is trying to get Congress to spend money to extend jobless benefits, the president will be billing the taxpayers for an oceanside birthday gift for his wife, Michelle. Talk about bad timing.

Mr. Obama and his daughters returned from the family’s two-week Hawaii vacation on Sunday, but the president told his wife to stay on for an extra week as a gift in advance of her 50th birthday on Jan. 17. That’s a generous present from one spouse to another, but the public should not have to cover the cost.

Since Mrs. Obama will be returning home apart from her family, a separate military aircraft will be needed for the trip. Some pundits are fuming about the high cost of flying a near-empty Air Force plane to Hawaii and back for her, but it’s possible that a plane already based there could be used. Either way, it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that Michelle Obama will travel back to Washington on a government aircraft, but that “as with all personal travel, the first family will appropriately fund personal expenses.”

That can best be done by booking Mrs. Obama and her security detail on a commercial flight and partitioning them off in a first-class compartment. It’s what members of the British royal family do. The other passengers would be none the wiser.

A husband’s birthday gift to his wife is a husband’s responsibility, even when he’s the president. Barack Obama should reimburse the public for the true full cost of Michelle Obama’s week in Hawaii and her trip home, and that would be considerably more than one first-class airline ticket.

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