by Paul Shepard
As someone angry over government fraud and waste, I can understand the need for our elected leaders to tighten their financial belts when it some to spending our money. But I’m just a little confused that penny-pinching is becoming the overriding theme behind President Obama’s first long trip to sub-Saharan Africa later this month. Published reports about the trip have focused on the huge expenses attached to the trip that will include visits to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania.
Authorities say that hundreds of Secret Service agents will be sent to protect the President while in Africa, and a Navy aircraft carrier with a fully staffed medical center will be stationed off of the coast of visited nations in case of an emergency.
But the big time spending won’t stop there.
Fighter jets will provide 24-hour coverage over the President’s airspace and 14 limousines will be reportedly sent over from the United States to provide President Obama safe passage by roadway.
The Washington Post, which obtained internal documents on the trip, said it will cost in the tens of millions of dollars for the trip.
But when you consider that the President has made trips to Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia while making only a brief stop in Ghana during his presidency, why shouldn’t he go to Africa for a substantial visit, especially when the continent has been coined in several business circles “the New Frontier.”
Countries like Brazil and China have increased their investment in African nations and the United States needs to maintain its influence in the region while promoting trade, democracy, and empowering the youth and women. And with a strong Muslim component in many African countries, the continent is an increasingly important partner in global anti-terrorism efforts.
And Obama isn’t the first president to see Africa’s strategic importance. Presidents Bush and Clinton both visited Africa, with Mrs. Bush going to Africa five times in support of President Bush’s agenda.
I don’t recall the cost of those trips ever being questioned.
But now, as the first president of African descent prepares for his first major visit to Africa, Obama critics are looking to pinch pennies?
The Washington Post report says the costs for the trip are not out of line with what is spent when other presidents travel abroad.
So what gives?
Why is this news now?
Here’s a thought: President Obama is being held to a standard that other leaders haven’t had to match.
Just two weeks ago, President Obama was forced to defend the massive government telephone and e-mail surveillance program.
Few of his critics bothered to mention it was started under President George W. Bush.
Obama and his opponents can have legitimate differences on key policy questions like whether the Health Care Act will work as planned or if his amnesty program for illegal U.S. residents serves the nation’s best interests.
But when Obama detractors raise a phony issue like the cost of his foreign travel – costs that are in line with travel by previous presidents — Obama critics reveal just how paper thin their arguments are.