Skip to comments.Those Democrats and Their Private Jets
Posted on 08/21/2004 5:24:50 AM PDT by dennisw
THERE are objects or possessions that scream "I'm better than you" - items that remind the average Joe of a cultural and economic divide that cannot be crossed. It's a $10,000 bottle of wine, a Hummer, a real Rolex. This year's conspicuous object seems to be the private jet.
Once, this prized possession was associated with corporate executives and reclusive stars. Or with congressmen on a junket. There was nothing political, or at least nothing partisan, about them. But since October, when John Edwards was tweaked for flying on planes borrowed from Archer Daniels Midland and other companies, they have become what conservatives have portrayed as symbols of liberal hypocrisy, much as the Volvo was a generation ago. The argument is: these people pretend to be "of the people" or at least "for the people" but they are elitists who fly far above the rest of us.
When the leftist film maker Michael Moore used his publisher's plane on a recent book tour, for example, critics lambasted him for enjoying the corporate high life. The Hollywood activist Laurie David, the wife of Larry David of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," was labeled a "Gulfstream liberal" in an article in the latest issue of The Atlantic Monthly for condemning S.U.V. owners while flying around in private planes.
Arianna Huffington, a financial backer of anti-S.U.V. commercials, has also borne the brunt of criticism for traveling in a jet; and a supermarket magnate, Ron Burkle, is perhaps as well known for his eight-bedroom 767 as he is for the more than $1.5 million that he has given to the Democratic Party since 2000.
Republicans, of course, avoid the hassles of commercial flight at least as often as Democrats. The former chairman of Enron, Kenneth Lay, even flew on private planes to his company's bankruptcy hearings. But no one accuses Republicans and their wealthy supporters of hypocrisy, of being "Gulfstream conservatives.'' "Democrats get hit with a double whammy," said Bill Blomquist, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. "It's not just expensive and indulgent. It's also somehow against the principles of the party."
David Horowitz, a conservative purveyor of the hypocrisy accusations, says that the attitude is "everyone should ride bicycles, but we'll take the jets."
"The schools thing is a good example of that," Mr. Horowitz says. "They send their kids to private schools, but they oppose vouchers."
The image issue, the disconnect between average Americans and the celebrities who claim to love them, starts with the sticker price. The smallest Gulfstream sells for $11.5 million. An entry-level 25-hour share of private flight time, at companies like New Jersey's NetJets, costs more than $100,000.
This is not the kind of travel available to "the lunch pail guy, or the person at the hair salon," says the Republican pollster John Zogby. "They'll never see it."
Then there's the criticism of the rich environmentalist who flies in a private jet to Sierra Club fund-raisers. A midsize Gulfstream 200 uses from 1,200 to 1,500 gallons of fuel for a cross-country flight, so if it holds four people, giving them the chance to stretch out on the leather sofas, each person would use about 350 gallons of fuel. That's 10 times the amount of fuel used per person by 130 passengers flying coast to coast on a Boeing 737-300.
It's also nearly the equivalent of driving a Hummer cross country, twice. Mr. Burkle's 767, if it carries eight people across the continent, would each use 1,000 gallons of fuel, enough for eight Hummer trips from southern Brazil to Dearborn, Mich
Mr. Burkle did not return calls for comment, nor did Ms. Huffington.
Ms. David, whose husband was a creator of "Seinfeld,'' also could not be reached for comment. Liana Schwarz, who works closely with her at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group of which Ms. David is a member of the board, said that she was out of town. Ms. Schwarz would not say if Ms. David used a private plane to get there.
Such silence, according to conservatives and even some liberals, only proves that the party of the New Deal is blind to the political danger of visible self-indulgence.
"The big problem the Democrats have is that they don't seem to understand the fundamental Republican attack on them this liberal elitist charge," says Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America." "They don't even fight back anymore. They don't take it seriously."
