Wednesday, August 17, 2011

President Obama Loves His Rural Tour Bus

On the maiden voyage of the $1.1 million motor coach, the President is "enjoying this trip tremendously"...

President Obama is having a very inspiring time aboard his jet-black, $1.1 million armored, hi-tech behemoth of a tour bus, he said during his closing remarks at the Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa. The photo, above, is the only one to be released of the interior of the bus, which is making its maiden voyage with the President's three-day rural tour. In the photo, the President is doing what he said is one of the things that gives him great joy: Waving to decent, hard-working citizens as he drives through America's heartland. It gives him hope for America's future, the President said.

"As I was driving down those little towns in my big bus--we slowed down, and I’m standing in the front and I’m waving," President Obama said, to laughter. "I’m seeing little kids with American flags, and grandparents in their lawn chairs, and folks outside a machine shop, and passing churches and cemeteries and corner stores and farms -- I’m reminded about why I wanted to get into public service in the first place."

Mr. Obama and his 25-vehicle motorcade have now traveled hundreds of miles through Minnesota and Iowa; the photo at top was taken in Decorah, Iowa. Tuesday's mileage log alone hit 216 miles, according to the Secret Service. (Above: Part of the motorcade rolling through the heartland)

"Sometimes there are days in Washington that will drive you crazy," the President said, but the bus helps him stay on mission.

"Getting out of Washington and meeting all of you...that just makes me that much more determined to serve you as best I can as President of the United States," the President told thrilled Iowans.

The "bus" (which is like calling the Hope diamond a "trinket") was purchased by the Secret Service for its "protective fleet" in April, and is equipped with two seating areas that have plush seats in different configurations, flat screen TVs, phones, and computers. It has a kitchenette, but unlike Air Force One, apparently no on-board chef: The President has stopped the bus for pie and ice cream and popcorn. Part of the fun of a Presidential bus is getting off, of course. (Above: The bus apparently has stain-proof cushions...)

Part of the fun of a Presidential bus for the GOP has been coming up with names for its mission, such as "the magical misery tour" and "the debt end tour." Your tax dollars are at work, critics will have you know, paying for everything having to do with that bus, which uses a huge amount of gas.

Is the President goofing around with the fancy PA system? What's he doing during all that driving time?

Press Secretary Jay Carney fielded questions about the bus on Tuesday, quizzed about how the President is liking it, and how the cutting-edge tech is working

Mr. Obama is "enjoying this trip tremendously," Carney said.

Carney declined to comment specifically on the high-tech appointments of the bus, but said that its communication capabilities are "comparable" to the President's other secure vehicles.

"He’s got full communications capabilities," Carney said. "I mean, obviously when he is in the presidential limo and on Air Force One -- I mean, that’s an essential element of presidential travel."

Asked what the President is doing during "incredible amounts of downtime" as the motorcade wends its way along one-lane rural roads, Carney said that the President is working.

"He has the need to and the capability to stay in contact with senior advisors who are not traveling with him and others, obviously, in the administration," Carney said. "And so he’s doing that, getting updates, and staying in touch with folks."

No movies watching apparently, though filmmaking mogul Harvey Weinstein last week promised to send the President screeners of unreleased flicks. Asked if reports that the bus contains a PA system capable of blasting the socks off an excited crowd are true--and if the President will be testing this--Carney said he wasn't sure about the PA system. But he was certain of one thing.

"He hasn’t, when I’ve been on the bus, used the PA system," Carney said.

The bus is a money saver...

The Secret Service purchased and retrofitted the President's bus and a twin version for whomever is the 2012 GOP presidential candidate to avoid the expense of leasing and then having to take out secure components, and Carney explained this.

"For a number of decades now, Presidents, Vice Presidents, presidential candidates have traveled by bus," Carney said. "It’s very useful and cost-effective, because in the past they’ve [Secret Service] had to lease buses at great expense, retrofit them -- or outfit them to have all this security that’s necessary and then reverse that process at great expense, so that this, in this view -- and, again, I’m just citing them and their view, was a cost-effective approach."

The President's bus and motorcade in all its glory, in an ABC video:

The President travels through Illinois today, for two final town halls in the tiny towns of Alpha and Atkinson.

On Thursday, he will leave the crazy days of Washington behind for ten whole days, as he begins a summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

The White House liked the President's bus comments so much it released a video clip of them. The clip doesn't have "bus" in the title, however:

*Top photo by Pete Souza/White house; others by AP/Getty

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