Hosting Obama costs Belgium 20 times as much as hosting EU Summit
The American presidency has become grotesquely imperial, and when a president travels overseas, the contrast between the entourage and security measures commanded by a president versus an ordinary head of government of a major nation is downright embarrassing to citizens of a democratic republic. The left wing UK Guardian reports:
As Belgium's capital and host to the EU and Nato, Brussels is used to deploying heavy security when big names pop by. But US President Barack Obama's visit on Tuesday will strain the city like never before with €10m (£8.4m) of Belgian money being spent to cover his 24 hours in the country.
The president will arrive on Tuesday night with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three cargo planes. Advance security teams orchestrating every last detail have combed Brussels already, checking the sewers and the major hospitals, while American military helicopters were last week given the green light for overflights. The city hosts at least four EU summits a year, with each of these gatherings costing €500,000 in extra police, military and transport expenses. "But this time round, you can multiply that figure by 20," said Brussels mayor, Yvan Mayeur.
This imperial bloat cannot be laid at the feet of President Obama (though he and especially his wife seem to revel in ever-greater excess). Presidents of both parties have participated in the development of excessive majesty in the presidency in the post-World War II era. Recall that Harry Truman used to take an evening stroll on the streets of Washington, DC, and when his presidency was over, drove himself and his wife Bess back to Independence, Missouri and moved into the not-very-grand house she had inherited from her parents. Such modesty seems inconceivable today, and yet this was only sixty-some years ago.
Does the POTUS really need 20 times as much security as the entire leadership of the EU? And do American taxpayers really need to spend so much money on supplying an imperial retinue?
It is long past time for the presidency to be downsized. The first president who orders a study of economy measures for his overseas travel will reap a lot of support from the American people. We have an elected leader, not an emperor.