Reading The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World by A. J. Baime, I came across a detail that is especially telling. On the day in 1945 that President Franklin Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia, his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, was in Washington, D.C. It was she, in fact, who informed Vice President Harry Truman that FDR had died. At that meeting, the following scene ensued:
The First Lady and Early were now planning to fly to Warm Springs that night. Mrs. Roosevelt asked Truman if it would be “proper” to use a government airplane. “I told her as soon as I was sworn in I would order that all the facilities of the government would be at her command until the funeral was over,” Truman recalled.
Yep, when Franklin Roosevelt, then in his fourth term as President, died, patrician First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was herself to become one of the most esteemed women in the world, thought it apposite to ask FDR’s not yet sworn in successor if it would be appropriate to fly on a government airplane to be with her husband’s mortal remains.
Things have changed. The current Secretary of the Treasury. for example, requested the use of a government plane (costing about $25,000 an hour to operate) to fly him and his wife to France, Italy, and Scotland for their honeymoon and took a government jet to Kentucky when the total solar eclipse was visible there. There are, disconcertingly, more instances of this sort; see How 5 top Trump administration officials have drawn scrutiny for their travel