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First lady heads to China on taxpayers’ dime with daughters and mom in tow

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When a dating couple goes out for a meal and splits the tab, it’s known as a “Dutch treat.” What do you call it when the wife of the U.S. President flies halfway around the world with her daughters and mother? A “real treat.”

That’s how an aide to Michelle Obama described her upcoming trip to China, which according to CNS News, she is undertaking “at considerable expense to taxpayers,” although the White House is remaining mum on an exact dollar figure.

But — hey, doggone! — she’s worth it, right? And surely you wouldn’t deprive her mother, who had never been abroad before becoming a taxpayer burden resident at the White House, of a chance to see the Orient. Mrs. Obama's Chief of Staff Tina Tchen explained to reporters on Monday that her boss "has been looking for an opportunity to go to China."

You know, the first lady has talked about the importance of young people here in the United States learning about other cultures. She believes that about her own children, and has seen this as a really unique opportunity to share a very different part of the world with her two daughters and with her mother as well.

I think, as she said before, before they came here to the White House, Mrs. Robinson had not done any travel internationally, so the opportunities when she's been able to do that have been a real treat, I think, for Mrs. Robinson, for the first lady, for her daughters as well to travel together and to see these places and experience them together.

Maybe the first lady can do up a nice travel blog while she’s on the road so all the starving little children she and her husband claim to care so much about can take the trip vicariously. That’s a bitter pill that should last them a lifetime.

The Associated Press released an itinerary for the trip (see below), which seems incomplete. Yes, it is possible that the extended first family is making the 14-hour trip twice in one week, but unlikely.

As to the cost, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes dodged the question entirely, saying only:

As a general matter, we don't disclose the details associated with the security of either the president or the first lady. This question comes up on many trips. What I would say is that determinations about the protection of the President and first lady are made by the Secret Service. We don't interfere in those decisions at all, nor do we publicize the details of that information.

Tchen wasn’t any more forthcoming. When asked if the Obamas would reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of the children and grandmother, she said, "We are not discussing or disclosing information regarding the details or the logistics of the trip."

To put the trip in some sort of perspective the Obama family vacation to Africa set taxpayers back between $60 and $100 million. Presumably, the family dogs, which were airlifted separately to Martha's Vineyard for the president’s 2013 summer getaway, will be staying home this time.

Itinerary

THURSDAY, March 20: Arrives Beijing.

FRIDAY: Joins first lady Peng Liyuan at Beijing Normal School; visits Forbidden City; meets with Peng and joins her for dinner and performance.

SATURDAY: Addresses students at Stanford Center at Peking University; participates in virtual discussion with American youth; visits Summer Palace; meets with staff and families of U.S. Embassy.

SUNDAY: Hosts roundtable on education; visits Great Wall.

MONDAY, March 24: Arrives Xi'an, visits Terra Cotta Warriors Museum, Xi'an City Wall.

TUESDAY, March 25: Visits Chengdu No. 7 High School; meets with staff and families of U.S. Consulate.

WEDNESDAY, March 25: Visits Chengdu Panda Base; has lunch at a Tibetan restaurant.

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