Saturday, August 1, 2009

Going Dutch in the White House

This is comic gold but I'm afraid the joke is on the American electorate who put a joker on the throne-

Four of the most powerful business leaders in America arrived at the White House one day last month for lunch with President Barack Obama, sitting down in his private dining room just steps from the Oval Office.


But even for powerful CEOs, there’s no such thing as a free lunch: White House staffers collected credit card numbers for each executive and carefully billed them for the cost of the meal with the president.


The White House defended the unusual move as a way to avoid conflicts of interest. But the Bush administration didn’t charge presidential guests for meals, one former official said, and at least one etiquette expert found the whole thing unseemly – suggesting it was a serious breach of protocol.


“I’m sure they have their political reasons for doing that, but I think it’s not what quote, hospitality, unquote is all about,” said Letitia Baldrige, who headed Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House staff in the early 1960s. “We’ve got to relax about this. To have people to the White House and worry about the price of things is laughable.”


The White House explanation-

“From time to time, White House guests are asked to reimburse for their meals, the reasons include ensuring there is no conflict or appearance of a conflict,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “That is consistent with our tough ethics rules and we will continue the practice when appropriate.”

The former senior Bush administration official said meals with the president were covered by official entertainment expenses that fall under the Executive Residence budget or the White House’s annual account. But the Bush administration was so sensitive about appearing cozy with corporate America that another former high-ranking official cannot recall a single instance of President Bush lunching with CEOs in the White House.

For Obama, the politics of dining with CEOs is much different: In the midst of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, most Americans would likely approve of the president sitting down with the leading figures of the private sector to develop strategies to fight the recession.

Still, the decision to bill the CEOs for their meal shows the political sensitivity of relations between the commander in chief and corporate chieftains. The lunch meeting did not show up on Obama’s public schedule and was largely overlooked by the press.


So Obama’s administration, which he promised would be the most transparent and open in history is purposely hiding who the president is meeting from the public.

For a host, not to pay dinner bills is a matter of bad manners, not conflict of interest as the Obama officials laughably claim. After all, there is a conflict of interest with everyone that a president meets, just because his actions affect all, in one way or the other. Singling out C.E.O’s is unfair –as if they are lesser citizens than those who do not have to pay the bill when they dine with the president in the White House. But as is typical, Obama looks out for Obama first –his own image is more important than any promised historical openness and accountability.

(via The American Thinker)