Sweet column: Pelosi's plane flap. Hastert's fed jet flights.

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Double standard

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is taking some heat because she wants a government plane to fly her between Washington and San Francisco and take some other members and staffers with her.

What exactly is the fuss about?

(from Sweet column in The Hill www.thehill.com)

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) used a government plane on a routine basis to fly himself and his two top staffers at the time, Scott Palmer, the chief of staff, and Mike Stokke, the deputy COS, from the capital to an airport near his home in Illinois. Hastert had a rather unusual management system: His key aides almost always traveled with him when he returned to the District. It was convenient, since Palmer and Stokke roomed with Hastert in Washington, sharing his townhouse.

When Hastert was under pressure because of the exploding Mark Foley page scandal last October, he ordered an airlift at government expense to fly a lawmaker to Washington for the sole purpose of getting him to a press conference to help bail Hastert out of the jam.

Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker is going to occur under a spotlight that was never aimed at Hastert. Pelosi’s team understands that. Hastert was never much of a target of the conservative cable talkers, and Pelosi is.

Still, it is interesting to note that Pelosi is getting smacked while Hastert’s use of military aircraft for himself and his two top staffers hardly ever got a mention or any scrutiny.

Why the pass? Perhaps it was an implicit recognition that national leaders faced certain security risks in the post-Sept. 11 world, and many who cover Congress well remember how in 1998 the deranged Russell Eugene Weston Jr. gunned down Capitol Police Officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson.

But now that the conversation regarding a Speaker using military aircraft has begun, let me revive an episode I wrote about in my Chicago Sun-Times column last October.

On Sunday, Oct. 1, Hastert’s team was scrambling to contain the escalating fallout from the Foley page scandal.

That day, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), then the chairman of the page board, had gotten an urgent phone call from Stokke. The Hastert team wanted Shimkus to return to Washington immediately from his home in southern Illinois in order to appear at a press conference on Monday with the Speaker, and they did not want to deal with commercial flight schedules.

So at 8 p.m. that day, Shimkus arrived at the military side of the Scott Air Force Base near Belleville to board the Speaker’s jet that had been dispatched for him.

The plane then headed to an airport near Aurora, Ill., to pick up Hastert, who had been weekending at his home in Plano, before flying on to Washington.

That Monday, Hastert and Shimkus headlined a press conference in the Capitol to talk about the Foley resignation.

Pelosi doesn’t need any special treatment. But one-size planes do not fit all. And speaking of fit … I think covering Pelosi’s stunning wardrobe is fair game.

After all, I wrote about Hastert’s clothes when he became Speaker in 1999 — noting that he bought three new suits and a tuxedo at Irv’s Men’s Store in a Chicago suburb.

Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail: lsweet3022@aol.com


If they didn't have double standards, the conservative cable talkers would be out of business. Two years ago, when CBS aired an erroneous report that Bush failed to show up for a military physical during his National Guard days, the conservative pundits went ballistic -- and the network fired three people and apologized profusely. But when Fox News slandered Barack Obama by broadcasting an Internet hoax, they refused to even apologize. Rush Limbaugh used to hyperventilate about cracking down on drug addicts until his own drug abuse was exposed. If it wasn't for cable, these people would be where they belong, ranting in a dark corner of some dive bar.

Lynn, it's one thing to get a plane - I don't think people are arguing about that. It's quite another to demand a large plane. Small jets routinely fly coast to coast. She wants the big jet so she can exercise her power and decide who gets to ride. The brouhaha is about her attitude and quest for power as much as it is about the plane.

I suspect that she’ll slip in an appropriation (earmark?) for a plane for herself and other Californians - oops, the loyal ones! The question is will we read about it or will the press bury it? I suspect the press will bury it.

Note to Bill Christopher: Bill, I don't listen to Rush every day, but I don't remember him hyperventilating about drug addicts. He does get worked up about the criminal justice system, but your statement seems false. How often do you listen to him?

As for Fox not apologizing for the Obama story, I suggest you look around and try to count the number of times that the media apologizes. They just move on to the next thing and leave the unfinished or out-of-context story behind. It happens every day. Rush calls the media the “drive by media” for this reason and he’s right. So Obama shouldn’t be surprised. Except for auto accidents and the like, most stories in the media are overblown, devoid of context and many times, just wrong.

This is why the alternative media is eating their lunch. Aren’t you tired of stupid stories on Global Warming when the facts about the science of it are so flimsy? There are dozens of other examples where the media provides a template for the issue and the stories reinforce the template at every juncture.

