Does it really matter whether there was a “deal” or not? The story is that the Defense Secretary spent $32 grand on his flights home per flight, to total more than $860,000. He spent lavishly on himself because he could, and the administration either passively or actively let him do it. That story is of a piece with the porkulus bill, the G$A scandal, and the overall irresponsible way that this administration has handled our tax dollars.
Contradicting an account by a Pentagon official, the White House is denying that President Obama struck a “deal” with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to allow him to commute home to California most weekends on a military aircraft at a cost of $32,000 per round-trip flight and a total of $860,000 as of early April.
“There’s no deal here,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday when pressed on the issue. “The secretary has addressed the matter. He, I think, spoke about it, and he has decided to try to find a way, if there is, to reduce the cost. But, you know, I don’t have anything to add to it.”
Mr. Carney was responding to a question about whether the White House or Mr. Obama had negotiated with Mr. Panetta to allow the California commuting arrangement before Mr. Panetta accepted the Pentagon post.
The defense secretary must use military aircraft for security and communications purposes even during personal travel, but previous defense secretaries have lived in and around the Washington area and did not regularly travel across the country.
Earlier this week, Mr. Panetta said he regrets the cost of the commute and will try to find a way to economize in the future, but he still maintained that the trips home to his family’s walnut ranch in Monterey, Calif., are important.
Jay Carney’s denial gets close to throwing Panetta into a jet turbine, but it just makes a deal all the more likely to have occurred. As for Panetta, he’s one of the better members of an atrocious administration. That doesn’t give him license to burn our money.