REPUBLICANS DOING THEIR PATRIOTIC DUTY BY DEMAGOGUING A PRESIDENTIAL TRIP
Why, who on earth other than that crazy, nutty, wacko Michele Bachmann would believe something like this?
... "Well I think we know that just 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," Bachmann said [to CNN's Anderson Cooper]. "He's taking two thousand people with him. He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it's a very small example, Anderson."
But wait: $200 million a day? Snopes.com says that the $200 million figure ... is "probably false." Snopes traced the rumor back to an anonymous Indian government official, quoted in a Press Trust of India article published on Tuesday. Factcheck.org calls the claim "highly doubtful," and points out that the entire war in Afghanistan currently costs about $190 million a day (h/t AJC).
None of which prevents this A-list right-wing blogger from citing the number as fact, or this one, or this one. Bachmann's crazy? So are they.
Even USA Today has bestirred itself to debunk this rumor, which traveled to West via England's right-wing (though non-Murdoch) Daily Mail, where the Indian news story was quoted. The original quote is as follows?
"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.
Why would an Indian government official (a) know the cost of the trip and (b) give it in dollars?
(The daily cost could conceivably be 200 million rupees, or $4.5 million.)
Ah, but now we have a new, Drudge-driven trip-related scandal, via the same Indian news source:
34 warships sent from US for Obama visit
... [President Obama] will ... be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there beginning Saturday. The measure has been taken as Mumbai attack in 2008 took place from the sea....
This is deemed cowardly in the right-o-sphere, but in January 2008, when President Bush traveled to the Middle East, The Times of London reported that
Overhead, US fighters will be stepping up patrols to protect Air Force One, while below the warships of the US Fifth Fleet will be ready to respond to any Iranian moves.
Was that the entire Fifth Fleet? I'm not sure, but the fleet generally has 20-plus ships.
Was it cowardly for President Bush to have military protection in a zone where terrorism was a serious risk? I don't recall anyone saying so at the time -- left or right.
MORE: Jonathan Weisman of The Wall Street Journal is debunks these stories, agreeing that the cost estimate is ludicrous ("fuzzy math," his headline calls it) and adding:
... the [first Indian press] report is demonstrably incorrect. It says the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai -- it hasn't -- and that the press traveling with Mr. Obama will be staying there. We won't. Besides, the press pays its own way at considerable cost to the media outlets, not the U.S. taxpayer.
Now a new rumor has emerged courtesy of India's NDTV. Mr. Obama, the outlet says, "will be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast." The White House called that ridiculous. But on the conservative Drudge Report website, it's on the home page -- in huge type.
Um, Jonathan? It's also being cited as fact by your corporate cousins, Fox Nation and Fox News. And the top headline at Fox Nation as I type this is "WH Under Fire for Cost of Obama's India Trip." The top headline at Fox News: "Obama's India Entourage Earning Rep of Epic Proportions."
(UPDATE FRIDAY: The stories are no longer leads at Fox News and Fox Nation front pages, but here's the Fox Nation story and here's the Fox News front-page headline showing up all over the Interwebs; the headline of the Fox News story is "Security Entourage Earning Epic Reputation Ahead of Obama India Visit.")
STARS AND STRIPES: ALSO IN ON THE LIBERAL PLOT? Jeff Scogol, "The Rumor Doctor," for Stars and Stripes, says the cost estimates and warship number are absurd:
...Sure enough, there are not 34 ships -- and there isn't an aircraft carrier -- supporting the president's trip, said a defense official, who declined to provide any information on security measures for presidential trips.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell called the notion of sending so many warships to protect the president "comical."
"I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy -- some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier -- in support of the president's trip to Asia," Morrell told reporters on Thursday.
Morrell would not talk about the president’s security arrangements other than to say "nothing close" to the armada reported in the Indian press is involved.
And another commie pinko weighs in:
"Foreign media always exaggerate about presidential trips," Gordon Johndroe, former deputy White House spokesman under President George W. Bush, said in an e-mail.. "I am positive there will not be '34 warships' involved in this trip." ...
Well, Fox? Going to change your headlines?