Contrarian View – Paneta’s Plane Trips Justified

April 19, 2012

The issue of Secretary of Defense  Leon Paneta’s weekly flights home on a communications-equipment-laden Air Force VIP transport has become a political hot button among conservatives looking for any new issue to attack Obama on his financially profligate behavior.  The price is so high (we’re talking a million bucks a year in round numbers) because Paneta’s home is in California.

Many conservatives have really been hammering this – but as a Nevadan, I’d like to take a contrarian view.

First, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense are members of any Administration’s foreign policy crisis team – no matter where they are, they need immediate access to sophisticated communications gear in order for them to fulfill their roles in helping to protect America’s national security.  This applies to Democrats as well as Republicans.  This means, simply, that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State need to travel in special aircraft with high-tech secure communications gear onboard – which means they fly on VIP Air Force transport aircraft.

Now, to the outrage over Paneta.  Note that nobody is howling about Hillary’s flights home to New York (assuming she even makes them) – if she does, she flies a few hundred miles, from Andrews AFB in the DC area of Virginia to New York City.  Paneta, however, is “vulnerable” because he flies the better part of 3,000 miles home, and 3,000 miles back to DC – and, unlike Hillary, he has a family he likes to visit, so he goes home almost every weekend.

If this criticism is deemed valid, then the Law of Unintended Consequences means that potential Sec-Defs and Sec-States must, like Hillary Clinton and VP Joe Biden, come from within a few hundred miles of DC – that candidates from the Far West are automatically disqualified for cost reasons.  That is, frankly, unAmerican.

Our Presidents have always been expected to find the best-qualified individuals to serve – regardless of where in the US they call home.  A good and recent example – Vice President Dick Cheney (who also was required to travel in an Air Force VIP transport with secure communications) was from Wyoming, and he – like Paneta – went home frequently (not every weekend, but frequently).  Did anyone (should anyone) legitimately have criticized the Veep for visiting family?

By the same token, the late, great President Ronald Reagan – who also had to travel on a VIP Air Force transport with secure communications facilities – Air Force One – frequently traveled home to the Presidential ranch.  Was that out-of-bounds?  Should we only elect Presidents from within a few hundred miles of DC?

The point is simple.  We are a country of 50 states, some many thousands of miles from DC – and we not only elect top execs from any one of the 50 states – and those people might want to go home from time to time (imagine if Sarah Palin had been elected, and headed back home to Alaska every weekend) – and we also appoint Secretaries of State and Secretaries of Defense who also hail from any one of those 50 states … and they, too, have the right to visit their family back home on a regular basis.

If we criticize Paneta – and find that criticism legitimate – then when we have a President from OUR party again, that President will have to come from the East Coast, within a few hundred miles of DC, and that will also apply to Our Guy’s Sec-State and Sec-Def … is that what we really want?

As Commander Spock memorably said in that classic Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, “Sauce for the Goose, Mr. Savik.”  What works for Our Guys has to also work for Their Guys … or we’re hypocrites, and God help us if we fall into that trap.


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One Response to Contrarian View – Paneta’s Plane Trips Justified

  1. My Homepage on June 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

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