Obama Gets 9 More Military Planes for Campaign

Another chapter in the annals of American Politicians as Royalty:

Another chapter in the annals of American Politicians as Royalty:

Daily Caller (“Obama campaign gets more Air Force aircraft“):

The U.S. Air Force is pulling nine cargo aircraft from military operations to support President Barack Obama’s stepped-up visits to campaign events.

The five medium-capacity C-130s and four heavyweight C-17s will be used to ferry security vehicles, armored limousines and communications gear into cities ahead of Obama’s campaign appearances.

In the months before November, the president is expected to fly into multiple cities per week, and speak at multiple sites per day. On Mar. 8, for example, the president will fly to Richmond, and then drive over to a Rolls-Royce aircraft-parts factory. That evening, he’ll fly down to Houston, Texas.

His wife, Vice President Joe Biden and many of his cabinet secretaries are using the Air Force’s fleet of VIP aircraft to visit more states as the election season speeds up.

[…]

The squadrons will supplement the existing fleet of VIP passenger aircraft at Andrews. Those aircraft include two giant Boeing 747s — which are tagged Air Force One while they’re carrying the president — as well as five Boeing 757 wide-body passenger jets, and 11 Gulfstream executive jets.

Those passenger aircraft are already helping shuttling cabinet secretaries to their election-related events, many of which are in critical swing-states.

The only references to this story I’m finding thus far are at partisan sites. But this isn’t a partisan issue or a matter of President Obama doing anything untoward. Even the Caller story notes, several paragraphs in, “The Air Force allocated extra aircraft to support President George W. Bush when he was running for re-election in 2004.”

On the one hand, this does seem an unseemly practice. The taxpayer shouldn’t be expected to bear these extraordinary cost of the president’s re-election campaign. And that’s doubly true of various administration officials being ferried around on military planes; at least the president is in the chain of command. On the other hand, I’m not sure what to do about it, at least in the case of the president and his family. While we’ve gone overboard in creating a security wall around the First Family, we’ve had enough presidential assassination attempts–too many of them successful–in our history to pretend that there aren’t legitimate concerns.

As a matter of propriety, presidents ought not go on campaign junkets on the taxpayer. As a matter of practicality, pretty much anything a first term president does–particularly in the last year of that term–is political, so drawing the line is next to impossible. Still, it’s hard to justify flying various officials, along with their entourages and limos, around the country in military transport planes.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Military Affairs, Quick Takes, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Apparently the car pictured (The Beast?) is a tank cleverly designed to look like a car.

    Of course it needs a C-130.

  2. More completely,

    The main problem with your argument is that it shortens to “we should be less protective of the President.” And that’s hard to know without knowing the true threat-history. I believe this all expanded when Reagan ….

    The initial but unconfirmed reports that a Libyan hit squad had been dispatched to the U.S. by Muammar Gaddafi to assassinate President Reagan and other high federal officials took a more ominous turn last week. Intelligence officials grilling an informant about the plot are now impressed by the amount of detail he provided about the training and equipping of Libyan assassination teams. The informant claimed that five Libyan hitmen had already entered the U.S.

    That from a 1981 Time Magazine article.

  3. tps says:

    Besides the 747 Air Force One the president might also have another 747 following him around. The E-4B, aka Nightwatch/NEACP/the Doomsday plane.

  4. tps says:

    @john personna:

    I would say that it started after Kennedy but yeah, with each president its gotten worse. If the Secret Service had its way, the president would be locked in a closet, in the Mt Weather bunker for their entire term. I hope there will be a president someday who will tell them to knock it off and if they don’t, they’re fired and he’ll use a platoon of marines instead.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: @tps: I have two concerns here. First, the use of taxpayer resources for political events. Second, the use of military resources for non-military personnel.

    As noted in the piece, the president and his family are in a special class. So, the only thing that can reasonably be done is cutting back travel for campaign junkets–or coordinating campaign junkets so that they coincide with actual government business and not vice-versa.

    Beyond that, it’s hard to argue that, say, the Commerce Secretary needs to be flown along with limos to various events. Nobody knows who the hell he is.

  6. @tps:

    Yeah, and I’m sure there is a tendency to make things “a little better” with each term.

    Or as security becomes known? In the 80’s I had a friend in the police who when in to hang with the protection detail when they used a local station as a base of operations. That was when they had a four car system. I think he told me something like “No one talked to the guys in car X. They’re crazy. Their job is to crash into any threat, and then if they survive to get out and fight.”

  7. @James Joyner:

    That’s the thing. If you can’t stop the President from running for re-election, and if you want to protect him, you have your answer.

    I think a single term Presidency is the only way out of the problem.

  8. @tps:

    Back then they had a Limo with a bazooka mount.

  9. tps says:

    @john personna:

    Now one of the SUV’s has a pop-up machine gun turret I think.

    One of the stories I heard from a friend in the local cop shop that had to deal with a visit from the president was that for every Secret Service agent you see there are two more in plain clothes. The suit and sunglasses are so you focus on them and don’t look for anyone else.

