By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
My nephew met the president.
It happened Saturday during an impromptu family outing to The Dairy Godmother, a well-known frozen custard store near my home in Alexandria, Va. Coming out the door, my lemon lavender sorbet cone in hand, I noticed a man with an odd-shaped pin in his lapel talking into his wrist. Having lived in the Washington, D.C., area for 25 years, I know that means the president (or a VIP of similar stature) is on his way.
So we decided to wait—and, sure enough, in just a couple of minutes, a motorcade of considerable sized pulled up, out of which jumped the president and his two daughters on a pre-Father's Day trip for a special treat. And according to the people who were inside the store, he could not have been nicer—even going so far as to give Nicholas, my eight-year-old nephew, an autograph.
The whole visit, which took somewhere between 15 minutes and a half an hour, was accomplished with a minimum of fuss. The Secret Service could not have been nicer, going out of their way to make sure the store stayed open so that folks coming to get their own tasty treats were not inconvenienced—well, not too inconvenienced anyway.
So give the president points for style and consideration—but up to a point. I wasn't in the store during the president's visit; I was outside, watching. And counting—counting from where I stood the Chevy SUVs and the vans that made up the motorcade.
I counted 11, none of which had any signs identifying them as hybrids or flex-fuel vehicles, plus an ambulance, idling, engines running while the president ate his vanilla custard with hot fudge and nuts on top. There may have been one or two more, spewing what the president and his supporters would call "greenhouse gasses" into the atmosphere. I'll leave it to someone else to figure out the carbon footprint it put down while sitting at the curb but I think it is fair to note that these are the same kind of SUVs that members of his party like to portray as gas-guzzling environment killers that have no business being sold.
I understand the president needs to travel in safety—and that the Secret Service and critical White House functions that need to travel with him at all times need large vehicles to accommodate their needs. What I don't understand is why the policymakers who are trying to redesign the General Motors and Chrysler product lines into something more environmentally correct and who are trying to force a national energy tax on the American people don't understand that sometime the American family needs large vehicles too? It's true you can't move the president around in a SmartCar—but you can't move a family of five around in one either.