During last year’s GOP presidential race, Bachmann racked up the highest ratio of Four-Pinocchio comments, so just about everything she says needs to be checked and double-checked before it is reported.
In this case, Bachmann appears to be citing the self-published book “Presidential Perks Gone Royal,” by Republican lobbyist Robert Keith Gray, though one wonders whether she actually read the book — which is only 131 pages — or just read a summary that appeared in the Daily Caller, since many of her points are highlighted in the Daily Caller article.
The Fact Checker read the book so that you don’t have to. It provides no specific sourcing for any of its claims, though in the back it provides a list of articles and books that presumably the author consulted. He claims that the book is not intended as an attack on President Obama, but only on the imperial trappings of the presidency, though the subtitle of the book is: “Your taxes are being used for Obama’s re-election.”
Bachmann, however, framed it as an attack on Obama, and we will examine her claims in that context. How does Obama compare with other presidents?
Bachmann’s headline figure is that Obama’s presidency costs $1.4 billion a year. Gray never quite explains how he developed that figure, though another self-published book, “The 1.4 Billion Dollar Man: Costs of the Obama White House,” by self-help writer John F. Groom, attempts to provide a breakdown. But what is quickly apparent is that this number covers every possible expense, including many having to do with the security that is necessary to protect the president. The figures also include the cost of the White House policy-making staffs. Are those really all “perks and excess?”
Groom’s figures include a number of somewhat fishy guesstimates (“unreimbursed campaign expenses”), but as it happens, a much more credible scholar — former White House aide Bradley H. Patterson Jr. — attempted to figure out the tab for the White House for a book, “To Serve the President,” published in 2010 by the Brookings Institution.
Patterson estimated that the cost of running the White House for fiscal year 2008 — when George W. Bush was president — was nearly $1.6 billion. About half — more than $800 million — related to the Secret Service budget. An additional $271 million was spent on the president’s helicopter squadron.
If Bush is a $1.6 billion man, does that make Obama a relative bargain at $1.4 billion?0