As conservatives rage about the cost of Obama’s Africa trip, it is important to remember that George and Laura Bush made a combined 7 trips to Africa all on the taxpayers’ dime.
We’ve played this game before, but anytime the nation’s first black president spends more than a dollar, the right wing freaks out about Barack Obama “wasting taxpayer dollars.” Back in 2011, the right claimed that First Lady Obama’s Africa trip would cost taxpayers millions, but even if you use numbers that the White House disagrees with ($424,000), they weren’t even close.
This time the right has whipped up the fake outrage over a leaked document showing that President Obama’s upcoming Africa trip could cost $60-$100 million. What these same people don’t tell is that George and Laura Bush loved to go to Africa on the taxpayers’ dime…a lot.
During Bush’s second term alone, Laura Bush made five “goodwill” trips to Africa. President Bush made the trip twice during his presidency. Here is former First Lady Bush at an event the night before their trip in 2008, “Tomorrow, President Bush and I leave for what will be my fifth trip to Africa since 2001, and his second trip to Africa since 2001. I’ve seen the determination of the people across Africa — and the compassion of the people of the United States of America.”
Wow, that’s a lot of trips to Africa. In 2007, Laura Bush also took her daughters with her, and they went on a safari. You know, the same kind of outing that President Obama just canceled.
Not much was going right for George W. Bush. Even before the economy crashed, his legacy was 9/11, the unpopular Iraq invasion, and Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2003, Bush laid the groundwork for making aid to Africa his legacy. One of the areas where Bush drew praise was that he spent billions of taxpayer dollars on aid to Africa. It’s funny how conservatives don’t utter a peep about George W. Bush dishing out more than ten times the amount of taxpayer money on aid than Obama will spend on his trip.
Why could the country afford to spend billions of dollars during Bush’s no growth economy, but they can’t afford to spend at least $60 million for the sitting president to travel today?
Giving aid to Africa to combat malaria and AIDS is a very noble cause. It literally saves lives, but 5 goodwill visits to Africa aren’t cheap. Laura Bush wasn’t flying all alone on a commercial flight. Her trips cost the taxpayers a pretty penny.
For some odd reason, the GAO (General Accounting Office) records on the cost of the Bush family’s Africa travels seem to have vanished. The media has contacted the GAO, but no specific numbers have been provided yet. President Clinton’s Africa trip in 1998 cost taxpayers $42.8 million. George W. Bush’s two trips five and ten years later were likely more expensive.
The Washington Post story didn’t say that Obama’s trip will cost $100 million, but that the trip could cost $60-100 million, and that the cost was based on similar African trips made in recent years, “Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years, according to one person familiar with the journey, who was not authorized to speak for attribution.”
President Obama hasn’t made any trips to Africa, except a 22 hour stopover in Ghana in 2009, so it is pretty clear that Secret Service is basing their cost estimate on the cost of the Bush trips. Since George W. Bush made two presidential trips to Africa, it is likely that he spent more money in today’s dollars as President Obama will on his trip.
The reality is that presidential trips are expensive. It would be fair to be opposed to all of them, but the hypocrisy of only being outraged when certain presidents travel is unacceptable. George W. Bush appears to have had himself quite a little African spending spree, but apparently cost only matters when Barack Obama is the president who is doing the traveling.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association