Off the Record

Greta: Pres. Obama should use his own money, not taxpayers', for Michelle's lavish birthday gift

'Off the Record', 1/6/14: President's lavish Hawaii holiday extension for first lady's birthday - at taxpayer expense - sends a lousy message to a hurting nation


By Greta Van Susteren

Let's go "Off the Record" for just a minute. First, let's get a few things straight: Just because you can or just because others did it before you, does not mean you should, too. Sometimes, setting a good example for Americans is the right thing, too.

Here's what I'm talking about. Just before the first family boarded Air Force One in Hawaii on Saturday after their two-week holiday, the White House issued a press release, one that surprised all of us. It said the entire first family would not be on Air Force One flying back to D.C., that the first lady would remain behind in Hawaii as the president and his daughters flew back to D.C. That means, at some later date, an empty Air Force One plane will fly from Washington, D.C., to Hawaii to pick up the first lady and fly her back to D.C. That's two ways. Empty there, Mrs. Obama on the return. Total cost? An estimated $800,000.

Now, the reason Mrs. Obama was not flying with her family, per the press release, the additional days in Hawaii are part of President Obama's birthday gift to Mrs. Obama. Uh, not exactly. He's not paying the estimated $800,000. We are. He should do his own shopping with his own money and not take credit for what we pay for, asked or not.

And one other thing: The timing of this lavish spending of taxpayer money is lousy because so many Americans are in need. The president is pushing to extend unemployment benefits, which we taxpayers will pay. But he, too, might think about walking the walk while he's talking the talk. Yes, we want our first family safe and free to spend where they want to pick to spend their time. But this time, we are paying for two trips -- not one, two. It's lavish. Now, is that a good message to send to Americans right now? I think not.

That's my "Off the Record" comment tonight. If you have an important story or issue you think I should take "Off the Record," go to and tell us about it.