On Friday at CNN, a clearly upset Don Lemon, covering a topic that almost no one in the press cared about for eight years during the Obama administration, abruptly ended a segment about the costs of protecting President Donald Trump and the First Family, and began to walk away from the set before the next commercial break began.
Why? One of his panelists called the obsession with these costs "fake news."
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The panelist who set Lemon off, Paris Dennard, who describes himself as "a GOP political commentator and consultant," got Lemon's goat when he stood his ground despite pressure from Lemon and ridicule from two of the other three panelists.
As seen below, during the Obama administration's eight years, the federal government spent an average of almost $10 billion per calendar day, added $2.4 billion per day in budget deficits, and added almost $3.2 billion per day to the national debt:
The White House's entire annual budget of $1.4 billion in 2014 was one-seventh of one day (i.e., barely one hour out of one eight-hour day) of average federal spending during the Obama era.
In late December, McClatchy's Anita Kumar estimated that vacation costs for Obama and his family during his eight-year term would amount to about $90 million. But there was an important giveaway relating to how that information was obtained:
In total, the cost of the the first family’s personal or largely personal travel during the last eight years comes to $85 million – though that is likely to climb to $90 million after additional records are released, according to the conservative group Judicial Watch based on federal government records.
Almost nobody in the establishment press was the least bit interested in even learning about, let alone talking about, the cost of the Obamas' vacations and travel, during which there was often a distinct sense of posturing as royalty. If not for Judicial Watch's efforts, which had to be pried out of the government's hands through Freedom of Information Act requests, the American people would have known very little if any of this.
But now Donald Trump is President, and we have leftists and journalists (but I repeat myself) jumping on soapboxes to score PR points by whining about tiny (in context) amounts — which brings us to Lemon's CNN episode.
Besides Dennard, Lemon's guests were Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, MoveOn.org senior adviser Karine Jean-Pierre, and South Carolina Republican Andre Bauer. Counting Lemon, it was effectively 4-on-1, as Bauer weighed in with concerns about excess.
In the full segment seen here, Cardona accused Trump of "hypocrisy" for criticizing excessive White House vacation and travel spending by Obama during the 2016 campaign ("full of hypocrisy day in and day out"). She didn't mention the far more substantive hypocrisy involved in Obama's 2008 criticism of George W. Bush's deficits as "unpatriotic," after which he proceed to leave them in the dust, turning in four consecutive years of shortfalls greater than $1 trillion.
Cardona also seemed to question why Trump family members should be getting taxpayer-paid protection when on business-related trips because (gasp!) they might actually be earning a living doing what they were doing before their dad became President. Does she really expect them to have to build the cost of Secret Service protection into the price of their products and services, or to stop doing business for the next four years?
The UK Guardian in 2014 reported that President Obama went to Europe with "a 900-person, 45-car, 2 Air-Force Ones, 3-cargo plane entourage." One can't make a genuine comparison with the information available, but at first glance, a two-thirds reduction in the entourage seems like a fiscally conservative improvement.
Jean-Pierre played the "hypocrisy" card again, and then contended, as if it means anything, that Obama had fewer vacation days than George W. Bush. While the statement is true, it's woefully misleading, as Bush, who preferred to be at his own home instead of at the White House when Congress was not in session, did the vast majority of his "vacationing" (which the rest of us would call "going back home") at his Crawford, Texas ranch, which the administration called the "Western White House," at far less taxpayer cost. Jean-Pierre also accused Trump of "profiting off the presidency," and for not "let(ting) go of ownership of his businesses."
Note that the only specific taxpayer-paid amount any panelist mentioned was $100,000 (pass the smelling salts!) associated with protecting Trump's sons during a South American trip. In the federal budget, or even in the total White House budget, that's below the level of a rounding error.
After 3-1/2 minutes of this, Dennard finally got a chance to speak. Here's how it went:
Transcript (not all crosstalk captured; bolds are mine):
DON LEMON: I want to bring in Paris now. Sorry to cut you guys short, but I want to get it all in before you have to go. Paris, what do you think?
PARIS DENNARD: I think this is fake news. This is not a news story. Don —
(Jean-Pierre and Dennard start shouting "Come on, Paris!")
LEMON: Tell me what about it is fake, Paris. Are we going down this road again?
DENNARD: Yeah, we are. I didn't interrupt any of you all. Let me just tell you why. The President is not breaking any laws and he's not doing anything —
LEMON: OK, Paris, hold on, let me ask you this. No-no-no-no. Let me ask, I'm going to let you finish. I'm going to let you finish. Do you actually know what the definition of fake news is?
DENNARD: What we are doing right now.
LEMON: Okay, well then, then you are part of the fake news, because you are on the network, and you're part of the, fake news is when you — let me explain to people out there watching you what fake news is. Fake news is when you put out a story to intentionally deceive someone and you know that it is wrong. I don’t know of anyone who has put out a story in the mainstream media that I can think of right now to intentionally deceive anyone.
Now people get things wrong. Sources sometimes come up empty, but no one that I know has put out anything to intentionally deceive someone. This story that we're doing right now is not to intentionally deceive anyone. We are simply talking about the cost to keep a president safe. The Secret Service cost. And what are the pros and the cons. And as Andre said, ways we may be able to work on that to make it fiscally better for the American people.
There is nothing fake about that. Please stop it with that stupid talking point that it is a fake news story. If you don’t want to participate in the new stories on this network, then don’t come on and participate. But don’t call them fake because you don’t agree with them. Go on.
DENNARD: Don, this is a fake news story in my opinion, because the underlying assumption is that —
LEMON: Okay, Paris. Thank you very much, everyone. Thanks everyone. Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend. Good night, all.
Lemon's sudden ending deliberately prevented Dennard from making his point.
For the record, as I noted on Sunday, the Associated Press, on the very day Lemon lumbered off the stage, intentionally published a bogus story accompanied by deliberately deceptive tweets that "Trump considered" alleged plans "to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants."
After eight years of completely ignoring the Obamas' spending and their occasional ostentatious displays of elitist arrogance, the obsession with Trump's First Family costs serves as an opportunity for leftists to hypocritically pretend to be concerned about trivial amounts of government spending while they air their tired criticisms of Trump as a rich, out-of-touch elitist posing as a populist.
After the segment, CNN issued a response:
As noted, Lemon's departure deliberately cut off Dennard and was clearly time to prevent him from making his point.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.