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Travels of the President Under a Microscope in an Era of Belt Tightening

Perhaps it is nothing more than an accident of timing that as federal workers brace for a summer filled with unpaid furlough days, their leaders are traveling the nation and globe on trips that exude luxury.


Last week, President Obama left the White House for two Chicago fund-raisers in the hope of helping Democrats retake the House in next year’s elections. The cost of flying aboard Air Force One to his hometown: $180,000 per hour.


The same day the first lady, Michelle Obama, traveled to Massachusetts to lunch with rich donors who had paid up to $37,600 per ticket at the Taj Boston Hotel. The meal included roasted Chilean sea bass with a fricassee of asparagus. Meanwhile, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, were in Rio de Janeiro, part of a six-day swing through Latin America to discuss trade and investment, including a stop in Trinidad and Tobago.

同一天,第一夫人米歇爾·奧巴馬(Michelle Obama)前往馬薩諸塞州,與持單價3.76萬美元入場券的富豪捐贈者們在波士頓泰姬陵酒店(Taj Boston Hotel)共進午餐。午餐包括烤智利海鱸魚及白汁蘆筍肉。同時,副總統小約瑟夫·R·拜登及其夫人吉爾(Jill)在里約熱內盧。他們將用六天時間在拉美幾個國家探討貿易及投資問題,特立尼達拉及多巴哥也是其中一站。

For a leader presiding over automatic budget cuts and a slow-moving economic recovery, there are growing political costs to presidential travel. Every move a president makes costs money, and in an era when money is in short supply, that means heightened scrutiny. Vacations are especially touchy.


“The president is asking the people to sacrifice but never himself,” Representative Chris Stewart, Republican of Utah, said when he introduced a resolution this year asking Mr. Obama to forgo vacations to pay for resuming White House tours cut because of the automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester. “We don’t have a problem with him taking vacations, but it seems petty to close the White House to tours when forgoing one or two out-of-town vacations would easily pay for the cost of keeping it open.”

猶他州共和黨眾議員克里斯·斯圖爾特(Chris Stewart)今年曾提出一項提議說,奧巴馬應該放棄一些休假,從而恢復因自動預算削減,即所謂“自動減支”(sequester)而削減的白宮參觀項目。他說,“總統在要求民眾做出犧牲,但自己從來不做什么。我們不是介意他度假,而是說,如果放棄一兩次休假就能輕松支付白宮向游客開放的花費,不這么做就顯得小氣了。”

Bob Dole, the former Republican senator from Kansas, was more blunt when asked generally about Mr. Obama’s travels in a rare interview on “Fox News Sunday” last week. “He’s on the road too much,” Mr. Dole said.

前堪薩斯州參議員鮑勃·多爾(Bob Dole)的措辭就更加尖銳了,上周在《福克斯周日新聞》(Fox News Sunday)上罕見接受采訪時,他被籠統地問到奧巴馬的出行,多爾說,“他出行過于頻繁。”

Almost by definition, Mr. Obama lives a life foreign to most Americans, with the big white house and the ushers and chefs and the airplane fueled and ready to go. When he wants a weekend away, he can fly to Florida to golf with Tiger Woods. When his daughters take spring break, they head to Aspen to ski. He winters in Hawaii and summers on Martha’s Vineyard.

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奧巴馬的生活與多數美國人有本質不同。他住在雄偉的白宮里,有門房,有廚師。飛機加滿了油隨時就能起飛。當他想要出去度周末,他就能飛去佛羅里達跟泰格·伍茲(Tiger Woods)打高爾夫球。他的女兒們放了春假,他們就去阿斯彭滑雪。他在夏威夷過冬,在瑪莎葡萄園島(Martha’s Vineyard)消夏。

But this summer’s trips come as federal employees are tightening their belts. Last month, four federal agencies closed down — the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and even the Office of Management and Budget — as employees were ordered to take the first of several unpaid days off.

但是,今夏的總統出行,恰逢聯邦公務員正在節儉度日。上月,四家聯邦機構關閉,雇員被要求先休幾天無薪假期。這些機構是,環境保護署(Environmental Protection Agency)、國內收入署(Internal Revenue Service)、住房和城市發展部(Department of Housing and Urban Development),甚至還有管理與預算辦公室(Office of Management and Budget)。

Many workers are canceling summer vacations of their own. Across the government, cutbacks are everywhere. The Blue Angels did not fly at the Naval Academy commencement, Head Start programs are turning away children and there are no summer jobs for college students to cut the grass at Antietam.

許多雇員都取消了自己的暑期出行計劃。整個政府都在減少支出。在海軍學院(Naval Academy)的畢業典禮上,藍天使特技飛行隊(The Blue Angels)不再表演;啟智學前教育計劃(Head Start)正在拒收學生,而且安鐵頓也沒有讓大學生除草的暑假工作。

In a nod to the pain that federal employees are feeling, Mr. Obama in April announced that he would cut his salary by $20,000.


