Monday, August 15, 2011

President Obama's Big Black Shiny Rural Tour Bus

Supersized, $1.1 million version of The Beast will zip President on his three state tour...it's NOT a campaign trip, Press Secretary says, again...
UPDATE, Aug. 17:  The President loves the bus
President Obama's bus for his three-state rural tour awaited him as he arrived on Air Force One in St. Paul, MN at 10:30 a.m. CT. The armored bus is bulletproof, highly secure, high tech, and has black tinted windows. It is solid black, except for the driver's window. There is no kind of logo painted on it anywhere, and there are antennas sticking out for communications. It has police-style lights that can flash, as well as sirens. Mr. Obama will travel on the supersized version of his presidential limo through Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. He will also be accompanied by 25 other vehicles in his motorcade. (Above: The President, center walks to the bus) 

Secret Service owns bus...
The White House has declined to comment on the cost of the bus, though Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin in April told TPM that they'd purchased and retrofitted two luxury motor coaches, one for President Obama and one for the 2012 GOP candidate, at a base cost of $1.1 million each. (Above: Part of the President's motorcade in Iowa on Monday; the bus is fourth from the front)

The Secret Service said the multipurpose bus will be "useful whenever a protectee travels into rural areas." The President's bus doesn't have any sort of campaign logo, because it is a government-owned vehicle, and will be used by whomever is the next president. Mr. Obama doesn't have to reimburse the Secret Service for use of the bus.

The President was greeted at the airport by a group of politicos who broke into applause as he descended the steps of AF1. These included Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, Brigadier General Robert Cayton; Democrat Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar; Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, and Keith Ellison, who joined the President for his Ramadan Iftar Dinner last week at the White House. (Above: The President walks to greet supporters, followed by his welcoming committee)

Ellison, wobbling on crutches following knee surgery, said he was "glad the president was in Minnesota, glad he's finally going to talk about jobs" and advised Obama to "cut through the noise and talk about nothing but jobs" while in the state.

President's first visit to Cannon Falls; Carney gaggles...
The motorcade and bus left at 10:45 AM for the first stop of the day, Cannon Falls, where a big crowd awaited the President, gathered around picnic tables at Hannah's Bend Park. The President will take questions from an audience of approximately 500 people including members of the public and invited guests. This is the President’s first visit to Cannon Falls.

The communities the President is visiting have lower unemployment rates than the national average, and Press Secretary Jay Carney said this is because the President wants to hear about what's working, from citizens who are making it happen.

Carney gaggled near the end of the flight to St. Paul. The President, he said, looks forward to getting out of Washington and talking about what is happening in this part of the country.

"You’ll hear a lot from the president about what things we can be doing," Carney said. "His focus will be exclusively on the economy.”

The RNC today is blasting the bus tour, and Carney bridled at the notion that the three-day bus tour – which traverses three battleground states Obama won in 2008, including GOP presidential frontrunner Michele Bachmann's home state--has anything to do with the fact that he’s struggling to maintain support in those states ahead of the 2012 contest. Carney said that traveling by bus lets the President visit communities that are "hard to reach."

“A plane this size is hard to get into small communities," Carney said about Air Force One.

The big bus might be hard to park, and to navigate on rural roads, but certainly it's smaller than AF1. The bus at the airport:



*AP photos. Updated.

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