'Make way, peasant!' 

This morning, Drudge links to a Fox-NY report: Obama Visit To Create Traffic Nightmare. His visit to New York City today is the third in a month, and it could force the closure of the FDR Drive from Wall St. to E. 61st St. during evening rush hour.

Wow--what, is there a high-level Libya-crisis summit at the UN or something? Er, actually...

The president is planning on attending a $35,000 a person fundraiser on the Upper East Side, a high-priced dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, then a Midtown concert by the Roots with prices more reasonable for the average Joe.

This is nothing new, but it's infuriating all the same. In an Examiner column last fall about special travel privileges for the ruling class, I wrote:

In Vladimir Putin's Russia, the nomenklatura get exclusive highway lanes. In D.C. [and NYC, apparently], it's not nearly so formal.

You just have to wait patiently in downtown traffic while motorcycle-cordoned fleets of black sedans blast by you. Where do you have to go that's so important, anyway?

Wherever it is, it can't possibly be as important as a presidential fundraiser. Back in the summer of 2006, the Washington Post reported that “the Secret Service asked Virginia officials if they would be kind enough to shut down all of the HOV lanes on I-395 from 1 to 7 p.m. the next day so President Bush could get where he needed to be.”  Which was a fundraiser for Sen. George Allen.  State traffic experts described the likely results of acceding to the Secret Service request:

“There will be approximately 8,600 cars using the HOV lanes over a three hour period (4 to 7 pm). This equates to approximately 20,000 to 22,000 people. If the HOV lanes are closed, according to the District’s estimate the back up of traffic in the general purpose lanes will not be cleared until 10 p.m.”

Even so, it apparently took them quite a while to talk the Secret Service down from the plan.

There was a time when Americans fiercely resisted the notion that their president should be surrounded by a "palace guard," who'd shove ordinary citizens out of the way as the Emperor went about his business.

If we can't reinvigorate that spirit, can't we at least insist that the guy actually be engaged in business--not fundraising--when his people shove us?

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Gene Healy

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