It’s been widely reported that the President’s impending trip to Mumbai, first by an Indian newspaper:
The US would be spending a whopping $200 million (Rs. 900 crore approx) per day on President Barack Obama’s visit to the city.
“The huge amount of around $200 million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit,” a top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit said.
About 3,000 people including Secret Service agents, US government officials and journalists would accompany the President. Several officials from the White House and US security agencies are already here for the past one week with helicopters, a ship and high-end security instruments.
Obama’s visit is historic in terms of logistics which is the largest ever for a visiting US president. The presidential entourage will have 40 aircraft, including the Air Force One that will ferry the president. There will be six armoured cars, including the Barack Mobile, a Cadillac.
The Cadillac limousine is equipped with a mini communication centre to enable Obama to be in touch with the White House, US vice president and the US strategic command.
Yes, that’s forty aircraft.
Necessary security aside, is it also necessary to take three thousand people with him?
Media Matters lazily exercised a journalistic muscle, asked the White House, then wildly supported the non-answer the White House gave:
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich responded, “The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality. 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.”
I hope you’re not waiting for me to blockquote the answer to the natural follow-up question, “If you deny that the White House is spending $200 million a day then how much exactly is the White House spending?,” because there isn’t one. That’s right, Media Matters was perfectly happy to say “OK!” and quite literally finished the story after that graph. Facepalm.
Media Matters never asked what the basis for reality was for a cost estimate; they spent the more time in their piece railing against the usual conservative suspects while never rising to the challenge of proving the premise of the entire post. It was an exercise in wasted effort.
So what is the price tag of the President’s Mumbai trip if Indian officials are “wildly” wrong about the reports? The White House never said, but it is telling how they also never refuted that 3,000 people were accompanying the President on his trip. If they are unwilling to give any numbers to refute those put out by the Indian press and reported on by the conservative blogosphere, then how can they claim that they are “wildly exaggerated?”
It’s interesting to note, Bush visited India, too, and there are no reports of his trip being bogged down with a hefty pricetag.