While this story is bizarre, it might be a good excuse to bring up if the Democrats plan to pass a plan for reconstituting Congress should the body be largely wiped out by an attack. Congress has been largely negligent on the issue and I hope the new Congress will finally take it seriously.

Norm Ornstein has been talking about this for some time and it's really one of those things that vitally important, but is so incredibly unsexy no one ever brings it up.

Oh wow Bill way to go man! Just what we needed another lefty weirdo!

Additionally, the CNN report included, and did not correct, a misleading statement by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) that Pelosi was "asking for Air Force One-like accommodations" that had "never been afforded to any member of Congress in our nation's history." In fact, as previously noted, Pelosi's staff and the Office of the Sergeant at Arms inquired about the guidelines for the speaker's use of a military aircraft for domestic travel and a Pelosi aide said that the Air Force determined that Pelosi should use a plane with greater fuel capacity for safety reasons, as Roll Call reported. CNN provided no support for McHenry's claim that Pelosi was "asking for Air Force One-like accommodations." Roll Call quoted a Pelosi aide as saying, "All we're asking for is what Hastert had."

Lynn, it's one thing to get a plane - I don't think people are arguing about that. It's quite another to demand a large plane. Small jets routinely fly coast to coast. She wants the big jet so she can exercise her power and decide who gets to ride. The brouhaha is about her attitude and quest for power as much as it is about the plane.

Have you actually read a single interview by her over this issue? Just one? Even one slandered and edited by the right? Please do, I beg you. Then comment again, and please appologize for your above comment at the same time.

This is what you get when a san fransico liberal is speaker, she will always spend more money and want more for herself, really similar to todd stroger or daley, she will hire her family and act like soviet era royalty. But I guess if you live in the city your bright enough to see that?

I think you have missed the point. She is entitled to an airplane to get her to and from her district. No one is arguing about that. However, her demands are for a really BIG plane to be at her disposal. You failed to mention that in your article.

Bill -

Pelosi's request has nothing to do with the size of the plane, or for a "big jet so she can exercise her power and decide who gets to ride" - it's about range. Yes, there are plenty of small jets that can fly from coast to coast, but there are many that can't. Her request was not for some plush party craft, but for a plane that can fly from coast to coast without refueling - that's it. If the military supplies her with a jet that is not capable of coast to coast flights, then she's most likely better off flying commercial, since there are plenty of non stop flights from SFO to DC. So, if the Speaker of the House is entitled to military transport, as was the previous SOH, then it's a fairly reasonable request that the transport they provide not have to stop mid was to fuel up. When was the last time you boarded a cross country flight only to be told you'd have to stop part way to refuel? I'm guessing it was around 1953 - that's when TWA put the Super Constellation into regularly scheduled non-stop transcontinental service. So what does this all boil down to? The range of the plane required by Speaker Hastert to fly back and forth between Washington and the 14th Illinois District is less than is required to fly between Washington and California's 8th. As you yourself said, "most stories in the media are overblown, devoid of context and many times, just wrong." Finally, we agree on something.....

Hey Sweet,

Is Chicago Sun Times going out of business?

Can they not afford someone who can write a coherent op-ed piece?


>He does get worked up about the criminal justice system, but your statement seems false. How often do you listen to him?

I try as hard as possible not to hear anything Rush has to say. However, "your statement seems false" isn't a very sound defense. This is the internet age, man! It took me all of a few seconds to find the following:
Limbaugh on Drugs - http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1159

Here's a good snippet from one of the 7 quotes listed on that page:
"And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up." -Rush Limbaugh, televised on 10/5/95

As the New York Times reports, Republicans took to complaining yesterday that one of the planes that would satisfy Pelosi's needs for nonstop travel to California is so luxurious that it contains "a game room, stateroom, entertainment center and bedroom and seated 42 to 50 people." "I hardly think these amenities help with security," Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor said," and I personally would describe them as inappropriate and unnecessary extravagances."

There's no arguing with that. But we've got to wonder: Does the military really have such a plane? And if so, who is entitled to use it? If Cantor and his colleagues are really so concerned about the idea of government officials living high off taxpayers' dollars, perhaps they ought to be asking those questions themselves.

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Lynn Sweet

<Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 8, 2007 11:43 AM.

Sweet column: Durbin launchs fundraising blitz for 2008 re-elect campaign. was the previous entry in this blog.

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