  10. Robert in SF says:

    @john personna: So … amend the Constitution with a default 10 year term, with elections held at the end of the 3rd year, the 7th year, and each year after, so the voters can vote if they want an election to be held the next year to vote again for who they want to be president, so they can vote the President out if they want to?

    And then, of course, there is the impeachment process that could come into play in between “election” years….

    I just don’t know how one term limits would work, as far as lame duck status would work….
    But maybe you weren’t serious? Cause I’m not.

  11. @Robert in SF:

    I’m not terribly serious. But one six year term would probably be better. After all, Presidents have sons, wives, and brothers (snark).

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    As a matter of propriety, presidents ought not go on campaign junkets on the taxpayer. As a matter of practicality, pretty much anything a first term president does–particularly in the last year of that term–is political, so drawing the line is next to impossible. Still, it’s hard to justify flying various officials, along with their entourages and limos, around the country in military transport planes.

    As you say drawing the lineis next to impossible so it will continue. And personally I don’t have a big problem with it since every major elected figure down medium city mayors travels around with a convoy of SUV’s. And cabinet secretaries where would you draw the line? Clinton gets it but Panetta, Geithner, and Ray La Hood don’t.

  13. CarolDuhart says:

    Just how do you cut back these days? Back when Oswald was running around trying to kill a General and succeeding in killing Kennedy, he was a lone wolf with no support. He had minimal training and no plan B. These days, the Oswalds of the world can find full militia and terrorist groups to give him support and additional training and a getaway car. Not only that, but these groups aren’t content with killing one target, but taking out whole city blocks for their cause. The extra armor and preparations aren’t just for the motorcade anymore, but for spectators, guests, and neighborhoods.

  14. Loviatar says:

    James,

    I’m can’t seem to find the post in your archives where you decried Bush the lesser when he did the same. I must have missed it, could you please post a link pointing me to the post.

    And no, after you headline a post with “Obama Gets 9 More Military Planes for Campaign” writing a few lines halfway through the post saying Bush did it also doesn’t count as equivalence. It just a faux veneer for the people who still believe you’re “fair and balanced” Republican.

    I’ll await your links.

  15. DRS says:

    Look, the president’s the most powerful man in the world, the head of state of the world’s only superpower. If anyone merits additional protection, he does. Agreed that no one knows or cares who’s Secretary of Commerce this week, and that probably having a plainclothes cop with him/her would suffice. But the president’s slightly different.

  16. mantis says:

    @CarolDuhart:

    He had minimal training

    I don’t think I would characterize U.S. Marine Corps training as minimal.

  17. anjin-san says:

    I’m can’t seem to find the post in your archives where you decried Bush the lesser when he did the same. I must have missed it, could you please post a link pointing me to the post.

    Seems like a reasonable request.

  18. CarolDuhart says:

    @mantis: What I was thinking of is that Oswald knew how to shoot, but he wasn’t trained or led in a way that would maximize his ability to get away or not be seen.

  19. Matthew says:

    @Loviatar: It is amazing that you can turn such a nonpartisan article into an attack of someones perceived political bias. If we only look at what the Mr. Joyner actually wrote, instead of the citation from the Caller, he mentions both Obama and Bush only once. Get a life, and stop trying to make everything fit your liberal agenda.

  20. Loviatar says:

    @Matthew:

    Obama is mentioned once (not true); title of the post, bolded and more than twice the font size of the regular text. – Obama Gets 9 More Military Planes for Campaign

    Bush is mentioned once; in the body of the text after a lengthy quotation, which slams Obama (second mention) and Biden. There is no emphasis and the reference is a secondary oh by the way Bush also took advantage of the extra aircraft. – “The Air Force allocated extra aircraft to support President George W. Bush when he was running for re-election in 2004.”

    ———

    yeah, I can see how from your point of view pointing out the unfairness of the writeup is liberal bias.

  21. KariQ says:

    Is the campaign charged for the cost of the material used while campaigning?

  22. Matthew says:

    @Loviatar: So you think that outsidethebeltway.com came up with that title? You’re more gullible than I thought. Perhaps James also advised Obama to get those planes. It’s a story that is being posted all over the internet. Once again, get a life. You’re totally grasping for straws here. The really sad part is, you know it. Yet you continue anyway.

  23. Kolohe says:

    I believe campaigns of incumbent presidents do pay the government for this use of Air Force One and other AMC assets at some fixed hourly rate.

  24. Jeremy says:

    @john personna: Hear hear. One six-year term for presidents. Problems solved.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t see why there is the least controversy past the Daily Caller saying,

    to ferry security vehicles, armored limousines and communications gear

    Does any one expect the campaign to pay for presidential security and command and control equipment?

  26. Matthew says:

    @gVOR08:

    In a word, yes. In so much as the activities of any incumbent president are for his own political aspirations, then his campaign should foot the bill, not the taxpayer. This goes for parties. The secret service is going to be there regardless, and so will his armored limousine. Presidents already have planes allotted for those vehicles. That is why the cited article reads, “Obama gets MORE air force aircraft”.