First Lady’s Lavish Vacation Sparks Criticism

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

During a time when millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to put food on the table, the First Lady’s lavish trip to a luxury resort in Spain that cost American taxpayers an estimated $75,000 a day is earning her the new title of a “modern day Marie Antoinette.”

The Seattle Times is reporting that the First Lady and daughter Sasha, 9, vacationed along with “close friends” at the Hotel Villa Padierna in the mountains outside Marbella, Spain. The resort has two golf courses, a posh spa with Turkish baths, views of the Mediterranean Sea and a high-end restaurant specializing in avant-garde fare. Room rates run as high as $6,500 for a two-bedroom villa with a private pool and 24-hour butler service.

While her friends paid their own airfare to Spain, Mrs. Obama flew in on Air Force Two, a plane that costs the government $11,555 an hour to operate. The round trip flight to Malaga is estimated to have cost Mrs. Obama and Sasha $178,000. The Obamas have promised to repay an amount equal to two first-class tickets which amounts to $7,400 a piece.

The White House has not disclosed how many Secret Service agents and aides are staying at government expense and have only said that the First Lady was accompanied by a “minimal staff.” However, various media are reporting that an estimated 70 staff members accompanied the First Lady on the jaunt. 

News of the lavishness of the trip, coupled with photographs of Mrs. Obama strolling the streets of Costa del Sol in a one-shouldered Jean Paul Gaultier top, is sparking criticism from both sides of the aisle, with many saying the trip makes the first family appear to be tone-deaf to the economic hardships gripping most of America.

“This in and of itself doesn’t hurt President Obama, but it plants a seed in voters’ minds … that ‘they’re not like me,’ ” said Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster.

“(W)hile most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing summer sojourns – or forgoing them altogether – the Obamas don’t seem to be heeding their own advice,” wrote conservative columnist Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News.

“Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette – the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight – than an average mother of two. While she’s spent her time in the White House telling parents they should relieve their chubby kids’ dependency on sugar and stressing the importance of an organic veggie garden, hopping a jet to Europe to meet with Spanish royalty isn’t the visual the White House probably wants to project.”

Tantaros adds: ” I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime – the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders. Toning down the flash would humanize the Obamas and signify that they sympathize with the setbacks of the people they were elected to serve.”

The First Family is planning another 10-day vacation on Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts later this month.

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