WaPo Tries to Intimidate President Trump From Showcasing Air Force One at Melbourne, FL Rally

The Washington Post published an article Thursday night that tries to intimidate President Donald Trump from showcasing Air Force One at his massive Melbourne, Florida, airport rally Saturday evening.

Tickets to the rally are still available as of publication time of this article.


Trump Force One at Melbourne, FL, campaign rally, September 27, 2016, photo by Kristinn Taylor.

The Post article, White House: Air Force One will not be used as a ‘prop’ at political rally, was written by Jenna Johnson who quotes an unnamed alleged administration official as telling her Air Force One would not be used as a backdrop at the rally.

The White House said Thursday that President Trump does not plan to use Air Force One as a backdrop at his political rally in a hangar in Melbourne, Fla., on Saturday evening.

The president plans to travel to the rally in Air Force One, as he does for all trips, but an administration official said the plane would “not [be] used in the background as a prop.”

During the campaign, Trump’s most theatrical rallies were those held in airplane hangars. As his personal Boeing 757 approached the airport, the theme song from the 1997 movie “Air Force One” would play. “Trump Force One” would usually swoop past once, if not twice, before landing and taxiing to the hangar. The door would open, Trump would emerge, descend a staircase, bound onto the stage and give a campaign speech against the backdrop of his luxury liner.

So when Trump tweeted this week that he would hold his first political rally as president in an airplane hangar, this question quickly surfaced: Will he do the same routine with Air Force One?

If he did, experts say, Trump would enter into a legal and ethical gray zone, as the president is not allowed to use government resources for political campaigns. The president is allowed to travel on Air Force One to campaign events — actually, he’s required to do so and doesn’t have the option of flying commercial. (The party or the campaign is expected to reimburse the government for part of the cost of the trip.) The iconic plane often appears on the campaign trail, such as when Hillary Clinton hitched a ride to a rally last summer in Charlotte with President Barack Obama and the two were photographed waving from the plane’s doorway, standing next to a presidential seal.

Richard Painter — a professor of law at the University of Minnesota who was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007 and is now vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — agreed with the White House’s plan. Painter explained that the president has to travel in Air Force One and the plane has to land, an event that his supporters are allowed to witness. But the president should put some distance between his political speech and the taxpayer-funded Air Force One.

“They can do all of the theatrics, but when he gives the speech, the plane should be to the side,” Painter said…”

The Post article tries to create a new standard for a president’s use of Air Force One that the media has not applied before. The Trump rally is a political rally sponsored by his campaign operation, but nevertheless one of the perks of an incumbent president on the campaign trail is flying in to campaign sites on Air Force One.


Kevin Lamarque/ReutersPresident Obama points to the crowd as he arrives for a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio October 25, 2012.

In 2012, the New York Times gushed over President Barack Obama using Air Force One as a campaign prop at an airport campaign rally in Cleveland on October 25.

CLEVELAND – At most of his campaign stops, President Obama’s backdrop for the TV cameras is a carefully diverse group of cheering supporters. Last night he decided to go for something different.

On the tarmac of Burke Lakefront Airport, Air Force One landed, made a few turns, and pulled right up to the edge of the roaring crowd, some 12,000 strong. A huge floodlight, mounted on a raised platform, illuminated the plane (which was actually the smaller, modified-757 version usually used by the vice president). The door opened, and the president bounded down the stairs and then up to the podium as his supporters went wild. The aircraft remained behind him, glowing against the night sky, throughout the speech.

It was a flashy demonstration of the trappings of power that Mitt Romney can’t begin to duplicate. But the stagecraft had a deeper purpose. After a disappointing few weeks in the polls, during which some of his most fervent supporters wondered if his fire was still alight, the president is determined to show that he is employing every mental, rhetorical and financial resource he has toward re-election.

That was the subtext to his exhausting round of six states in two days, an exhibition of ardor and stamina that candidates usually reserve for the final hours of a campaign. If there is any doubt about his resolve, he wants to dispel it with visibly rolled-up shirtsleeves, a few beads of sweat and an increasingly sandpapery voice…”

The Times article closed with a glowing rhetorical flourish about Obama’s use of Air Force One as a campaign prop:

“Then, after a few references to a “distant horizon” and “new frontier,” and with Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own” on the speakers, he shook some hands and got back on his gleaming symbol. In a day or two, he’ll do it all over again.”

A photo published by the Washington Times shows Obama using Air Force One as a campaign speech backdrop at a rally at Austin Stauber Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin on November 1, 2012.

With Air Force One in the background, President Obama speaks to supporters during a campaign event on the apron at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, November 1, 2012.

While the Post article mentions Obama giving 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a ride on Air Force One to a joint campaign appearance (which Trump criticized at the time), there was no mention in the Post article of Obama doing exactly what they are warning President Trump to not do on Saturday.

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