By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is letting her position go to her head. As the head of "the people's house," she is second in the line of presidential succession, behind only the vice president, in the event an unexpected vacancy opens up, midterm, inside the Oval Office. That no House Speaker has ascended to the presidency since James K. Polk did it in 1844 (having first been governor of Tennessee and then actually running for and winning the presidency in a national election) has apparently not escaped Pelosi's notice because she is creating around her all the trappings of an "imperial speakership."
By fiat, her minions are regulating—or at least attempting to regulate—what the opposition party may do, may say, and may communicate to their constituents. She has presided over the construction of a monumental edifice—the underground Capitol Visitor's Center, which—while admittedly started under the leadership of the GOP—ballooned into an over-budget, overdue, and overdone palace whose net effect is to keep the people separate from the legislators who put them in office.
Now, according to Investors Business Daily and other publications, Pelosi wants her own air force. "The Democrat-controlled House wants to buy nearly $200 million worth of private jets so lawmakers and a few high-level bureaucrats can travel in style," the paper reported Wednesday.
Speaker Pelosi wants to purchase three Gulfstream G550s at a cost of roughly $65 million each. They're nice planes, probably worth every penny people and corporations shell out to purchase them. The company that builds them brags on its website that the G550 is "a brawny aircraft with an international reach. Powered by enhanced Rolls-Royce BR710 turbofan engines, the G550 has a range of 6,750 nm at Mach 0.80 and a high-speed cruise capability of Mach 0.87. With its long legs, the G550 easily links Washington, D.C., with Dubai, London with Singapore and Tokyo with Paris."
"And that's not all," as they used to say on television. "The Gulfstream G550® has the best overall cabin in its class with the longest cabin, largest baggage area that is fully accessible in flight, and the best overall cabin environment." Each plan has four distinct living areas that can be set up in any one of 12 configurations to carry up to 18 passengers, perfect to take that last-minute congressional junket to Paris or for jetting off to that all important congressional fundraiser somewhere in America's heartland—without having to mix with the regular folks on commercial flights or, and this is the best part, without anybody knowing where you're going.
It may be that Speaker Pelosi has wearied of traveling back and forth to her luxury San Francisco apartment with its beautiful view on commercial flights or that the schedules to and from Washington Dulles International Airport just don't fit in very well with her plans. She is, after all, a grandmother, as her partisans like to remind us all, and the travel might be too strenuous. But it also may be that she just doesn't like having to call up the Department of Defense to ask to borrow a plane when she or her congressional colleagues want to jet off someplace.
Remember, this is not the first time Pelosi's airplane fetish has been in the news. In February 2007, ABC News reported on the Pentagon's refusal to honor her request "for use of a military plane that can fly to and from her home district in San Francisco without having to stop to refuel."
The Pentagon offered Pelosi the same plane that her predecessor, Republican Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had used—but that wasn't good enough—maybe because of the restrictions that came with it: no more than 10 passengers; no travel to political events; members of Pelosi's family couldn't fly unless she made a request in writing (and the family would have to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the cost of a coach ticket per person for the travel plus the cost of any food); members of Congress couldn't fly on the plane unless their travel has been cleared with the House Ethics Committee; and Pelosi's multimillionaire husband could fly for free with her only for official protocol purposes.
Having your own air force is much more fun and a lot less troublesome. It's an easy solution to a problem that has obviously bothered her for some time. And I can't wait to see the uniforms she designs for the crew and the stewardesses, excuse me, airline hostesses. I just wish the bill for making her life more convenient went to somebody besides me and the rest of the taxpayers.