White House: Asian trip cost Bachmann cited has ‘no basis in reality’

WASHINGTON — The White House pushed back hard Thursday against a claim repeated by Rep. Michele Bachmann that President Obama’s 10-day trip to Asia would cost taxpayers an astounding $200 million per day.

Bachmann made the claim in a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, repeating a number that originally appeared in an Indian press account attributed to an anonymous state government source in India. Cooper had asked about cuts Bachmann might be willing to make, to which she replied:

Well I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking two thousand people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it’s a very small example, Anderson.

View the full exchange here.

Bachmann wasn’t the only conservative to repeat the claim. The Drudge Report ran with it in a banner headline, and it was cited on air by conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. And all that outrage prompted some outrage from the White House in response.

“The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality,” said White House spokesman Matthew Lehrich. “Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it’s safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon took steps to dismiss both that report and a separate one (also in the Indian press) that said the Navy would be deploying some 34 ships in support of the president’s trip.

Said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell:

“I think there’s been a lot of creative writing that’s been done on this trip over the last few days. I’ve seen other reports with some astronomical figures in terms of what it costs to take these trips.”

“I don’t know the cost. We don’t speak to the cost. We obviously have some support role for presidential travel. We don’t speak to that in detail for security reasons. But I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy — some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier — in support of the president’s trip to Asia.”

“That’s just comical.  Nothing close to that is being done.”

Bachmann spokesman Sergio Gor said the numbers Bachmann cited weren’t her own, they were from press reports. “She cited a press article,” Gor said. “It’s not like they released the numbers, so all we have to go by is the press.”

While the White House isn’t releasing figures, spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that the costs are “comparable” to when Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush traveled abroad. And that statement provides a bit of a ballpark figure.

Clinton’s 12-day trip to Africa in 1998, widely reported at the time as the most expensive foreign presidential trip ever, cost $42.8 million dollars, according to an audit by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Divide the cost by 12 days and the trip averaged a little more than $3.5 million a day. Adjusted for inflation, that comes to around $4.6 million in today’s dollars.

It’s quite a sum of money, but remember that the president essentially flies a mobile White House with him so he can run the country at all times. Advance staff, security, Air Force One on constant standby, a military contingent, Whtie House advisers, diplomats and multiple Air Force jets that ferry over the Marine One helicopter and vehicles that will carry the president as he travels.

And he’ll have representatives from most of the major national media outlets, though they’ll be paying their own way. According to CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller, media outlets will be billed about $20,000 for each journalist they send.

It’s a massive operation, to be sure. And exact figures aren’t available. But $200 million a day isn’t “comparable” to $4.6 million a day. Because of all that, PolitiFact and others rated Bachmann’s statement false. The numbers just don’t add up.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/05/2010 - 08:41 am.

    It’s so good that Mickey is continuing her career as Minnesota’s own national media starlet!

    Of course her criticisms of the profligate spending of the Bush Administration, including overseas trips, or of Governor Pawlenty’s multiple trade trips overseas when she was in the MN Legislature were…

    Were… (cue sound of crickets).

    The fact is, like the dysfunctional type of atheist whose earlier painful experience at the hands of a holier-than-thou “Christian” causes them to irrationally reject, without study or consideration, religion in any and every form,

    Mickey has obviously had a painful experience at the hands of some clearly-identifiable Democrat (and/or black person) somewhere in her past.

    If God turned out to be a Democrat, especially a black Democrat, Mickey would immediately become a Satan worshiper, as would many of the colleagues with whom she shares the fringe of the right wing.

  2. Submitted by Tony George on 11/05/2010 - 09:23 am.

    To the voters of the 6th District (Bachmann’s district) – “Pathetic, Pathetic!”

  3. Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/05/2010 - 11:24 am.

    Mr Wallbank – In reviewing the facts as we know them, you’re completely missing the point. Ms Bachmann and her comrades in the Republican party and corporate media will catapult the propaganda for a week or two, and a year from now it will have taken its place in the fantasy pantheon of Mr Obama’s transgressions, believed by 45 percent of the public and recited as fact by David Brooks, Maureen Dowd and the rest. Mission accomplished.

  4. Submitted by clancy wolf on 11/05/2010 - 11:46 am.

    I live in the 6th district and all I can say is, I’m sorry

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/05/2010 - 11:57 am.

    As we avert our eyes from inane, race-baiting commentary, let us thoughtfully consider; is it any wiser to spend $4,600,000 a day than $200,000,000 a day when in fact one doesn’t have a single solid dollar in the bank to spend?

    The people of America are on the hook to the Chinese for $13,000,000,000,000, and somewhere in that accounting, PBO sees an opportunity for an extended Asian holiday….on second thought, considering the President’s standing with the public, what’s he have to lose?

  6. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 11/05/2010 - 01:29 pm.

    I live in the 6th District too (at the sane end), and we’re not sorry, we’re horrified. Another two years having our representation in Congress be mini-Palin is bad enough. But many of us worked heart and soul for the terrific candidate who gave us an alternative, Tarryl Clark, and are incredulous at her defeat. Never underestimate the ignorance, stupidity, and/or laziness of the American electorate, I guess…

  7. Submitted by Michael Zalar on 11/05/2010 - 10:16 pm.

    Okay, really quick check here, took me all of five minutes to check and double check at a couple of sites. 200,000,000 in Indian Rupees comes out to about $4,500,000.00. This kind of fits with the costs mentioned above.
    It would seem that this is a simple translation error.
    Has anyone out there in press land done this Really REALLY simple conversion? Anyone..?? Anyone….???

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