- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
- U.N. rights chief: Flight MH17 downing possible war crime
- Attack on park in Gaza war kills 10, mostly children
- Calif. protesters to block Israel-owned ships at Port of Oakland
- Obama to give Africa $38M, but tells young leaders: Stop ‘making excuses’ for economy
Cost of Obama’s Africa trip under fire, overshadows economic, democracy focus
Question of the Day
With President Obama set to leave for a weeklong stay in Africa, the goals of his trip — boosting economic partnerships and engagement with the U.S. and promoting democratic development in African nations — are in danger of being overshadowed.
In the days before his departure on Wednesday, much of the attention in Washington has focused instead on the high cost of the trip, estimated to be somewhere between $60 million and $100 million.
The cost is largely due to the large security force that will travel with the first family.
The trip's price tag isn't the only sideshow. Calls for Mr. Obama's arrest from the Muslim Lawyers Association, a group based in Johannesburg, which objects to the administration's drone program, also are garnering attention.
But the White House late last week vehemently defended the trip, which will last from Wednesday through July 3 and include stops in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.
"I don't think it's in the U.S. interest for the United States to step aside and cede any potential for our country because we don't want to move forward with presidential travel," said Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser, in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "There's nothing that can make an impact more in terms of our foreign policy and our economic and security interests than the president of the United States coming" to Africa.
The White House also brushed aside the calls for Mr. Obama's arrest, with Mr. Rhodes saying that counterterrorism and drone strikes won't be specific topics of discussion during the president's time in South Africa.
He did, however, stress that "on the continent, counterterrorism is an important priority for the United States."
Providing yet another potential distraction, Mr. Obama's trip to Africa will coincide with a visit to the continent from former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.
Mr. Bush, whose global health initiative is heavily focused on Africa, will go with his wife first to Zambia to visit a health center.
They'll then travel to Tanzania, a visit that will overlap with Mr. Obama's stop in that country.
The commander in chief and his predecessor aren't scheduled to meet, but first lady Michelle Obama plans to attend the African First Ladies Summit with Mrs. Bush on July 2.
The White House late last week touted that event when releasing the Obamas' public schedule. Their daughters, Sasha and Malia, also will be on the trip.
But in Washington, some lawmakers believe the administration is spending far too much money on the excursion while at the same time bemoaning the "sequester" budget cuts, which resulted in the cancellation of public White House tours.
Rep. George Holding, North Carolina Republican, said on the House floor earlier this month that the White House could have 1,350 weeks of White House tours "for the cost of this trip to Africa."
Security for the trip reportedly will involve military cargo planes airlifting 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines, and three trucks to carry bulletproof glass to cover the windows where the president and his family will stay.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
- Libya now nation at risk with weak U.S. influence; embassy closes as chaos grows
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
- White House adviser on 2016: Rand Paul more viable than Ted Cruz
- Obama takes aim at 'corporate deserters'
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Mark Davis
The nation founders, the Lone Star State thrives
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- D.C. police chief orders officers not to arrest legal gun owners carrying weapons in public
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- CURL: Obama, staffers not even pretending any more
- Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan pushes back against cover-up
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- DeSean Jackson working on offensive cohesiveness with Redskins teammates
- Washington Times strikes content and marketing partnership with Redskins
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq