Some time ago, touristic extravagances of the POTUS elicited a great deal of waggish hand-wringing:
Obama arrives in India at the start of a ten-day tour of Asia. At the heart of the White House caravan is ‘The Beast’, a gigantic, ‘pimped-up’ General Motors Cadillac which security experts say is, short of an actual battle tank, probably the safest road vehicle on the planet.
But an outlandish car is only the start. Mr Obama will fly, of course, on Air Force One, the presidential private jumbo jet, which, boasting double beds and suites, is fitted out more like a luxury yacht. Some reports suggest it costs around $50,000 (£31,000) an hour to operate.
Of course threats can come from any direction, so a squadron of U.S. naval ships will patrol offshore. Some reports have claimed that 34 ships, including two aircraft carriers, will be involved (not far off the size of the Royal Navy’s entire Surface Fleet) but the White House has denied this.
On land, as well as The Beast, Mr Obama’s entourage will travel in a fleet of 45 U.S.-built armoured limousines, half of which will be decoys. He will also travel with 30 elite sniffer dogs, mostly German Shepherds.
The White House has, according to some reports, booked the entire Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, the city’s most luxurious. It is not uncommon for the grander heads of state to reserve a floor or two, but a whole hotel is unprecedented. This hotel was the main target of the 2008 attacks by Pakistani militants which left 166 dead.
As to the cost of all this, the White House will not reveal details – which has allowed Mr Obama’s political foes to bandy about sums including a widely-quoted $200million (£123million) a day. Whatever the figure, it makes the costs associated with the Royal Train and the late Royal Yacht Britannia seem like small change.
It is also reported that a bomb-proof tunnel will be erected for Mr Obama ahead of his visit to Mani Bhavan—the Gandhi museum—on Saturday.
According to Daily News & Analysis, U.S. secret service agents visited the museum on Monday to plan Mr Obama’s security during his tour.
They were accompanied by Mumbai Police officers and civic officials of the D ward where Mani Bhavan is located.
While they were inspecting the route and the buildings lining the path to the museum, U.S. security officers noticed a nearby skyscraper in the highly populated area that could pose a threat.
To the amazement of the Indians accompanying the U.S. agents, it was apparently decided to erect a bomb-proof over-ground tunnel, which will be installed by U.S. military engineers in just an hour.
The kilometre-long tunnel will measure 12ft by 12ft and will have air-conditioning, close-circuit television cameras, and will be heavily guarded at every point.
It’s being built so it is large enough for Mr Obama’s cavalcade to pass through and will be manned at its entry and exit points.
The material that the tunnel would be made of has not been released but officials said that the structure would be dismantled immediately after Mr Obama and his party leaves the area.—The Daily Mail, 6 November 2010
Two weeks earlier, Obama’s storied subaltern opined: “If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar.” Strangely enough, the potentate so anointed evaded on this occasion another favorable comparison to his illustrious predecessor:
|Germanico bello confecto multis de causis Caesar statuit sibi Rhenum esse transeundum; quarum illa fuit iustissima quod, cum videret Germanos tam facile impelli ut in Galliam venirent, suis quoque rebus eos timere voluit, cum intellegerent et posse et audere populi Romani exercitum Rhenum transire. […]
Caesar his de causis quas commemoravi Rhenum transire decreverat; sed navibus transire neque satis tutum esse arbitrabatur neque suae neque populi Romani dignitatis esse statuebat. Itaque, etsi summa difficultas faciendi pontis proponebatur propter latitudinem, rapiditatem altitudinemque fluminis, tamen id sibi contendendum aut aliter non traducendum exercitum existimabat. […]
Diebus X, quibus materia coepta erat comportari, omni opere effecto exercitus traducitur. […]
Caesar paucos dies in eorum finibus moratus, omnibus vicis aedificiisque incensis frumentisque succisis, se in fines Ubiorum recepit atque his auxilium suum pollicitus, si a Suebis premerentur, haec ab iis cognovit: Suebos, postea quam per exploratores pontem fieri comperissent, more suo concilio habito nuntios in omnes partes dimisisse, uti de oppidis demigrarent, liberos, uxores suaque omnia in silvis deponerent atque omnes qui arma ferre possent unum in locum convenirent. Hunc esse delectum medium fere regionum earum quas Suebi obtinerent; hic Romanorum adventum expectare atque ibi decertare constituisse. Quod ubi Caesar comperit, omnibus iis rebus confectis, quarum rerum causa exercitum traducere constituerat, ut Germanis metum iniceret, ut Sugambros ulcisceretur, ut Ubios obsidione liberaret, diebus omnino XVIII trans Rhenum consumptis, satis et ad laudem et ad utilitatem profectum arbitratus se in Galliam recepitpontemque rescidit.
|The German war being finished, Caesar thought it expedient for him to cross the Rhine , for many reasons; of which this was the most weighty, that, since he saw the Germans were so easily urged to go into Gaul, he desired they should have their fears for their own territories, when they discovered that the army of the Roman people both could and dared pass the Rhine. […]
Caesar, for those reasons which I have mentioned, had resolved to cross the Rhine; but to cross by ships he neither deemed to be sufficiently safe, nor considered consistent with his own dignity or that of the Roman people. Therefore, although the greatest difficulty in forming a bridge was presented to him, on account of the breadth, rapidity, and depth of the river, he nevertheless considered that it ought to be attempted by him, or that his army ought not otherwise to be led over. […]
Within ten days after the timber began to be collected, the whole work was completed, and the whole army led over. […]
Caesar, having remained in their territories a few days, and burned all their villages and houses, and cut down their corn, proceeded into the territories of the Ubii; and having promised them his assistance, if they were ever harassed by the Suevi, he learned from them these particulars: that the Suevi, after they had by means of their scouts found that the bridge was being built, had called a council, according to their custom, and sent orders to all parts of their state to remove from the towns and convey their children, wives, and all their possessions into the woods, and that all who could bear arms should assemble in one place; that the place thus chosen was nearly the centre of those regions which the Suevi possessed; that in this spot they had resolved to await the arrival of the Romans, and give them battle there. When Caesar discovered this, having already accomplished all these things on account of which he had resolved to lead his army over, namely, to strike fear into the Germans, take vengeance on the Sigambri, and free the Ubii from the invasion of the Suevi, having spent altogether eighteen days beyond the Rhine, and thinking he had advanced far enough to serve both honor and interest, he returned into Gaul, and cut down the bridge.
John Soane, Caesar’s Rhine Bridge, 1814
During a private conversation with some reporters who pressed him to explain why we were in Vietnam, Johnson lost his patience. According to Arthur Goldberg, “LBJ unzipped his fly, drew out his substantial organ and declared, ‘This is why!’”—Robert Dallek, Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President
Lyndon Baines Johnson and Senator Richard Russell