Pakistan’s president Zardari has always remained in the line of fire for expensive US trips but now the cost of President Obama’s trip to India @ $200 million a day makes Zardari a true representative president of poor Pakistan. The figure of $200 million is making the rounds among the Obama’s conservative critics, including potential 2012 Obama challenger Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), as the president takes off Friday for a 10-day trip to Asia.

If that is indeed true then we must solute President Zardari for exercising economy and austerity in his trips. But look at the possible outcome of the visit-more business for USA. According to Yahoo News Obama is set to speak to American and Indian business leaders and is expected to announce trade and export deals worth billions to the U.S. In the wake of the Democrats’ devastating midterm losses, attributed in part to the poor state of the U.S. economy, the White House is intent on highlighting concrete benefits to U.S. consumers from Obama’s foray overseas. The president left Washington shortly after the government reported that the economy added 151,000 jobs in October. It wasn’t enough to lower a stubborn 9.6 percent jobless rate and the president said it wasn’t good enough.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of Asia to our economic future,” the president wrote Saturday in an op-ed in The New York Times.

Huckabee made the claim of $200 million a day to Fox News on Tuesday night (citing “reports”) and in the social media sphere. “Reports say that Obama’s trip to Mumbai, India tomorrow will cost taxpayers $200 million dollars a day – come to think of it, that’s much less than Obama’s been spending here,” Huckabee wrote in a Facebook message Tuesday night (misstating the day of Obama’s departure). “So maybe it’s not a bad thing he’s leaving.”

On Wednesday, Bachmann repeated the claim on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” “Within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann told Cooper. “He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It’s a very small example, Anderson.”

The numbers evidently originate with the Press Trust of India, whose report was linked on the Drudge Report and picked up by Fox News host Glenn Beck. The news agency also wrongly said that the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel for Obama’s visit and that the U.S. was stationing 34 warships—roughly 10 percent of the naval fleet–off the coast of Mumbai for security reasons.

The agency attributed the $200 million figure to an anonymous Indian government official. It didn’t attribute the warships claim to any source. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the warship claim “absolutely absurd.” “That’s just comical,” he said at Thursday’s Pentagon news briefing.  “Nothing close to that is being done.”

The White House, meanwhile, issued a blanket statement that the $200 million figure “had no basis in reality” and was “wildly inflated.” The press office declined to disclose the trip’s actual cost, citing “security concerns.” In a news briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also refused to release numbers, but he told reporters point-blank, “We are not spending $200 million a day.”

The nonpartisan FactCheck.org took up the issue, too, saying that even though the administration won’t release a price tag, there is “simply no evidence to support” a claim of $200 million a day. One reason to doubt the report, according to the group:  The entire war in Afghanistan costs $190 million a day.

That is not to say that some of the precautions for Obama’s first presidential visit to India aren’t possibly a tad over the top. As the BBC reports, Indian officials have been removing coconuts from any trees that Obama might walk under, to prevent anything from falling on the presidential head. And as London’s Daily Telegraph notes, the country has deployed trained monkey catchers to prevent any “simian invasion” (a measure that Indian officials also took when President Bush visited in 2006).

 

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