Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice instituted a new policy when she arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on March 18, 2005. Instead of the usual government officials she wanted to be greeted by cultural figures.
In the Ukraine she was later met by little girls with bread and salt, and Kyrgystan sent its champion falconer and a popular local rock band.
Few people knew Secretary Rice was a fan of sumo wrestling and at her request she was met by Konishiki Yasokichi, the Hawaiian-born Japanese–Samoan who won the top division championship on three occasions.
He weighed 630 pounds and his nickname was “The Dump Truck.” Konishiki came close to becoming the first foreign-born grand champion. Through gastric bypass surgery he later lost 150 pounds.
One of the two Boeing 757 aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. which are used for Congressional Delegations.
Yesterday on “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was confident Democrats would retain control of Congress. The Speaker is aware of polls favorable to Republicans but says she is “not nervous.” Two weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it was possible for the GOP to win. Pelosi responded on Sunday, “With all due respect, I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about what the president’s employees say about one thing or another.”
Perhaps Pelosi does not listen to Gibbs but she is already reacting to the changed political environment. The Congress already has two Boeing 757’s which are primarily devoted to overseas travel. For the past two years the Speaker has been trying to upgrade Congress’ air fleet.
She had been seeking $550 million for 6 new Gulfstream V jets and two Boeing 737. The Speaker office confirmed today that the request has been dropped, and it will not be included in the next budget. The same request was deleted last year after it surfaced at the same time lawmakers were criticizing companies which had received bailout funds but continued to fly executives on private jets.
In 2008, according to the GOP Conference, House members spent about 3,000 days overseas on taxpayer-funded trips, up from about 550 in 1995. Among the many advantages of traveling on Air Congress is that there are no lines, and Air Force personnel serve as flight attendants. Spouses travel at no cost.
Speaker Pelosi goes back and forth to her district in a C-20B Gulsftream III, which is a 12 passenger jet. Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) used the same aircraft. Two years ago there was considerable press attention when it was reported Pelosi was seeking a large Boeing 757 for her trips back home.
She admitted asking for a plane which would not have to make a refueling stop.
The Speaker is still using the Gulfstream jet and has not been given an upgrade. The Speaker’s military travel costs the Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, indicate Pelosi has cost the taxpayers $101,429.14 for in-flight expenses.
This includes food and alcohol such as Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey, and Corona beer.
If the Speaker had received an upgrade to a 737, it would have cost the taxpayers $60,000 for a one way trip, or $120,000 every week. That is $480,000 per month and an annual cost of $5,760,000.