Unable to stop the drooling over their mid-term election thrashing of the Democratic Party, Republicans of every stripe and shape are trying to out do each other in rubbing the face of the defeated Democrats in the mud. And taking the lead in all this is Fox 5 News, and its assortment of pundits, ultra-right wing ideologues, closet bigots, and likeminded "experts." Drunk with its own version of success Fox's TV personalities are now taking aim at President Barack Obama's trip to India wailing about what they say is "over the top costs and spending."
Maybe President Obama should trek to India in an airline version of a clunker and cut back on costs of fuel to shore up the busted economy. So out come Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachman claiming that the president's trip to India will cost U.S, taxpayers about $200 million a day. Ms. Bachman repeated this as fact on CNN's Anderson Cooper's 360 a day after Huckabee started the ball rolling.
Here's how Ms. Bachman put it when pressed by Cooper: "Within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It's a very small example.
Huckabee also made this claim to Fox News on Tuesday night citing undisclosed "reports" and in the social media sphere. "Reports say that Obama's trip to Mumbai, India [tomorrow] will cost taxpayers $200 million dollars a day - come to think of it, that's much less than Obama's been spending here," Huckabee wrote in a Facebook message .
But here's the problem: the entire report and claims by these two hawkish Republicans are completely false and patently wrong. This follows a well-established pattern by Fox 5 and its "reporters" of demonizing President Obama and using any and all things to muddy his name and embarrass him. Truth and facts are irrelevant. The lying means justify the end and don't look for Bachman or Huckabee to apologize for their repeated lying anytime soon. Arrogance and hubris are the building blocks of the Republican controlled media/political complex.
By peddling these out and out lies the character of Congresswoman Bachman and one of the GOP's candidates that Obama defeated in 2008 have told Americans if they are bothering to look volumes about their flawed behavior. Lying for political gain and to score cheap political shots are part of the Republican tool kit to defeat President Obama in 2012.
Turns out that these numbers quoted by Bachman and Huckabee without bothering to check the validity of the source as any rookie journalism student is required to do were "pulled out of a hat" by an Indian news agency not a US one. To further inflate these lies that would have made Josef Goebbels of Nazi propaganda fame proud, the Press Trust of India report was further embellished by adding that the U.S. military was stationing 34 warships or 10 percent of the naval fleet as part of the president's security detail. But this was roundly refuted and denied by the Pentagon who called the claims "absolutely absurd and comical." The White House also issued a public statement saying that the wild claims by Huckabee and Bachman "had no basis in reality" and were "wildly inflated."
Sadly, a large number of uninformed Americans are going to believe these falsehoods. Beck, Huckabee and Bachman are going to re-twist and re-spin their lies and paint the White House and President Obama as the ones who are not telling the truth. The GOP faithful will gobble up the latest red meat without so much as a basic question about where did these GOP operatives get their facts and figures. Like dumb, driven cattle they will believe every word further stoking their anger against President Obama and the Democratic Party.
Nobody is going to realize the utter ludicrous and ridiculous nature of these claims when put against the Afghanistan war that is costing the United States about $190 million a day. Still the costs of presidential trips are not cheap even though they are very difficult to measure for security reasons. For example, when the president uses the familiar blue-and-white reconfigured 747 as Air Force One, it costs about $100,219 an hour to operate and that's just HIS plane.
There also are cargo planes, used to fly in armored limousines, helicopters, staff and other equipment, as well as the Secret Service. A single Air Force C-17 cargo jet, for example, costs $6,960 an hour, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Former President Bill Clinton used a total of 77 other aircraft on one multi-country trip to Asia in 2000, according to the Air Force Times, including 14 C-17 Globemasters, 12 C-5 Galaxys, three C-141 Starlifters and two C-130 Hercules. ABC News at the time estimated the cost of that entire trip at $50 million .
Now, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), President Bill Clinton's trips to Africa, Chile and China were at least "$42.8 million, $10.5 million and $18.8 million respectively." The largest of these costs consisted of operating expenses of the president's aircraft and other military passenger and cargo aircraft; travel expenses, including lodging for the travelers; and telecommunications, vehicle, and other equipment rentals and procurement in the countries visited.
Let us now put these figures, even allowing for a10 percent inflation, in the context of President Obama's 3-day trip. Has the United States government shared the information about the cost of the president's trip with a foreign government? The United States does not do this and so this highly spurious figure eagerly regurgitated by Bachman, Back and Huckabee was done simply to embarrass the president and his Administration in keeping with the Republican playbook about "Democrats' runaway spending."
But I could understand the sleazy behavior of Beck and Huckabee who have been infected with the Fox 5 anti-Obama virus. They do these things deliberately and unashamedly. Bachman is another matter. She is a member of the United States House of Representatives and represents Minnesota's 6th district. She has a responsibility to present facts and check them so that she comes over as truthful.
It is the height of gross irresponsibility to recite an anonymous story and present it as absolute fact without checking it thoroughly. This rush to judgment is the kind of zealotry and dirty politics that the Republican Party has elevated to near mythical levels. Lying and repeating lies is not the kind of moral character that is expected of our congressional leaders. No wonder Americans are fed up with politicians.
What Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachman, Glen Back et al. get away with is the fact that 58 percent of Americans are politically clueless and couldn't even name all elected officials currently serving their state in Congress. Of those that vote, 75 percent have very little idea of the platform and political history of the person(s) they voted for. And most alarmingly of all, 40 percent of Republicans believe every word that Fox 5 and its pundits spin each and every day.