Criticized Or Applauded, Presidential Travel Is One Great Job Perk

This week, President Obama and family fly to Africa for what has been described as both “frivolous spending” and a trip that brings “a great bang for our buck.” The estimated $60 – $100 million trip comes at a time when Americans face a decidedly different flying experience caused by government furloughs and cutbacks. Approve or not, presidential travel and moving the first family around the world is in no way inexpensive.

Traveling to sub-Sahara Africa from June 26 to July 3, the Obamas will be accompanied by hundreds of Secret Service agents and staff, adding to the cost of transportation and accommodations. Still, this is the leader of the free world and protecting him, his family and staff is not going to be a cheap road trip no matter how they do it. When President Clinton visited Africa the price tag was said to be $42.7 million plus the cost of Secret Service protection.

As the trip to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania gets underway, a reported 56 vehicles ranging from limousines to trucks full of supplies will be flown in via military cargo planes. When the Obamas are on the ground in Africa, U.S. fighter jets will be ever-present in the airspace directly above them. That’s in addition to the cost of operating the President’s ride, Air Force One, estimated to be slightly less than $200,000 per hour.
“It is no secret that we need to rein in government spending, and the Obama administration has regularly and repeatedly shown a lack of judgment for when and where to make cuts. The American people have had enough of the frivolous and careless spending,” Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) said in a article.

But the cost could have been higher. The Obama’s original plan called for a Tanzania safari, which would have required a team of sharpshooters to protect them from wild animals. But President Obama, the first sitting president to visit Cambodia and Myanmar, is visiting African countries that reportedly need attention.

“Frankly, there will be a great bang for our buck for being in Africa, because when you travel to regions like Africa that don’t get a lot of presidential attention, you can have very long-standing and long-running impact from the visit,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told The Hill, reports

Still, let’s keep these numbers in perspective. The expense of flowers for the White House alone run up a tab estimated to be $252,000 per year. The Presidential limousine is a $300,000 Cadillac that is clad with 5 inches of armor, has its own oxygen supply, a blood bank of the president’s type and can shoot tear gas and smoke grenades.

Other Countries A US President Has Never Visited

President Barack Obama will land in Myanmar (aka Burma) this week, a first-time visit for any President of the United States. Never mind that Myanmar is best known as a brutal dictatorship, not exactly in line with U.S. foreign policy. Disregard any political or geographically strategic reasons for befriending Myanmar. Today, this is all about the President being the first to visit Myanmar and the trip begs the question: “So are there other countries that no sitting U.S. President has ever visited?”

Out of the 190+ countries in the world, just 113 of them have been visited by a President of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian.

Countries not visited include close-by neighbor the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, St Kitts, St Lucia and assorted tiny island-nations. Understandable, we would probably view a visit to the harmless Seychelles as a taxpayer-paid vacation anyway.

On the continent of Africa, more nations have not been visited than have been by a U.S. President. Again, probably not a lot of strategic reasons to stop by.But some big-name countries we might think that some President, somewhere along the way, might have visited; not one has.

  • Monaco, the second smallest country/monarchy in the world and the most densely populated country in the world boasts the world-famous Monte Carlo Casino.
  • Algeria, in northern Africa, famous for its vast Sahara in the south..
  • Nepal- famous for eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains. No visit.

Armenia is a country one might think worthy of a trip by any standards. Bordered by Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east, Georgia to the north and Iran to the south, Armenia does seem to have a strategic location. Still, no visit.

Presidential travel takes any given sitting head of the free world to countries all over the planet on visits of good will. Meeting face to face with world leaders, attending meetings and spreading good old American spirit around when they can, Presidents are a big ticket when they come to town, along with Air Force One and more as we see in this video

Oh, and that trip to Myanmar? While President Obama is the first U.S. President to visit, he’s not the first Obama. The president’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was a cook in World War II for a British army captain stationed in what was then called Burma.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user 0ystercatcher]

Obama’s first flight on Air Force One

Barack Obama’s family digs and office space aren’t all that will change on Tuesday with his inauguration. The two customized Air Force One Boeing 747s designed to safely transport the U.S. president are part of the presidencial goodie-bag package. Marine Force One, the helicopter, will also be at Obama’s service.

Back in November 2007, Justin wrote the post Take a Tour inside Air Force One to give a closer look on what goes on inside this flying powerhouse that most of us will never see.

For an even closer look than that, check out National Geographic Channel’s “On Board Air Force One” to air on January 25. Along with presenting behind the scenes details, like how yummy airplane food is if you’re the president, and where the president takes a snooze, the show will give also show footage of Obama’s first flight on Air Force One and Bush’s last.

After the show on Air Force One, stick around as National Geographic highlights Marine Force One. In the meantime, the National Geographic Channel’s Website has a page devoted to all things Air Force One. You can download an Air Force One paper airplane replica, take a virtual tour and find out more about what it takes to operate such an aircraft.

If one is president of the United States, I imagine that the view out the plane window has a bit more weight to it than what the rest of us see. Or maybe not. Whoever is president may also says things like, “Look at that cloud. It looks kind of like a dinosaur–” or wonder where all those people in cars are going as they zip along highways looking like ants. Perhaps, he (and in the future, she) marvels at odd details like the number of back yard swimming pools there are in desert cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, and look at the Grand Canyon in stunned awe.

For a quick peek inside Air Force One, check out these.


Want to work until you’re 68 and see the world while you are working?

Yesterday I wrote about Air Force One flight attendants. I’d say their job satisfaction, despite the hard work, is high. Here’s another person who has found flight attending a heck of a good time. Patti Smart has worked as an attendant from the time she was 18. Now she’s 68. Fifty years later, Smart is leaving behind her Aloha Airlines job.

Reading about her job in this AP article by Mark Niesse reminded me a little of a book I read years ago called Coffee, Tea or Me, a novel/memoir about flight attendants in the 1960s. I have a vague recollection of the story-line. I do remember that this was a job that sounded like a lot of fun.

According to Smart, the job was a bit more fun than it is now. Like most jobs, the time frame for getting tasks done has shortened. Instead of having the time to visit with passengers in between rolling beverage and food carts down the aisles, attendants barely have time to stop moving. Considering that job hopping is more the norm, it’s refreshing to read a story about someone who found a job that she loved from the beginning and stayed with it for so many years. Plus, it’s a job that treated her well. The pay wasn’t so shabby either.