Naturally, any president or vice president of the United States is treated to the very best in accommodations and amenities. After all, we're the richest nation ever and it's a quality we hasten to underscore whenever possible. But it's with a significant amount of irony that Vice President Cheney will be staying at Sydney's Shangri-La Hotel this week -- the same week in which we've collectively experienced the shocking truth about the filth and decay at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Building 18.
So how nice is the Shangri-La Hotel? Check it:
A picture speaks a thousand words, especially in contrast to this:
(Photo By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
Then again, perhaps the vice president will rough it and forgo some of his prissy rock star hotel requirements like his king sized bed, Diet Caffeine Free Sprite and "all televisions tuned to FOX News" (implying multiple TVs).
But he won't.
To be fair, no-one honestly expects the our elected executives to slum it in cockroach plagued shit holes, however much they deserve it. But we do expect our present administration to make veteran care a major priority, given how badly they've botched and bungled the invasion and occupation of Iraq; an act of criminal hubris culminating in tens of thousands of American casualties. Instead, the president once again appears to be the last to know about a major issue and, subsequently, the last to respond (see previous slow-on-the-uptake reactions to 9/11, Katrina, and the Indonesian tsunami). At the same time, Vice President Cheney has yet to comment on the rotten conditions at Building 18. Who knows, perhaps he's a little belchy from all that Sprite.
It's not the first time this confluence of events has occurred with regards to Iraq. In 2005, soon after President Bush remarked about our soldiers being "tireless and selfless and unrelenting in the face of danger," he flew off to Idaho where he vacationed at the scenic and beautiful Tamarack Resort, enjoying vaulted ceilings, 32" televisions, pontoon boats and the Robert Trent Jones II Signature golf course.
Any roaches on that spiffy pontoon boat, Mr. President?
Even after multiple photo-op visits, neither the vice president nor the president felt it necessary to make sure Walter Reed's facilities were the best of the best -- at least as good as the Pentagon's most excellent America Supports You Freedom concerts. I suppose it's easy to overlook such atrocities when, for example, the annual operating budget for the president's executive residence at the White House runs in the range of $12 million a year.
The charmed, rich-white-guy lifestyles of President Bush and Vice President Cheney have conveniently shielded them from the horrible truths about the present state of veteran care. It's no wonder when the VPOTUS and POTUS routinely luxuriate in the comfort of the world's finest hotels; when they boast gaggles of servants to dab the perspiration from their pinkish-hued brows; when every convenience and delicacy they could possibly desire is provided for them in part by the soldiers who, some without eyes and ears and limbs and homes, sacrificed themselves for this administration's bogus war.
The story of Shangri-La, described by James Hilton in Lost Horizons, is based on the legend of the ancient Buddhist city of Shambhala which was said to be tucked away from civilization deep in the Himalayas -- hidden from the world. Likewise, the Shangri-La palaces in which the president and vice president exist have successfully hidden these men from the bloody consequences of their egocentric whimsey.