Environmentalists in particular bear the imprint of their enemies. Most Americans think that so-called greens are "supposed to be dressing in wheat shoes and burlap and driving on donkeys," says Mr. Blomquist. As a result, he says, "any time they're not doing that, they're open to criticism."
Environmental advocates privately admit that they'd prefer that their liberal donors fly commercial; some even call them outright hypocrites. But they also stress that policies matter more than purchases. "The Kerry energy plan has as its centerpiece an increase in fuel efficiency for automobiles, and they are a much larger environmental concern," says John Coequyt, an energy policy specialist at Greenpeace. "Because there are more of them."
Yet making the personal political is an American tradition that's difficult to avoid. George Washington's image in the popular historical imagination is tied not just to his victories as a general and president; he's also the down-home farmer who chopped the cherry tree.
By the same token, George W. Bush may be a patrician scion of a former president but when he cuts brush in Texas, he look like an average Joe.
Such attempts to move down market are common, says Alan Brinkley, a historian at Columbia University. "Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison - they ran as log cabin boys, but they were aristocrats," he says. What's new, he says, is the Democrats' rejection of that ethos, and an inability to notice that class still matters; that stepping onto a private jet while fighting for energy conservation looks, well, less than consistent.
Rich liberals want the creature comforts but don't want average folks to enjoy them.
Save my job, BUY MORE JETS!!!!...I dont care if you dress to the left or to the right.
"By the same token, [when] George W. Bush...cuts brush in Texas, he look like an average Joe."
Oh, he looks a lot beter than average, where's the picture? It should be required, like on an Ann Coulter thread!
It's actuially "four" things..the last is the trophy wife..
LOL, THANK YOU!
I must still be asleep. I could swear it says "Republican".
I know George Bush is comfortably well off, but I rather doubt he has the kind of money that would enable him to purchase and maintain a private jet.
IT IS NOT JUST LIBERAL, it is a universal problem that effects little people everywhere. American aircraft manufacturers simply refuse to build private luxory jets that will carry at least four polo ponies in first class confort!! A French firm has promised to build such a jet for Terry Kerry should her husband, the gigilo, win. This is a problem that billionaire liberals in NY and CA have to live with every day. And, you know, when they get cranky, they take it out on the personal household servants in the particular mansion or palace in which they are living that week and, especially, the illegals.
Limosine liberals with Learjet lawyers...would make a great country/western song.
Being that I never saw this story reported by the liberal media, I doubt anyone even knew to lambast him. Was there a FReeper thread on this story before?
It's analogous to the practical application of the old Marxist slogan, "To each according to his need, from each according to his ability."
The proletariat had limitless ability; the leadership had limitless needs.
Same with today's Green demagogues: the movement's leaders need to influence government to force Americans to scale back their lifestyles to a 3rd world standard of living. The movers and shakers in the Green movement need private jets, limosines, mansions and other status symbols to obtain this influence.
Hypocrits? Yes, but only in an objective sense. The Green movement is essentially a religious movement. Like all religions, it exists apart from pure reason. Its faithful cannot see their own hypocrisy.
It's actually a 757 with one master bedroom and a crew rest room, probably eight rooms in total. Likewise, Burkle has given FAR more than $1.5M to the Dems and their 527's.
This was the jet on which the shakedown of Anheiser-Busch took place in Chicago by Jesse Jackson. In return for the fabulously lucrative contract for Bud distribution in Chicago, Jesse dropped his threat to racially blackmail the brewery.
Who got the contract? You guessed it, the Reverend's loser son.
ROFLMAO!!!! I did a double-take too!!!!
WOW! This isn't just a posed photo. His shirt is dirty, and he's sweating. No kidding!
Ben Stein was on C-SPAN this morning (repeat from earlier this month) talking about a group of six activists in Malibu (where he has a house) who were denouncing people who drive SUVs...he said all 6 of them had private jets and some had 100-plus foot-long yachts.