On Monday I wrote that the General Services Administration and Secret Service scandals were fodder for Republicans’ message that government is too big and dysfunctional, although President Obama wasn’t (as he was on Solyndra) directly responsible for the misbehavior. But Republicans have now focused on just such a scandal, namely one that involves Obama personally. For a bonus, it is also an issue about which the mainstream press has been snickering.
Republicans have filed a complaint with government investigators charging that President Barack Obama is misusing taxpayer funds by traveling to important battleground states for what they say appear to be thinly veiled campaign events.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office dated Wednesday maintaining that the president is cutting his campaign costs by using Air Force One and government-supplied transportation under the guise of official travel.
“Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as ‘official events,’ thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his reelection efforts,’’ Mr. Priebus wrote.
In his complaint, Mr. Priebus mentioned the president’s recently completed three-day swing through college campuses in a trio of swing states: Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado. The White House cast the trip as official travel aimed at persuading Congress to prevent a rise in interest rates for federally subsidized student loans. But the events also served an important political purpose for a re-election-minded White House: winning the youth vote.
This issue was raised last fall when Obama and his big black buses rolled through swing states, where he lambasted Republicans.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the speaker of the House is also turning up the heat. (“House Speaker John Boehner complained Thursday that Obama’s trip this week to the battleground states of North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa, for speeches to college students that were classified as ‘official’ events, was a ‘pathetic’ attempt to turn student loan rates into a political issue. ‘His campaign ought to be reimbursing the Treasury for the cost of this trip,’ Boehner said.”) The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, didn’t help matters with this response, one so snotty that the Republican National Committee sent the clip around:
The problem Obama is encountering is that with every gambit (“war on women”) or campaign gimmick (Romney is “out of touch”) it doesn’t take long for the press or the Romney campaign to come up with a “Well, how about this?” story. Soon the gambit becomes more problem than it is worth (enter Hilary Rosen), so the White House has to discard it, at least temporarily, and go searching for another distraction.
Soon the public sees a trail of discarded and failed attacks, following Obama like the cloud of dirt that follows the Peanuts character Pigpen. And after a while the voters come to realize that Obama’s at best a passive figure in the bureaucracy and at worst a self-indulgent rich guy who doesn’t understand the problems (gas prices, anyone?) of average people.
All of this would be less of an issue for him, certainly, if he were doing a bang-up job, unemployment was plummeting and the debt had been slashed. But right now he looks like someone who’s using government and our money for his own benefit and that of his donors and supporters.