A few days after the election President Obama took off for a 10-day trip through Asia. Along the way he’ll make stops at India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. Apparently this trip will cost an unprecedented $2 billion. That’s right, billions. This would be by far the most expensive presidential boondoggle ever.
How do I know all this? Well Michele Bachmann reported it so it must be true. In a recent interview with Anderson Cooper she laid out the case that Obama was spending $200 million per day (!) of our hard-earned tax dollars so he and Michelle (the other one) can party on down in Asia. That’s a lot of dosas and chapatis. Her source for this mind numbing story is the Indian press who reported it from an anonymous source. Sounds legit to me.
Her allegations soon got picked up by the right-wing echo chamber of the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage (whose real name is Weiner BTW) and Rush Limbaugh. From there it eventually travelled to Fox News who reported it unquestioningly as fact by saying, disingenuously, it’s true because it had already been reported elsewhere. Echo, echo…
Do you remember a few years back when Limbaugh returned from a vacation to the Dominican Republic and was found to have 29 doses of Viagra that were not in his name? I guess using the same journalistic standards Fox News should have drilled deeper and provided details about Mr. Limbaugh’s visit to a Dominican Republic sex resort on that trip. It must be true because, after all, it was reported on the Internet.
Let’s try to look at the Obama trip logically. The previous spending record for a presidential trip was by Bill Clinton on his 1998 jaunt to Africa. In today’s dollars the cost of that trip was around $5 million per day. So you would have to believe that the cost of Obama’s trip is higher than the previous record by a factor of 40, not 40% higher but 40 times higher.
Here’s a thought. At the current exchange rate of rupees to dollars, 2 billion rupees are around 45 million dollars. This brings the cost of Obama’s 10-day trip to $4.5 million per day. (My high school math finally comes in handy.) That’s below the cost of Clinton’s visit but somewhat in the range of presidential trips. Perhaps the 2 billion number is correct, but in rupees not dollars. After all this was reported in the Indian media. Either way it’s not 2 billion dollars.
Even George W. Bush’s former chief-of-staff Andrew Card says that the cost allegation “doesn’t pass the sniff test.” Politifact.com, the non-partisan on-line truth detector, has a detailed analysis of Bachmann’s argument where they rated it false.
Lost in the shuffle of the right-wing faux outrage of all things Obama is one of the purposes of Obama’s trip. He is bringing along top American executives as part of a trade mission to drum up American exports, hoping to increase jobs in America. Yes the socialist, Commie-loving Obama is trying to help out capitalists. The nerve.
Several media outlets reported on Obama’s success in getting India to buy more Boeing aircraft, thereby creating American jobs at home. Fox News merely whined that the jobs were a drop in the bucket, tell that to the people who will be getting those jobs.
Obama is also visiting with key strategic allies as the center of the world is rapidly shifting towards Asia. Improving relations with India was high on the agenda of George W. Bush. Obama is rightfully continuing this strategy.
Self proclaimed “truth detector” Limbaugh claimed about the Obama trip, “200 million a day, it’s never been done before.” Well at least this statement is correct. It never has been done before and, note to Rush and his acolytes, it still hasn’t. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms that people can level against Obama. But when they just start making stuff up and others repeat their lies, it only serves to diminish their own credibility.
By the way, stay tuned for allegations that the Indonesian component of Obama’s trip proves that he is in fact a Muslim. Bonus points will be awarded for a picture of Obama standing in front of a mosque.