President Perks

Have you ever wondered why our Barack Obama, not noted for devotion to hard work in his previous jobs as a law associate, community organizer, state senator, and U.S. senator, raced around America, risking life, limb, and laryngitis, crying "change we can believe in," and begging the voters to send him to the White House as the President of the United States?

It wasn't because Mr. Obama wanted to be the first African-American chief executive, and his wife to be the first African-American First Lady. It wasn't because the job paid $400,000 a year. It wasn't because he wanted to give us a national healthcare system. It wasn't because he wanted to restore the economy with stimulus packages and trillion-dollar deficits. It wasn't because he wanted to "community organize" the country and the world. It wasn't because he rejected American exceptionalism. It wasn't because he wanted to save the air, the water, the whales, the salmon, the trees, and the planet. It wasn't because he wanted to be the first American president to chair a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. It wasn't because he wanted to tilt toward the Arabs and away from Israel. It wasn't because he wanted to "engage" Iran and the Muslim world. It wasn't because he was itching to grab the reins of government and make grand decisions about war and peace in Afghanistan and Iraq. It wasn't because he wanted to move the United States to the economic left as Germany and Sweden, for example, were reaffirming their faith in capitalism and moving to the economic right. And it wasn't because he had a burning desire, as required by Article II, Section I, to recite this oath at his inauguration: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

No, Mr. Obama ran for the highest office in the land because of the perks that go with it: Air Force One, Camp David, rent-free living quarters, chefs, chauffeurs, valets, bodyguards, and countless modern-day equivalents of Greek slaves and Turkish janissaries. 

Admittedly, any number of American millionaires have planes, palatial homes, chefs, chauffeurs, valets, bodyguards, and equivalents of Greek slaves and Turkish janissaries. But none of them has the perks that only an American President enjoys.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, may be one of wealthiest men in the world. But when he flies to, say, New York, the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't close the skies to other planes, as it does when President Obama on Air Force One flies to New York, or to any American city? Nor, when Mr. Gates is being driven through New York, do the police close off the streets and detour traffic. Nor do they provide him with a motorcycle escort.

Unlike the President, when Mr. Gates visits, say, London, he has to carry his American passport and he has to show it whenever British authorities ask him to. Moreover, he doesn't get to take a salute and review a military honor guard while he is in the United Kingdom.

If Bill Gates gets an urge to address the nation -- assuming the nation's TV and radio executives are willing to preempt scheduled programs -- he must part with a whole lot of money. But if the President gets the same urge, he asks one of his assistants to phone the networks and, presto, he's on the air for as long as he wants to be - and for free. 

Finally, when Bill Gates wants to make a great impression on some folks, he invites them to spend the night with him at his Big House in Washington State. But when President Obama wants to do the same thing, he invites them to the White House. Guess which folks are going to be impressed the most.

So, as we ponder Mr. Obama, and try to fathom who he is and what he stands for, we ought to remember that the perks of office -- an example is flying his wife at taxpayers' expense to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the 2016 Olympics -- is the reason, the only reason that he wanted to be the 44th President of the United States.