Obama tries to spin White House tour shutdown, makes it worse
Byron York of the Washington Examiner highlights a passage from President Obama’s latest ABC News interview:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve been taking a lot of heat for this cancellation of the White House tours. They get– the Secret Service says it costs about $74,000 a week. Was canceling them really necessary?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I have to say this was not– a decision that went up to the White House. But what the Secret Service explained to us was that they’re going to have to furlough some folks. What furloughs mean is– is that people lose a day of work and a day of pay.
And, you know, the question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we’ve got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck who suddenly are seein’–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So no reconsideration?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: –a 5% or 10%– reduction in their pay. Well, what I’m asking them is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups– you know, who may have traveled here with some bake sales. Can we make sure that– kids, potentially, can– can still come to tour?
This is exactly the opposite of what White House Spokesman Jay Carney said, just a few days ago, as recalled by the Weekly Standard: “The Secret Service made the decision about its budget, and to withdraw personnel from tours. We had to cancel the tours. It’s our job to cancel the tours. This is not a tour of the Secret Service building, it’s a tour of the White House and the grounds, and we run the tours and the invitations and that process.”
How much of the Secret Service budget could be saved if the Obama family followed Bush and Clinton precedents and took vacations at Camp David, I wonder? This point was stressed by former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who told Breitbart News, “The president’s absolutely not telling the truth when he said the Secret Service made that decision to cut the tours.”
Bongino, who served 12 years in the Secret Service including five years working directly at the White House before leaving to run as a Republican for U.S. Senate in Maryland, said Obama is lying because the Secret Service does not make such decisions.
“The Secret Service does not make political decisions,” Bongino said. “The Secret Service makes security decisions. His statement that it was a Secret Service decision internal budget decision–and keep in mind, I’m not speaking for the Secret Service, I’m speaking from experience of being with them. All he’d have to do is cancel one or two of his political trips and his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, which two years ago I was on and helped coordinate, he would save that money times ten. There was just no way this was a sound decision. To insinuate this is the first administration where the White House social office and the Executive Office of the President had no role in cancelling public tours at the White House, that he was the first president who was left out of the decision, is absolute nonsense.”
Bongino said he thinks the president is using “the Washington Monument strategy”–a ploy by a politician who tries to garner public opposition to spending cuts by eliminating popular public services first–in doing this to White House tours. “He wanted to inflict, there is no question in my mind, maximum pain upon the American people. But here’s the caveat: it had to be public pain. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t hurt.”
Considering the relatively modest cost of these tours, there had to be countless ways the President could have preserved them, assuming one is inclined to believe his rather incredible claims that he had nothing to do with the cancellation. (The Empty Chair strikes again! Nothing to do with Fast and Furious, nothing to do with Benghazi, nothing to do with the economy, doesn’t know what’s going on at the White House… has any previous President campaigned so relentlessly on the assertion that he’s helpless?) But now that his sequestration strategy is blowing up in his face like a Duck Dynasty beard threaded with firecrackers, he’s going to try posturing as the hero who saved White House tours FOR THE CHILDREN!!!
By the way, according to a Bloomberg News report last week, killing the White House tours accounted for only about $2 million of the $24 million in White House cuts mandated by sequestration. That means they have to scrape by on a measly $687 million budget. Did they ever got around to cutting anything besides public tours of the People’s House?