First the good news. The White House (aka, “the people’s house”) will be opening its doors to school group tours in time for spring break. (So far, it has said “maybe,” but fear not — the visits are back.) Now the predictable news: The president is not to blame for the decision to cut the tour program in the first place. (It was probably George W. Bush’s fault, though specifics on how have yet to be determined.)
That’s right. Despite Obama’s many dire pronouncements about the ravages of sequestration during his campaign-style publicity tour, this idea, which has come back to bite the administration. was not his. That’s what he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Wednesday’s “Good Morning America” (transcript follows the video):
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve been taking a lot of heat for this cancelation of White House tours. The Secret Service says it costs about $74,000 a week. Was canceling them really necessary?
OBAMA: You know, I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House. What the Secret Service explained to us was that they’re going to have to furlough some folks…. The question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we’ve got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck, who suddenly are seeing a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in their pay. What I’m asking them [now] is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups … who may have traveled here with some bake sales. [Emphasis added]
His compassion makes you misty, doesn’t it?
The only question is if it wasn’t his idea to cancel the White House tours, then why didn’t his press secretary say so at a daily press briefing last Friday when the topic was broached? Asked specifically about the now-viral video of Iowa schoolchildren chanting in unison “the White House is our House, please let us visit!” Jay Carney said:
This is about trade-offs. Because when you have the kind of severe cuts that the sequester represents, you have to reduce your budget accordingly. And then you have to make choices about what you do and what you don’t.
He never mentioned the Secret Service.
Incidentally, the kids in the video that caused the president so much grief have launched a website with a new video that drives the dagger a little deeper:
ABC News notes, to its credit, that “the tactics they’re using to pressure the White House are the same ones Obama has often tried to leverage against Congress.”
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