The $120-a-word speech

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President Obama made no news today when he spoke to the American Legion convention in Minneapolis.

But he really didn’t have much choice but to get on a helicopter, fly to the local Air Force base, get in Air Force One to fly halfway across the country, motorcade to downtown Minneapolis, give a short speech, motorcade back, fly back, and helicopter back to the White House. Not showing up would have been political suicide. He already was criticized for not going to the VFW convention, and the perks of the presidency allow you to make political niceties on the company dime. That’s the way it’s been for years.

How many dimes? The White House, of course, never says. Even when it rebutted Michele Bachmann’s (false) claim that a trip to India cost $200 million, it steadfastly refused to say how much it did cost.

But McClatchey Newspapers took a stab at it back in 2009.


The costs of the trips — borne by taxpayers — are difficult to measure, but they’re expensive. When he uses the familiar blue-and-white reconfigured 747 as Air Force One, it costs $100,219 an hour to operate, according to the Air Force. And that’s just HIS plane.

There also are cargo planes, used to fly in armored limousines, helicopters, staff and other equipment, as well as the Secret Service. A single Air Force C-17 cargo jet, for example, costs $6,960 an hour, according to the Congressional Research Service.

A total of 77 other aircraft were used on one multi-country trip to Asia by former President Bill Clinton in 2000, according to the Air Force Times, including 14 C-17 Globemasters, 12 C-5 Galaxys, three C-141 Starlifters and two C-130 Hercules.

Most of those wouldn’t be needed for a short hop to Minneapolis so many of those costs could be discounted. There might have been a C-17 bringing the limousines here, but if it wasn’t flying here, it’d probably be flying somewhere else since the pilots fly often to stay sharp.

So just using the $100,219-per-hour figure, and calculating a three-hour trip here and a two-hour trip back, suggests a minimum cost of $501,095.

There were 4,187 words in the speech today, which works out to $119.67 per word.

There are 10,000 convention delegates, according to the Star Tribune. If they’d all walked up to the ticket counter at Minneapolis St. Paul and bought a one-day, roundtrip to Washington to hear the president and allow him to stay put, it would have cost $14.5 million.

So the whole arrangement saved everyone about $14 million.

  • JackU

    Or through the wonders of technology the President could have addressed the convention and taken questions from the Oval Office and saved additional money. In fact he could potentially have addressed the Legion and the VFW together if I understood the story that talked about Gov Perry and former Gov. Romney addressing the VFW at the other end of the Mississippi river in New Orleans.