Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has pledged to continue to fly commercial when assumes his new position in January. Outgoing speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was criticized by many on the right and some environmental groups for using a 12-seat Air Force C-20B (Gulfstream III) and occasionally a Boeing 757 to travel between California, Washington, and wherever else the job took her.
But as is often the case in Washington, outrage is more of a partisan ploy than genuine concern for taxpayer dollars: former Republican speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) used a similar jet after the 9/11 attacks at the request of the Air Force. And we mustn’t forget that the Speaker of the House is third in the line of succession for the presidency, so some additional security in the form of a private jet is not necessarily a bad thing.
Anyway, Speaker Boehner styles himself as a man of the people and has proudly proclaimed that he will not be flying in a private jet. But that doesn’t mean he won’t give up other perks that come with the job.
As he left Washington on Friday, Mr. Boehner headed across the Potomac River to Ronald Reagan National Airport, which was bustling with afternoon travelers. There was no waiting for Mr. Boehner, who was escorted around the identification-checking agents, the metal detectors and the body scanners, and whisked directly to the gate…
Mr. Boehner, who was wearing a casual yellow sweater and tan slacks, carried his own bag and smiled pleasantly at passengers who were leaving the security checkpoint inside the airport terminal on Friday. Among the travelers not invited to bypass the security line was Representative Allen Boyd, Democrat of Florida, who lost his re-election bid two weeks ago.
Only Congressional leaders or members of Congress with armed security details are allowed to go around security. The same privilege is afforded to governors and cabinet members if they are escorted by agents or law enforcement officers.
To be honest, if I was in Boehner’s position I would be inclined to skip airport security too and I do appreciate the fact that as a very public figure, he is deemed trustworthy enough to board a commercial flight without being stripped or groped.
Yet there is just something that is not right about the whole thing. It’s one thing to avoid security if you’re flying out of Andrews on a military aircraft, but Speaker Boehner’s treatment suggests that he is above the law, at least when it comes to airport security–and that is very un-American in my humble opinion.
While Boehner has not forcefully criticized or defended the TSA and their full body scanners and invasive pat-downs, the "do as I say, not as I do" attitude strikes me as inherently hypocritical, even if (as his office claims) he never requested the special treatment. Maybe if he and other ranking members of Congress had to endure what we all do, they would make it a priority to fix the broken airport security system that continues to plague us.
We all know that members of our congress are model citizens,; incorruptible:
“A Jury Convicts Tom DeLay”
It’s legitimately the case that the Speaker’s office didn’t request the special treatment; it’s the normal procedure for protectees escorted by Secret Service or other Federal protection details. It’s entirely appropriate and “normal” for such situations.
What’s not appropriate, in my opinion, is for Boehner to make a big deal about insisting on flying commercial “like everyone else” without also insisting on going through the whole process the public is subject to.