It didn’t take long for Nancy Pelosi to create the imperial Speakership. She has requested that the Pentagon supply her with military aircraft at all times, and not just for herself, but also for her staff, her colleagues, and her family:
The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pressing the Bush administration for routine access to military aircraft for domestic flights, such as trips back to her San Francisco district, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
The sources, who include those in Congress and in the administration, said the Democrat is seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives and for other members of the California delegation. A knowledgeable source called the request “carte blanche for an aircraft any time.”
“They are pressing the point of her succession and that the [Department of Defense] needs to play ball with the speaker’s needs,” one source said. The request originally went to the Pentagon, which then asked the White House to weigh in.
Mrs. Pelosi’s request is not new for a speaker, who is second-in-line in presidential succession. A defense source said the speaker’s regular access to a military plane began after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, who was speaker at the time, started using U.S. Air Force planes for domestic travel to and from his district for security reasons. A former Hastert aide said the congressman did not use military planes for political trips or regularly transport his family.
I’m not even sure that the succession is good enough reason to meet the demand for the House Speaker, even if Denny Hastert used that reasoning. The Speaker is second in line for the Presidency in the case of the death of the President and Vice-President, and therefore deserves some special security protocols. It doesn’t take a military flight to implement those, especially just to fly home on the weekends.
This request by Pelosi goes far beyond even that questionable consideration. Pelosi’s staff doesn’t have anything to do with the succession, and neither do her colleagues in the House. The military is not a charter service for politicians who want to avoid using the same airports as the rest of the hoi polloi. The military has other responsibilities, especially in a time of war, and pampering Congressmen shouldn’t take precedence over them. That most certainly applies to flying Pelosi’s family around, too.
I seem to recall that Pelosi and her party ran on the notion that the Republicans had grown too fat over the perquisites of power. The GOP lost touch with the people of America, they claimed, and let power go to their heads — and certainly in some cases they were right. It’s hard to square that rhetoric with these new demands that the Pentagon start providing free charter flights to Democratic politicians and their staffs and families at a moment’s notice.
UPDATE: Think Progress manages to misstate the issue and then proclaim it a non-story. The Sergeant at Arms of the House says that he suggested the air transport and the larger plane for Pelosi based on Hastert’s use of the plane since 2001. Nowhere does the Sergeant at Arms address Pelosi’s request to use it for the entire Northern California delegation, nor her family or her staff, all of which is unprecedented by Hastert or anyone else. That’s the crux of my criticism, and Think Progress doesn’t even bother to address it.