Showing posts with label President Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label President Obama. Show all posts

Friday, November 5, 2010

Indian Media Said It Was A $200 Million Per Day Trip

No, President Obama's trip is not going to cost $200 million a day.

That figure -- first thrown out by a single Indian media outlet and now viral on conservative talk radio -- is wildly off the mark.

The problem is that the costs for these trips are impossible to determine, for many of the president's expenses would be incurred whether he was visiting India or Atlanta or simply hanging around the White House. Obama's India trip starts an Asian swing that includes South Korea, Indonesia and Japan.

The administration isn't inclined to detail costs, most of which deal with security.

"The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor. "Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it's safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated."

To be sure, these trips do cost millions of dollars per day.

Whenever a president travels, he or she takes a mini-White House with them, from bulletproof limousines to gaggles of aides. This can come in awfully handy when trouble happens, such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 when George W. Bush was in Florida. Ronald Reagan was traveling in Asia when the Chernobyl nuclear plant in what was then the Soviet Union blew up in 1986.

Foreign trips are expensive but are a staple of presidential duties. India is a rising economy power. It is next to -- and has an intense rivalry with -- one of the world's most dangerous countries, Pakistan. It can be a counterweight to threats from China. Any president is going to deal with India.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim majority nation. South Korea is the site of a G-20 global economic summit. Japan is hosting the annual Asian economic summit, which Obama's predecessors also attended. There's no evidence that Obama's team is spending any more money than its predecessors, taking inflation into account.

Yes, these gigs will cost money. But $200 million a day? Not even close.

One other thing to keep in mind: The Secret Service is not going to let anything happen to a president overseas if they can help it. They're going to do -- and spend -- whatever it takes. That's just a fact of life.

One last thing: The media organizations accompanying Obama will pay their own expenses.

So how much will it cost and who is picking up the tab???

No Beer Summit For The Republicans

President Obama has just given Slurpee something it could never buy: global street cred.

Hours after the leader of the free world jokingly suggested at Wednesday's day-after-election press conference that he might hold a "Slurpee Summit" with the new Republican leadership, the brand of slushy soft drinks is in overdrive to make the summit real.

"This is a rare opportunity for a brand," says Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven, which owns 44-year-old Slurpee. "We don't want to be opportunistic, but nothing has ever been this big for Slurpee."

This is what brands dream about. Bud Light got a big PR lift after Obama drank a Bud Light at the White House "Beer Summit" in July 2009. That brought together Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and James Crowley, the police sergeant who arrested him.

During recent campaign speeches, Obama said Republicans stood around drinking Slurpees while Democrats did the hard legislative work. Now, Slurpee's getting the last laugh. Already in motion:

•Negotiations. White House officials were contacted late Wednesday by officials representing 7-Eleven with a proposal for the Slurpee brand to cater a Slurpee Summit between key Democrats and Republicans. The summit could be at the White House — or wherever the president chooses.

"If the president wants a Slurpee Summit, we're offering to cater it with red and blue Slurpees — and we'll even offer a purple Slurpee, since that's what you get when you bring red and blue together," Chabris says.

7-Eleven's request to the White House was made via the public relations firm New Partners, which has many employees who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008.

•Advertising. 7-Eleven on Friday will place an ad in national newspapers that plays off the idea of Slurpees bringing people together, says Chabris. One concept in discussion is a picture of a purple Slurpee with a red straw and a blue straw sticking out.

•Strategy. Slurpee is re-evaluating its brand strategy. It's looking at a new theme to be a drink that "brings people together," says Chabris.

Consultant David Aaker says it doesn't get any better. "If they actually have a summit, it's worth tens of millions of dollars in free advertising."

Strategy guru Mark Coopersmith says Slurpee should quickly go big in social media, nudging folks to have Slurpee Summits to solve problems.

"How often do you get the leader of the free world to associate your brand with all of these positive elements?"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Violation Of Air Space Not Intentional

SEATTLE (AP) - A passenger aboard a float plane that violated the airspace around Air Force One while President Barack Obama was in town Tuesday was stunned to find out about the fuss that resulted, saying the incursion wasn't intentional.

The military scrambled fighter jets, and the two sonic booms from the Oregon Air National Guard F-15s startled many people in Western Washington.

The Cessna 180 float plane was flying to a seaplane base on Lake Washington, next to Seattle, from Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington, said passenger Laura Joseph. She told The Associated Press that neither she nor the pilot, Lee Daily, knew about Obama's visit or the air restrictions that accompany such a high-profile trip.

The Secret Service interviewed Daily after he landed at Kenmore Air on the north end of the lake, which had been shut down for the duration of the presidential campaign stop.

North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman John Cornelio said the civilian aircraft left the restricted area before the two jets arrived from the Portland, Ore.-based 142nd Fighter Wing and that there was no intercept. He confirmed the jets produced the sonic booms.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the Oregon Air National Guard said the jets were cleared to accelerate to supersonic speed minutes after takeoff. The Guard said the booms were heard by people from Longview, Wash., to the Puget Sound area.

Joseph, of Normandy Park, said she saw an F-15 outside the window as the plane approached Seattle.

"I saw a jet, just a white jet going by," she said. "I thought it was kind of odd to see a military jet."

The fighter only passed by the float plane once and didn't take any other action, Joseph said.

Joseph said she and Daily didn't know anything was wrong until they landed and were told they had to talk to the Secret Service. She also said she didn't hear the sonic booms.

"Oh my God, I can't believe -- is this the top news thing?" she said.

Joseph said she and Daily were allowed to leave after being interviewed by the Secret Service and haven't heard anything yet about possible sanctions.

