Criticized Or Applauded, Presidential Travel Is One Great Job Perk

presidential travel
ep_jhu/Flickr

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 RT.com 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 RT.com.

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.

10 Interesting Facts About Air Force One

Harry Truman’s ‘Seagoing White House’ Rusts In Italian Shipyard

truman floating whitehouse
What was once one of the world’s most famous ships is now rusting away in an Italian shipyard. The U.S.S. Williamsburg, a naval ship that became President Harry Truman’s personal yacht in 1945 and was once considered an American treasure, could be scrapped within a few years if a last-minute attempt to save the ship fails, NBC Nightly News reports.truman floating whitehouse
Originally a private vessel, the ship was bought by the U.S. Navy and spent much of World War II in Iceland, helping to safeguard the delivery of supplies from the U.S. to Europe. After the war ended, the ship became the President’s official yacht, eventually becoming Truman’s favored setting for vacations and state occasions, earning the nickname of the “seagoing White House” in the 1940s.

truman floating whitehouse
But when Dwight Eisenhower became President in 1953, he ordered the ship to be decomissioned after just one voyage. The yacht was given to the National Science Foundation to be used for oceanographic research, and six years later was damaged when it was attached to a floating drydock, which suddenly sank. Although there have been many proposals to revive the Williamsburg – including turning it into a cruise ship – the vessel has been slowly degrading in an Italian shipyard for the past 20 years. Owners say the ship will likely sink in the next few years if nobody steps in to save it.

[via Daily Mail]

Tourists get unexpected breakfast buffet with Obama at the White House

Perhaps you read about the tourist couple who recently were ushered into a White House breakfast buffet with President and Michelle Obama even though they did not have an invitation. All Harvey and Paula Darden planned on doing when they showed up at the White House was take a tour that their congressman helped arrange for them. Unfortunately, they arrived a day earlier than they were supposed to.

This turned out to be a good thing. When they arrived saying they were there for a tour, the White House staff person lead the Dardens into the East Room. There the couple found themselves chowing down food in the midst of people who were not dressed in tourist attire.

The buffet was for veterans–something neither of the Dardens are. But, according to the White House staff, because the Dardens had been cleared by security like all the other guests—and since there wasn’t a tour, they were given breakfast instead.

The only reason we know about this incident is because the Dardens became worried after Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the state dinner two weeks after the Dardens’ visit. The Dardens, I suppose, felt it necessary to come forward to tell about how their off the cuff visit happened. It wasn’t something they planned. They don’t want people to get the wrong idea about them. They are not event crashers who tried to pull one over on the White House.

Hopefully, the Dardens’ splash into national news won’t halt the unexpected buffet invites for the rest of us who might show up at the White House for a legitimate reason but on the wrong day.

The news story, unfortunately, was written as if this might have been another White House gaff.

No, no, no. Don’t say that. Just say that the Dardens felt uncomfortable with their unexpected luck. To feel better, I suggest the Dardens write a thank-you note and add that it’s nice to know that tourists have access to a White House brunch every once in awhile when they least expect it—with the proper security clearance, of course.

Tour the White House gardens for free on Oct. 17-18

If you were like me, you loved that Michelle Obama planted a garden at the White House last March.

You can see it for yourself. It’ll be part of this year’s White House Gardens and Grounds Tours on October 17-18.

Also on the tour are the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children’s Garden, and South Lawn.

Even though it’s free, you’ll need to get a ticket to attend. Pick up your timed ticket at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion (15th & E Streets) on the dates of the tours, starting at 8 a.m. The tickets are first-come, first-served.

The tours run 10:00 a.m-4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 17, and 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 18.

In bad weather, the tours will be canceled, so be sure to check on the status of the event by calling the information line at 202.456.7041.

[Thanks, LATimes.com]

Gadlinks for Friday 9.4.09


It’s Aloha Friday, and I’m back home in the great USA! It feels awfully good to be home for the Labor Day weekend. I hope you all enjoy the long weekend. Here are a few Gadlinks to get it started.

´Til Monday, have a great weekend!

More Gadlinks here.