Open the White House

A visit to the White House can be an arduous process. It requires months of advance preparation, because names have to submitted to the Secret Service in order to run background checks. Consequently, those who travel to the nation’s capitol often plan their itinerary around their appointment for a tour of the Executive Mansion. If you’re one of those with White House tickets in the next few months, prepare to be disappointed. It seems the Obama administration has scrapped your plans by cancelling all upcoming White House tours, citing budget cuts mandated by the sequester as the reason.

This explanation is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Estimates place the amount of dollars saved from discontinuing the tours at $18,000 per week. That’s budget dust. To put that in to perspective, the Congressional Research Service estimates that it costs ten times that amount to keep Air Force One in the sky for a single hour. That would mean that a single round-trip transcontinental flight by the president burns up the entirety of the money budgeted for White House tours. The president’s most recent vacation to Hawaii cost a reported $7 million, a sum that could have funded all White House tours for the rest of the decade.

I’m not an Obama hater. But it’s very hard to avoid the conclusion that, with this decision, the Obama administration is acting in bad faith.

The financial savings are miniscule, but the unnecessary inconvenience inflicted by this capricious decision play into the narrative the president has been peddling for months.  Flying across the country in his very expensive jet, he has repeatedly warned of dire consequences should the federal government be forced to tighten its belt by a measly 2.4%. Now the cuts are here, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Surely the president must realize his credibility has taken a hit as the apocalypse he predicted has failed to materialize. It seems that by shutting down public access to the White House, he has now managed to inflict a little public misery in order to save face.

In any case, there’s something seriously out of whack here.

Many are justifiably outraged by this display of partisan pettiness. Billionaire Donald Trump has offered to foot the bill for the White House tours himself. That shouldn’t be necessary, and it’s embarrassing that it even has to be proposed. The White House belongs to the people, not to the president, and it’s disgraceful when anyone tries to use it as a political prop.

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