Obama was in Seattle to stump for Sen. Patty Murray on a three-day campaign swing for endangered Democrats. Air Force One was on the ground at King County International Airport/Boeing Field in south Seattle at the time of the incident shortly after 1:30 p.m. The president's plane departed Seattle at 3:47 p.m.

The Air National Guard said the jets returned to Portland shortly before 3 p.m.

The two sharp booms, a few seconds apart, rattled windows in Seattle. Fire and police officials throughout the region said they were swamped with calls.

Oregon Air National Guard Staff Sgt. John Hughel said the F-15s were scrambled by NORAD from Portland International Airport. He said the guard has two fighters always on alert to patrol the air space from central California to the Canadian border.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

General McChrystal Is Out........

Gen. Stanley McChrystal is no longer the top U.S. commander and strategist for Afghanistan, reportedly being told Wednesday by President Obama that he is out of a job following a scathing article in which McChrystal and his aides were quoted criticizing the commander-in-chief over his leadership in the Afghan war.

McChrystal got his marching orders as he held a face-to-face meeting at the White House, where he met with the president after a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon.

The Wednesday meeting preceded a regular session of the administration's strategy team for Afghanistan, held in the White House Situation Room. Normally, McChrystal would have joined via teleconference but he was summoned to Washington as he faced a private flogging over the article that appeared in Rolling Stone.

If not insubordination, the remarks in the Rolling Stone magazine article were at least an indirect challenge to civilian management of the war in Washington by its top military commander.

Military leaders rarely challenge their commander in chief publicly, and when they do, consequences tend to be more severe than a scolding.

"I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor -- showed poor judgment," the president said Tuesday, surrounded by members of his Cabinet. "But I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions."

Gates hand-picked McChrystal to take over the war last year, calling him a driven visionary with the fortitude and intelligence to turn the war around. Obama fired the previous commander at Gates' recommendation.

In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: "I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."

In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal and his staff described the president as unprepared for their first one-on-one encounter.

McChrystal also said he felt betrayed and blind-sided by his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. Eikenberry remains in his post in Kabul, and although both men publicly say they are friends, their rift is on full display. McChrystal and Eikenberry, himself a retired Army general, stood as far apart as the speakers' platform would allow during a White House news conference last month.

The story characterized the general as unable to convince some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the nation's longest-running war, and dejected that the president didn't know about his commendable military record.

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. "I was selling an unsellable position."

It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a "10-minute photo-op."

"Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed," the adviser told the magazine.

Some of the strongest criticism was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The boss says he's like a wounded animal," one of the general's aides was quoted as saying. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."

McChrystal said he felt "betrayed" by Eikenberry for expressing doubts about his proposed troop buildup last year and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

"Here's one that covers his flank for the history books," McChrystal told the magazine. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so."'

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. The White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing troops home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

The profile, titled "The Runaway General," emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal's tight circle of aides this spring.

It includes a list of administration figures said to back McChrystal, including Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and puts Vice President Joe Biden at the top of a list of those who don't.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House."

Leaders Warn The President On Firing Of Gen. McChrystal

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan officials said Wednesday that firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal would disrupt progress in the war and could jeopardize a pivotal security operation under way in Taliban strongholds in the south.

At the end of a one-hour video conference Tuesday night with President Barack Obama, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his confidence in the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said.

McChrystal was summoned to Washington to explain disparaging comments published in Rolling Stone magazine that he and his top aides made about Obama's national security team.

While McChrystal, who was meeting with Obama on Wednesday, was harshly scolded by his superiors in the United States, officials in Afghanistan rallied to his support, saying he had increased cooperation between Afghan and international troops, worked to reduce civilian casualties and gained the trust of the Afghan people.

"The president believes that we are in a very sensitive juncture in the partnership, in the war on terror and in the process of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, and any gap in this process will not be helpful," Omar told reporters.

"We hope there is not a change of leadership of the international forces here in Afghanistan and that we continue to partner with Gen. McChrystal."

The controversy erupted as June is on track to becoming one of the deadliest months for U.S. and international forces in the nearly nine-year Afghan war.

The military said Wednesday that two American service members died Tuesday following separate bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, and another Wednesday in a bomb attack in the west. That makes 70 international forces killed so far this month. Forty-four of them were Americans.

The deadliest month of the conflict for U.S. forces was October 2009, when 59 service members were killed. For NATO forces overall, the deadliest month was July 2009, when 75 troops were killed.

The violence is also hitting Afghans. A vehicle belonging to a candidate for parliament hit a roadside bomb early Wednesday in the east, killing the candidate's brother. The candidate was wounded but survived, said Ghafoor Khan, a police spokesman in Nangarhar province.

The flap over McChrystal comes as NATO and Afghan forces are ramping up security in and around the key southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.

Karzai's younger half brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council, gave McChrystal a ringing endorsement, telling reporters in Kandahar that McChrystal's leadership would be sorely missed.

"If he is fired, it will disrupt the operation," Ahmad Wali Karzai said. "It definitely will affect it. He (McChrystal) started all this, and he has a good relationship with the people. The people trust him and we trust him. If we lose this important person, I don't think that this operation will work in a positive way."

In Kabul, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi also publicly voiced his support for the general, who is prepared to submit his resignation to Obama, according to two military officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

"Since Gen. McChrystal took over the job as commander of the international forces, there have been a lot of changes in different departments, which are very important and positive," Azimi said. "For example, there has been a decrease in the numbers of civilian casualties and we're still working jointly with McChrystal to decrease it further."

Azimi spoke at a regular news conference held with Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul. Blotz declined to discuss McChrystal's fate or the magazine article, which reported deep rifts between the top commander in the war and the U.S. administration.

"Let us be a little bit more patient," Blotz said.