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Cost of Obama's Asian trip? Hardly $200 million a day
Scripps Howard News Service


November 09, 2010
Tuesday AM

WASHINGTON - Is President Barack Obama returning from India with a herd of 100 elephants to graze on the South Lawn? Are 3,000 White House staffers communing with the guru Sai Baba at his ashram outside Bangalore? Has a tenth of the U.S. Navy's warships been deployed to protect the entourage?

Well, not exactly.

There will be no elephants, no visits with gurus and the trip is not likely to cost $200 million a day, as some commentators have suggested.

Obama left for India Friday morning and plans to travel to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The cost of the trip already has sparked heated discussions, blog posts and e-mails.

The White House declines to be specific about how much Obama's 10-day Asian trip will cost, but says the widely cited $200 million-a-day figure circulating on the Internet has "no basis in reality" and is "wildly inflated."

The number apparently comes from an anonymous minister from the Indian state of Maharashtra, who was quoted earlier this week in the Press Trust of India, the largest news agency in India. The number was then cited by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and then made its way around the Internet.

The same Indian press account indicated the president will be protected by a 34-ship armada from the U.S. Navy, a figure that Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called "absolutely absurd."

While the White House releases few details on the size of presidential trips overseas, usually citing security reasons, what was then called the General Accounting Office -- now the Government Accountability Office -- estimated that a 1998 presidential trip to Africa by Bill Clinton cost at least $42.8 million, or about $3.6 million per day. The GAO is a nonpartisan congressional agency that audits federal programs.

The White House has not released the cost of overseas travel for more recent trips, either by George W. Bush or Obama.

The fact-checking website noted that the entire war in Afghanistan costs $190 million a day and concluded that the Indian trip costing $200 million a day is simply false. Another fact-checking site,, said the figure "stretches credulity to the breaking point," noting that even if 3,000 people were traveling, it would have to cost a whopping $66,000 per person per day to reach $200 million.

In an exchange with WorldNetDaily's Lester Kinsolving on Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked if he was "denying" that the trip would cost $200 million a day.

"For about the third time, yes," Gibbs replied.


Contact Memphis Commercial Appeal Washington
correspondent Bartholomew Sullivan at sullivanb(at)shns

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Scripps Howard News Service,


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