Large parts of Walt Disney World in Florida will close when President Barack Obama makes an economic address there on Thursday, but the imagery associated with Obama’s visit may undercut the very message he is trying sell.
A White House official said Obama will speak at Disney World to “unveil a strategy that will significantly help boost tourism and travel,” but local newspaper reports in Florida have revealed that Disney World’s Main Street, which is centrally located in the park and contains much of the food and other items that can be purchased in the park, will be closed until late in the day. According to these reports, the guests who are at Disney World when Obama visits have been barred from attending the speech unless they get special permission from the White House and Disney’s employees will not even be able to use their passes to get into the park.
Guests who have travelled to Disney World have been told to expect longer wait times in travel and inside the park, frequent security checks, changed event times, and an earlier closing time. The White House waited until Wednesday, to inform customers of the changes to the park schedule. Employees will have their work hours changed or eliminated, and they will not be allowed to use their passes to get into the park.
Jason Recher, who served as assistant to President George W. Bush and was his trip director in addition to being a senior advisor to the McCain-Palin ‘08 presidential campaign, said that though all sides of the political spectrum can agree that Disney World should not be polarized and that tourism should be vigorously promoted, the optics of Obama’s Disney World event may step on his message, which Recher said was a cardinal sin of political event staging.
“The White House is literally shutting down ‘Main Street USA’ — including dozens of vibrant shops, restaurants and attractions,” Recher told HUMAN EVENTS. “[Obama’s] job-killing policies have already shut down many real Main Streets across our country, so I guess it makes sense.”
Recher said Obama’s event will send the “message that visuals are more important than vacations and vocations” and, while acknowledging the U.S. Secret Service is the best in the world at what they do, they “will cause a major disruption for thousands of families from around the country and world who have scrimped and saved to make this moment special for their families.”
Recher, whose advance work has been lauded by professionals on both sides of the aisle, noted that Disney World is 46 square miles and Obama could have found a place on the grounds that would not “shut down business and negatively impact thousands of unsuspecting tourists.”
“Have the Disney team bring in visuals and sets that clearly demonstrate the location of the speech and promote the message without the outlandish impact,” Recher said. “Give the speech, then take his family and slip into the park, quietly and unannounced, without the fanfare, and enjoy the park just like any other American would.”
Recher said doing so would demonstrate “leadership by example.”
Recher said there seems to be a pattern with the Obama administration of being out of touch with the public and overemphasizing stage craft. He noted that the White House has had “secret Alice in Wonderland parties with Hollywood actors snuck into the White House” and asked, “now [they are] shutting down Disney World?”