There was much tut-tutting over Judicial Watch’s allegation earlier this week that Nancy Pelosi “treats the Air Force like her personal airline.” But over at ABC, Jonathan Karl and Luis Martinez actually read this “trove” of documents on what Michelle Malkin calls “Queen Nancy’s military air travel.” And what did they find?
In fact, it appears that Pelosi uses military aircraft less often than her predecessor, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
The documents cover the period from January 2007 to November 2008 and show that Pelosi made the equivalent of 20 round-trips between Washington (Andrews Air Force Base) and San Francisco. That’s an average of less than one round-trip per month. In contrast, former Speaker Hastert traveled home to his Illinois district virtually every weekend and, his former aides tell ABC News, he would almost always travel on military aircraft. Like Hastert, Pelosi also occasionally leads Congressional delegations on foreign trips (the documents show six foreign trips: one to Asia, three to the Middle East and two to Europe).
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch also disprove another frequently repeated rumor about Pelosi’s travel: that she regularly flies home to San Francisco in an Air Force C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737. According to the documents, Pelosi did not make any domestic trips on a C-40 during the 23-month period from January 2007 to November 2008. Her trips to San Francisco have all been on smaller executive aircraft, usually an Air Force C-20 (the equivalent of a Gulfstream G-3) or a more plush C-37 (a Gulfstream G-5).
The Judicial Watch release cites e-mails from the military complaining that Pelosi was frequently reserving military aircraft and then canceling, causing the Air Force to incur costs as crews prepped planes than never went anywhere. These e-mails, however, are from early in her tenure as speaker.
The only other time the issue of cancelled flights comes up is when Pelosi was forced to cancel flights to California in October 2008, when the House was in the midst of intense debate over the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. The Defense Department official seems to fully understand the situation, writing, “I do not see malice or a lack of urgency on their parts given the weekend Hill proceedings. Obviously we all need to keep leaning forward. It’s the right thing to do.”
The Judicial Watch release also cites an e-mail from a Pelosi staffer complaining about the lack of available C-5 aircraft for Congress’s 2007 Memorial Day recess, but this has nothing to do with Pelosi’s travel. Instead, the staffer was trying to arrange travel for eight Congressional delegations (all such travel is arranged through Pelosi’s office).
UPDATE: Against my better judgment, I’m responding to this from Michelle Malkin:
As I reported (yeah, we can do that, too, MSM), one of the most notable e-mail exchanges I found in the docs (which was not spotlighted in JW’s release, but could be found by anyone who actually clicked through on JW’s site to the actual records) dealt with Pelosi’s absurd demand in December 2008 (that’s just three months ago, not “early in her tenure”) that the military move her jet from San Francisco airport to Travis Air Force base (where she had “business” and where she just so happens to have a country home nearby in Napa 30 minutes away!) Queen Pelosi didn’t want to drive 1.5 hours. She demanded that the military come to her. DoD officials pointed out that this had never been done before — not even for the Defense Secretary.
But Pelosi is not the first to make such a request. In reading the email traffic for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, we find this on Page 70:
Hastert didn’t want to drive 14 extra miles. Are requests like this pretty? Nope. But they are not unprecedented either.