Despite that gesture of solidarity, the president’s official and political trips still generate second-guessing. This summer he plans a diplomatic foray to Africa that will cost millions of dollars and invariably involve an entourage of hundreds of security, communications, military and technical personnel, just as it did when George W. Bush and Bill Clinton went. White House officials said they are not deterred by fear of criticism, although some said the president would probably avoid safari time.

盡管有這樣一種共度難關的姿態,但總統的公務出行和政治訪問依然會在事后受到指責。今年夏天,他計劃對非洲進行外交訪問,非洲之行將耗資數百萬美元,而且必定會有數百名安保、通信、軍事和技術人員陪同,就和喬治·W·布什(George W. Bush)和比爾·克林頓(Bill Clinton)當年去非洲一樣。白宮的官員稱他們不會因害怕受到批評而被嚇到,不過一些人表示,總統可能不會安排狩獵的時間。

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group that opposes tax increases, said Mr. Obama brought such criticism on himself with a sky-is-falling approach to the sequester, which canceled popular, visible programs seemingly to galvanize the public against sensible budget cuts.

反對增稅的組織美國稅制改革協會(Americans for Tax Reform)會長格羅弗·諾爾奎斯特(Grover Norquist)說,奧巴馬取消了受歡迎的、看得見的計劃,看起來像是要刺激民眾反對明智的預算削減,他對自動減赤采取的這種大難臨頭的方式招惹了不少批評。

“The cost of every vacation and ‘work trip’ is now compared to things he cancels ‘due to sequester,’ ” Mr. Norquist said. “And he cannot complain as he started this ‘blame-the-sequester, there-is-nothing-to-cut’ narrative.”


White House officials react to such criticism with weariness. Mr. Obama arrived in office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and has been criticized for taxpayer expenses almost from the start. Aides said the public understands that being president costs money and that Mr. Obama has official obligations and deserves time off. They dismiss complaints as predictable carping from a party whose leaders enjoy perks of their own, including Congressional trips overseas. House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio spends time playing golf and traveling the fund-raising circuit.

白宮官員疲于應對類似的批評。奧巴馬上臺之際,正值大蕭條(Great Depression)以來經濟危機最嚴重的時候,而且他幾乎從一開始就因花納稅人的錢而受到指責。他的助手們表示,民眾理解,成為總統要花錢,而且奧巴馬承擔著公務,應該有休假的時間。他們認為,那些抱怨是預料之中的吹毛求疵,發出抱怨的這個政黨的領導人享受著自己的特權,其中包括國會的海外出訪。來自俄亥俄州的眾議院議長約翰·A·博納(John A. Boehner)有不少時間用在打高爾夫球和籌款活動上。

“Many Republicans in Washington criticize the president because the sun comes up in the morning,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “So if that was our litmus test, we couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.”

“華盛頓的許多共和黨人會為了太陽在早上升起之類的事批評總統,”奧巴馬的高級顧問丹·法伊弗(Dan Pfeiffer)說,“那么,如果那就是我們的試金石,我們早上就都別起床了。”

Officials said the White House has pared back because of the sequester. Staff travel, equipment purchases and new hiring have been curtailed. Among those furloughed was the assistant White House chef.


But officials said the vast bulk of Mr. Obama’s expenses, including the $179,750-per-hour cost of Air Force One, are simply the price of the presidency and the communications and security required for a 24-hour-a-day commander in chief.


Other presidents have come under fire for vacation habits. Ronald Reagan retreated to his ranch at Santa Barbara, Calif., and Mr. Bush to his outside Crawford, Tex. Mr. Clinton had no home and, like Mr. Obama, favored rental estates on Martha’s Vineyard.

其他一些總統也曾因度假習慣而受到猛烈批評。羅納德·里根(Ronald Reagan)會前往他位于加利福尼亞州圣芭芭拉的農場,布什會去他在德克薩斯州克勞福德鎮(Crawford)郊外的農場,而和奧巴馬一樣,沒有自家的度假去處的克林頓則喜歡瑪莎葡萄園島的出租莊園。

“It’s just a routine part of the Washington gotcha game,” said Joe Hagin, who spent 14 years in the White House working for three Republican presidents, most recently as Mr. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. “Democrats played it against President Bush and Republicans are returning the favor. It’s been going on for a long time.”

“這只是華盛頓整人游戲的慣例,”在白宮為三位共和黨總統工作了14年的喬·哈金(Joe Hagin)說。他上一個職務是布什的副幕僚長。“民主黨人用它來對付布什總統,而現在共和黨人正在以其人之道還治其人之身。這種情況已經持續很長時間了。”



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