Cal­cu­lat­ing tax­pay­ers’ tab as Oba­mas splurge on Date Night

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

In an­other odd twist left un­ex­am­ined by the me­dia, the White House on June 1 said it sim­ply would not release the cost of Pres­i­dent Obama’s week­end jaunt to New York City, where the First Cou­ple had din­ner and caught a Broad­way show.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs, keep­ing the White House press corps in stitches, as he al­ways does, said the Oba­mas would have pre­ferred us­ing a com­mer­cial air­line shut­tle to New York and back, but the Se­cret Ser­vice would not al­low such un­pro­tected travel (ba da bing).

And that was that. No fur­ther prob­ing; asked and an­swered; time to move on.

There was, of course, an ironic el­e­ment of the trip. In Fe­bru­ary, Obama scolded cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives (while also cost­ing Las Ve­gas some $130 mil­lion) when he said: “You can’t get cor­po­rate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Ve­gas, or go down to the Su­per Bowl on the tax­pay­ers’ dime.”

But the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive (Oval) Of­fi­cer had made a prom­ise to his good wife that af­ter the cam­paign, they’d take in a Broad­way show, and darn it, he meant to keep that prom­ise.

One early es­ti­mate (from the New York Post) put the cost at $24,000. Ab­surdly low. The Daily Mail in Lon­don threw out an­other num­ber — $75,000. Sure, three times as much as the first es­ti­mate, but still prob­a­bly spec­tac­u­larly low. Re­mem­ber, joyrid­ing Air Force One around for a few hours over Man­hat­tan a cou­ple months ago cost $250,000, so the cost of the May 30-31 week­end trip was likely not likely that low.

With the White House sim­ply re­fus­ing to say how much tax­payer money it spent, here's a help­ful way to cal­cu­late the cost of the trip:

First, the First Cou­ple (and en­tourage) flew from the White House to An­drews Air Force Base — three chop­pers (two de­coys), if the Marines stuck to stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure (and they are stick­lers for SOP). That means dozens of men and women — radar, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, me­chan­ics, crews, every­one, per­haps 100, who knows? — were in­volved. (A batch of ta­ga­longs must’ve taken a tax­payer pool of ve­hi­cles out from the White House to AAFB, since it took three jets to get the gang to NYC).

Sec­ond, the pres­i­dent mov­ing on a Satur­day takes a full op­er­a­tion at and around the White House, dozens and dozens of peo­ple. Maybe they're all on salary, so that didn't likely cost much. But all the cops in­volved — D.C. po­lice, uni­formed Se­cret Ser­vice of­fi­cers, Capi­tol po­lice — were prob­a­bly paid over­time, even dou­ble time. Prob­a­bly, again, 100 per­son­nel or so.

Then there were the jets — at least $24,000 for the three air­craft used to ferry the Oba­mas, aides and re­porters to New York. The Oba­mas' jet, a Gulf­stream 500, served as Air Force One.

Third, a C-17 had to fly to NYC to put in place a full mo­tor­cade (at least a dozen ve­hi­cles, maybe more). The mil­i­tary cargo plane may have taken up at least two, but maybe three, more chop­pers to fly the whole party from JFK to a Wall Street land­ing zone, where the mo­tor­cade was wait­ing. If not, the chop­pers flew there solo (White House vet­eran re­porter Mark Knoller of CBS Ra­dio wrote re­cently that “The VH-3D that serves as Marine One con­sumes about 1,200 pounds of fuel per hour.” Ouch.

Fourth, driv­ing through Man­hat­tan is an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise. Dozens, per­haps hun­dreds, of NYPD have to be sta­tioned all along the way, shut­ting down roads, hold­ing back pedes­tri­ans. There were po­lice cars in­volved, dozens of mo­tor­cy­cles, and the ever-present NYC am­bu­lance (oh, don't for­get that the White House doc­tor also prob­a­bly went — with all his gear). The city likely gets re­im­bursed by the White House for the cost (they usu­ally do). And they were all prob­a­bly get­ting time and a half (the NYPD over­time bud­get is ex­traor­di­nary).

Fifth, the United States Se­cret Ser­vice (USSS) had to scope out the whole thing, then sta­tion agents all over — sharp­shoot­ers, un­der­cover agents, etc. — at a huge cost. Who knows if they were on over­time. And if you think they went up Satur­day morn­ing, think again. They were likely in NYC up­wards of a week be­fore, plan­ning the whole evening, ev­ery sec­ond of ev­ery move­ment. They had to map out five move­ments — from JFK to the Wall Street LZ, then a mo­tor­cade to the restau­rant, then an­other mo­tor­cade to the play, then a fi­nal mo­tor­cade back to the LZ, then a chop­per flight to JFK, be­fore the First Cou­ple and crew jet­ted back to AAFB for an­other chop­per to the White House.

One thing is known — The Oba­mas picked up the cost of din­ner costs and their or­ches­tra seat tick­ets, which cost $96.50 a piece. So if the whole thing cost $250,000, the Oba­mas off­set that by at least a few hun­dred bucks. Phew.


Pres­i­dent Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk to­wards Air Force One at An­drews Air Force Base, Md. May 30 en route to New York for a pri­vate din­ner and to at­tend a play.

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