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Obama’s Political Tin Ear

Then: “There are times where you can afford to redecorate your house, and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding the foundation," Obama said in early 2009. Now: The Audacity of Taupe!

by
Mary Claire Kendall

Bio

September 4, 2010 - 12:02 am
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When it comes to President Barack Obama’s political tin ear and inability to feel voters’ pain, truly it’s an embarrassment of riches.

The federal deficit, well in excess of $1 trillion, speaks volumes; but it lacks the immediacy of, say, last May’s Gulf Coast scenes of Obama, alone on the beach, limply picking up tar balls, as BP’s burst oil well was gushing and ruining lives; or the First Lady’s luxurious vacation in Spain this summer.

And now we have the very relatable Oval Office redecoration, costing tens of thousands of dollars, at a time when the federal budget is drowning in red ink and most Americans would be hard-pressed to replace carpets and sofas still having good wear left in them, let alone buy fancy wallpaper from the Hamptons.

And while the work was paid for by the White House Historical Association, it’s naïve to think the “quid” for the “quo” of an Oval Office makeover will cost taxpayers not a dime. But even positing utmost rectitude, the lack of frugality when America is approaching bankruptcy is incomprehensible.

Bill and Hillary Clinton already spent an estimated $337,000 in the 1990s to refurbish the Oval Office — along with the East Room, Blue Room, State Dining Room, Lincoln Bedroom, and Lincoln Sitting Room, with the assistance of Arkansas decorator Kaki Hockersmith.

This work, also paid for with private money, required counsel’s approval, given obvious conflict of interest concerns, and, in fact, as the New York Times noted back then, generated an angry letter from then Deputy Counsel Vince Foster to the White House Usher’s Office on what he believed was the unfair politicization of the cost, shortly before he was found dead at Fort Marcy.

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