Right-Wing Media Attack Secret Service For Commissioning New Cost-Effective Buses

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

Right-wing media attacked President Obama for traveling on buses that reportedly cost $1.1 million each on his bus tour through the Midwest. But Secret Service officials have said the buses will pay for themselves over time and have also said there has been "demonstrated need for [the buses] for some time"; additionally, the buses will be available to the eventual Republican nominee during the 2012 election, as well as future presidents.

Right-Wing Media Seize On Cost Of Buses To Attack Trip As A "Waste [Of] Your Tax Dollars"

Hannity: Obama "Doesn't Have To Waste Your Tax Dollars And Travel Around In A $1.1 Million Luxury Liner" To Talk To "Actual Americans." On the August 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity said:

HANNITY: And today, President Barack Obama embarked on a three-day bus tour in the Midwest that the White House says will allow him to escape the Beltway bubble and hear from actual Americans. But let's be honest, he doesn't have to waste your tax dollars and travel around in a $1.1 million luxury liner to find out what is on the minds of these so-called commoners. Because the American people, well, they are speaking loud and clear about the president's performance. According to a brand new Gallup poll, only 39 percent of those surveyed say the anointed one is doing a good job, while a 54 percent majority say they disapprove. And both of those numbers are the worst of the Obama presidency. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/15/11]

Bolling Attacks Security Costs Of Bus Trip: "Any Idea How Much This Might Cost The Taxpayer?" On the August 15 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money, host Eric Bolling discussed the president's bus tour with guest and former Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye. From the broadcast:

BOLLING: Joining me now is Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee. Thanks, Doug, for joining us. Obama looked a little out of place on a bus -- doesn't he look more comfortable lounging back on the comfort of his 747 jumbo corporate Air Force jet One?

[...]

BOLLING: But let's talk about that bus tour a little bit. Taxpayer-funded, sir?

HEYE: Well, unfortunately -- unfortunately, it is paid for by the taxpayers. Even though this is clearly a campaign trip, they have decided this is somehow a listening tour, not campaign bracketing, which is what they're actually engaging in. And if you go back to the 2004 campaign, President Bush did something similar. The key difference is, the Bush campaign paid for it.

BOLLING: Right. Any idea how much this might cost the taxpayer? By the way, he flew there on Air Force One, he flew there with the Secret Service, the entourage -- we're talking -- look, I'm a money guy, a numbers guy, I'm guessing it's going to be in the millions.

HEYE: Absolutely. We know the buses alone, forget the fuel, forget the logistics that go with such a bus tour -- but the bus alone costs, I think it's two buses, more than a million dollars. And this is our money. We're trying to be frugal stewards in this new Washington era, with House Republicans actually cutting spending for the first time. And the president's wasting this money. He's going to raise, apparently, a billion dollars, which is a lot of money for a campaign. Seems that they could pay for this campaign junket. [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 8/15/11]

Drudge Hypes Cost Of Tour: "Armored Buses Cost $2.2 Million." On August 15, the Drudge Report posted a series of links about Obama's bus tour beneath a picture of one of the armored buses, including a link to an April 21 Politico post about their then-projected "$2.2 million" cost:

Drudge bus tour

[Drudge Report Archives, 8/15/11]

But Secret Service Predicts Buses Will "Pay For [Themselves] Over A Projected 10-Year Lifespan" ...

AFP: "The Service ... Reason[ed] That The Initial Total Outlay Of 2.2 Million Dollars For Two Buses Would Soon Pay For Itself Over A Projected 10-Year Lifespan." An August 15 Agence France-Presse (AFP) article stated:

The US leader swept onto the campaign trail Monday with a sleek and even sinister looking set of wheels with blacked out windows worth $1.1 million.

The shiny, black armored bus, bristling with secret communications technology, with flashing police-style red and blue lights on the front and the back, made its debut on Obama's three-day tour of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

The vehicle was commissioned by the Secret Service, which has always hired buses for election campaigns and retrofitted them to provide suitable protection for presidents and rival party nominees.

