First Lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters, Malia and Sasha, along with her own mother are currently on a week-long trip to China for what is being described as a “soft diplomacy” visit.
Among the reasons for her visit includes an effort to learn about education from around the world as well as a belief that “pure friendly interactions” might be more effective than other measures in building trust between the two countries.
While her visit could have some benefit for the U.S., it comes at a cost.
Several media outlets like the USA Today are reporting that the Obamas have an entourage of approximately 70 people.
Think about it. Each person in the group needs hotel rooms, rental vehicles, and per diem meal expenses. This doesn’t include the man hours as well as hours for Secret Service agents.
Those people have been taken to China, at a cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
Reportedly, the Obamas are staying in a presidential suite at the five star Westin Hotel in Chaoyang. That hotel is the same one labeled by Vice-President Joe Biden in December as too expensive.
The Obamas’ room reportedly costs $8,400 per night.
The White House, as of Tuesday night, has not posted any information relating to the cost of this trip.
This trip has an appearance of her 2010 trip to Spain, that cost taxpayers nearly $470,000.
While the total cost for this trip to China will likely surpass that from Spain, Mrs. Obama is enjoying her time and making several stops during the week to promote American values.
For a unique twist, she spoke on Saturday at the Stanford Center at Peking University.
She said “it is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media. Because that’s how we discover the truth, that’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities, country and our world.”
She made this statement since the Chinese government censors new and old media. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are all things blocked in China.
Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mail from the United Kingdom, the first lady only offered two “open press” events out of the 22 on her calendar during this trip. She is appearing for photo-ops and public events that are ‘pooled press,’ as just one reporter and one photographer are recording her visit.
She is not answering any reporters’ questions.
No reporters are allowed to travel with her on her government aircraft.
Some argue the trip is more like a “vacation at taxpayer expense” if she is not choosing to interface with the media.
One report I read from a former chief of staff for first lady Laura Bush is that the limited reporter interaction might be in place to help Mrs. Obama avoid making political statements.
That might be the case. But at the end of the day it appears this trip is going to cost taxpayers in the ballpark of $500,000. Meanwhile, with limited reporter access, it looks like the U.S. is using its own “state run media” while the Obama ladies enjoy vacationing in China.
This limiting of a “freedom of the press” is nothing new for this administration.
Two of the Associated Press’ White House staff were reported just last week as saying that the president’s team often bars coverage of events because it is “hypersensitive” of his image.
They warned at a convention that “once we lose access, we’ll never get it back.”
Instead of using media coverage, the administration is using its own candid photos and press releases to get information to the public, especially in using social media.
Unfortunately, the so-called mainstream media is continuing to take what is given to them while not asking the important questions.
There is a freedom of the press to hold the government accountable.
This is something I pray our current generation never forgets before it’s too late.