WASHINGTON—Over the past three years, as the sluggish economy has forced many Americans to tighten their belts, President Obama has reportedly enjoyed a lavish personal lifestyle, residing with his family in a 132-room house staffed by a 24-hour security detail, five full-time chefs, and a live-in maid service.
In recent weeks, many of the president's critics have seized upon the issue, arguing that anyone who sleeps in a sprawling six-level neoclassical mansion covering 18 acres of Washington, D.C.'s most valuable real estate is clearly out of touch with the lives of ordinary citizens.
"What message does it send to the American people when their president is living in a ritzy palatial estate at the same time they're struggling to keep their heads above water?" political strategist Robert T. Carlson said Wednesday, noting that Obama's gated home features a lush rose garden, a private balcony, an ostentatious room seemingly devoted to the color blue, a solarium, "fancy portraits" of John F. Kennedy and George Washington, and a movie theater. "So much for all that 'shared sacrifice' he keeps talking about."
"And just look at those gaudy columned porticoes," Carlson continued. "It must have cost a fortune to build that place."
Other commentators have noted that while Americans lucky enough to have jobs often spend hours in traffic commuting to work each day, Obama simply "walks on over to another wing of his huge mansion," where he keeps an opulently furnished home office replete with a large wooden desk, a fireplace, three giant windows, and a passage leading to his own private study and dining area.
"Each morning, as most office workers are squeezing into tiny cubicles, the president is kicking back in an 800-square-foot space with not one, but two separate couches," said pundit and blogger Chet Ogilvy, adding that Obama even employed a personal secretary to "handle the phones and basically everything else." "On top of that, he sits there like a king while a whole team of people brings him typed reports on everything important happening everywhere in the world."
"Can't this guy just pick up a paper like everybody else?" Ogilvy added. "Who does he think he is?"
Ogilvy also pointed out that on occasions when Obama does leave his luxurious home, he insists on being privately chauffeured around cities in large motorcades. In addition, sources confirmed the president has taken innumerable trips overseas in a private Boeing 747.
"No cramped flights in coach for Mr. President," Oglivy said. "When he wants to jet off to some exotic locale—and in the past three years alone he's traveled to Iraq once and Afghanistan twice—he has his own personal pilot ready to take him there. Meanwhile, the rest of us average joes are still standing in the security line waiting for our pat-down."
Many citizens across the country have also registered their disgust with what they perceive to be Obama's conspicuous lifestyle, claiming he often spends his work hours hobnobbing with other federal officials and even hosts cushy public events for visiting foreign dignitaries.
Others said they found it inappropriate that the president is living in "this big white house" at a time when home foreclosures in the United States are at a record high.
"Did you know he has Abraham Lincoln's bed right there in his own home?" Baltimore-area electrician Caleb Bell told reporters. "He keeps it in one of his guest rooms. Here I am, working 80 hours a week at two jobs, and this guy's got a whole house full of ridiculously ostentatious status symbols like that. In this economy, I think it's nothing short of obscene."
"And we're talking about the same person who has this enormous, presumably very expensive American flag flying from his roof at all times," Bell added. "I'm all for patriotism, but that's way over the top. Does he have to rub his extravagance in everybody's face like that?"
Responding to the criticism of Obama, presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged his willingness, should he be elected, to stay in a small studio apartment in Arlington, VA.