As you may have heard, President Obama will travel to India on Saturday, part of an overseas diplomatic mission that will put the president face-to-face with the leaders of a key strategic and trade partner, not to mention a regional nuclear power. For Obama, the India visit is a chance to get all presidential after his recent “shellacking.” For India, it’s a change to further a relationship mutually beneficial to both nations. For the right wing, it’s a one-way ticket to Freakoutville.
Here’s the right-wing India trip meme: Obama is spending more money — $200 million per day — than the nation spends daily on the war in Afghanistan, in order to fly something like one million planes full of his closest friends to a multi-day bacchanal on the steps of the Taj Mahal, all paid for by you, the taxypayer. Or something.
As Eric Lach reported earlier today, the meme is just about 100% garbage, according to the White House. “No basis in reality” was the way Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest described it.
But that hasn’t stopped the engines of right-wing panic from spooling up to 11 over what is, basically, a totally normal — though inarguably incredibly expensive — part of being President.
Here’s a look at some of the folks who are losing their minds over the President’s upcoming journey to India:
Glenn Beck: On his radio show today, Beck lamented that it will cost “$2 billion for ten days so [Obama] can go see the festival of lights.”
Beck’s co-host was also appalled. “I mean, you could bring almost all of India to Washington for less than $2 billion,” he said.
As Lach and USA Today note, the trip will likely cost “millions” per day, but Beck’s $2 billion figure is “not even close.”
Sean Hannity: Where Beck goes, Hannity is sure to follow. But in this case, it was Hannity who led the way, claiming on this show last night that Obama will bring “3,000 people” with him on the road, a trip that will include (as Hannity pointed out, helpfully) a visit to “one of the biggest mosques in Indonesia.”
Again: simmer down now, folks. As CBS’ venerable Mark Knoller tweeted today, every trip any president takes includes “hundreds of personnel from [White House] communications” who “keep [the president] in touch no matter where in the world he is.” But 3,000 sounds excessive. Very excessive. A GAO report on President Clinton’s 1998 trip to Africa — a huge undertaking — found “1300 individuals,” traveled to the continent on the taxpayer’s dime. The total cost of that trip? “Over $42.8 million,” Knoller tweets.
Michele Bachmann: As Lach wrote earlier, Bachmann helpfully suggested “maybe we should use video conferencing for these meetings” after ripping the “870 rooms” in the Taj Mahal Hotel she claims Obama is renting in Mumbai.
The only problem with the hotel room claim is the hotel only has “560 rooms including 44 suites,” according to its website.
Doug Powers: Fanning the flames of freakout in a post on Michelle Malkin’s blog, Powers slammed the “carbon footprint” of the trip, writing that Obama will take “40 jets” to India (“no doubt” one will “be exclusively for Bo and Reggie Love,” Powers wrote on his own blog).
“Hey, if there’s not man-made climate change yet, Obama’s trip will make damn sure there is by the time he gets back,” Powers wrote.
Just let the idea of someone ripping someone else over a carbon footprint on Michelle Malkin’s blog sink in for a second. Tuesday, I guess, truly was a change election.
Rush Limbaugh: Wait, maybe it wasn’t a change election. Rush is attacking Obama as some kind of dictatorial socialist using dubious facts of some kind. Presses unstopped. On his website Tuesday, Rush (or Team Rush) wrote, “five hundred seven rooms at the Taj Mahal, 40 airplanes, $200 million a day this nation will spend on Obama’s trip to India.” (Rush/Team did not not mean it in a good way.)
We already know the money thing is probably not true. We suspect the logistical freakouttery is also less than accurate. Along with the number of planes that Rush mentioned Tuesday is the right-wing meme that “34 warships” will be dispatched to protect Obama. Here’s how the military’s paper, Stars and Stripes, reacted to that one:
“There are not 34 ships - and there isn’t an aircraft carrier - supporting the president’s trip, said a defense official, who declined to provide any information on security measures for presidential trips.”
“Besides, a carrier strike group typically has 10-12 ships at most,” reported Fox News.
Fox News: Fox isn’t off the hook entirely, however. Besides giving Hannity the platform for his “largest mosque in Indonesia” dog whistle, the network’s website seems perfectly happy to feed the meme that whatever Obama is taking to India with him, it’s unprecedented and ginormous.
“A foreign force this size probably hasn’t been in India since the era of British colonization,” the network reports. Like most of the right wing types ginning up the freakout over the India visit, Fox hangs its report on the Indian press — or, rather, one Indian news source which first reported the outlandish claims about Obama’s entourage based on the word of an unnamed local official in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Fox does point out that the Indian report is “strongly disputed by U.S. officials,” but doesn’t let that pesky fact hold back this zinger:
“The details on the trip,” the Fox site reports, “read like lyrics for a hawkish version of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’”
Honestly, though, when you’re spinning literary gold like that, how could you not print it?