But the Service decided to commission its own vehicles, reasoning that the initial total outlay of 2.2 million dollars for two buses would soon pay for itself over a projected 10-year lifespan. [Agence France-Presse, 8/15/11, via Google News]

TPM: "Cost Of Installing Equipment, Removing Equipment And Repairing The Damage To [Previously Leased Vehicles]" For Trips "Factored Into The Secret Service's Decision." From an April 21 Talking Points Memo (TPM) article:

In the past, the Secret Service has enhanced the security features of buses leased by presidential campaigns, and they say having their own secure buses that can be used during campaign trips just makes more sense.

[...]

The cost of installing equipment, removing equipment and repairing the damage to the leased vehicles also factored into the Secret Service's decision to purchase their own buses. [Talking Points Memo, 4/21/11]

Former Secret Service Director: "It Was Extremely Expensive To Lease One Of These Buses And Then Put In Proper Armoring, Proper Communications Equipment." From the August 15 edition of NPR's All Things Considered:

In the past, [presidential, vice presidential, and presidential candidate bus] tours were a big headache for the service. The process started with a commercial tour bus and a renovation process that put the old TV show Pimp My Ride to shame.

"It was extremely expensive to lease one of these buses and then put in proper armoring, proper communications equipment," says former Secret Service Director Ralph Basham, who's now with Command Consulting Group. "And then at the end of the contract you had to restore these buses back to their original state." [NPR, 8/15/11]

... Secret Service Officials Say "We're Overdue For Having This Type Of Protective Asset" ...

Secret Service Spokesman Ed Donovan: "The Reality Is That We're Overdue For Having This Type Of Protective Asset In Our Fleet." From the April 21 TPM article:

"We've never been fully comfortable with the security provided by a bus we lease and then try to retro-fit," Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin told TPM.

"This would be just like other vehicles we're adding to our fleet," Mackin said. "We'd use them for the campaign, but they're not for campaign purposes. They would be part of our fleet -- just like our limos, just like our follow-ups, just like our emergency vehicles."

[...]

"The reality is that we're overdue for having this type of protective asset in our fleet," Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told TPM. [Talking Points Memo, 4/21/11]

Donovan: "Designing Our Own Vehicle Really Gave Us A Level Of Security Which We Don't Get When We Lease A Bus." The TPM article further stated:

[Donovan said,] "We've had protectees in buses since at least 1980, Ronald Reagan, Gov. Reagan, was in a bus during the campaign. It's overdue because designing our own vehicle really gave us a level of security which we don't get when we lease a bus."

In the past, the Secret Service has enhanced the security features of buses leased by presidential campaigns, and they say having their own secure buses that can be used during campaign trips just makes more sense.

"If we have a candidate who has leased a bus and we're going to be protecting that candidate, we're going to look to enhance the security of that vehicle," Donovan said. "This is just the next step, and as I said, something that we're overdue for." [Talking Points Memo, 4/21/11]

Donovan: "We Have Demonstrated The Need For These Buses Going Back To 1980." The August 15 AFP article stated: " 'We have demonstrated the need for these buses going back to 1980,' said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, recalling the days when future president Ronald Reagan stormed the country by bus." [AFP, 8/15/11, via Google News]

... And The Buses Will Be Available To Eventual GOP 2012 Nominee, Future Presidents

AFP: "Each Of The New Buses Will Be Available To Obama And The Eventual Republican Presidential Nominee." According to the AFP article, "Each of the new buses will be available to Obama and the eventual Republican presidential nominee if required through the duration of the 2012 election season." [Agence France-Presse, 8/15/11, via Google News]

TPM: "The Secret Service Says ... [The Buses Will] Be A Security Asset For Future Presidents As Well." From the April 21 TPM article:

As the Secret Service prepares for the 2012 campaign, they're purchasing two new buses, at least one of which will be used by President Barack Obama as he travels around the country, TPM has learned. The Secret Service says that while the armored vehicles will be used by Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign, they'll be a security asset for future presidents as well.

[...]

One of the buses will be available for use by the Republican presidential candidate as well. And they wouldn't only be used on the campaign trail -- the Secret Service said the multipurpose vehicles be useful whenever a protectee travels into rural areas. [Talking Points Memo, 4/21/11]

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