The cost of security is mounting to protect a chief executive in so many venues.
Way back when the United States was just a baby nation, its citizens built a house for their president. Not a palace for a king like the one they had shed, but a democratically suitable residence on a regular street.
It was a little larger than many but with a common address — 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — and it was something they could be proud of.
It took very little time for this classic mansion to take on its own identity, separate of its occupant’s, as a place the world knew was the seat of government and a symbol of liberty. “The White House said today … .”
For more than 200 years, with a brief exception or two — when the British burned it, and when Harry and first lady Bess Truman moved out for repairs — this stately residency was occupied by a family excited to be there no matter the opulence of their prior living arrangement. That is, until the voters elected a real estate mogul who is also a casino and golf course operator who has decided to spend only part of his time there.
In fact, his model wife and his youngest son — in order for him to finish school, according to the Trumps — are residing officially in a far glitzier setting with a gold motif in New York City. She is at 1600 Pennsylvania on special occasions, of course.
And Mr. Trump, meanwhile, upon becoming president, almost immediately began weekending at another one of the family’s luxury sites in Florida, doing what he accused his predecessor of doing too much of, golfing. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the large, government-protected, peripatetic Trump family would also be living elsewhere.
But this is old news. What isn’t old news is the mounting cost of security that is necessary for the protection of the chief executive in so many venues in an age of terrorism. It’s an amount that’s making it difficult for the Secret Service to provide and carry out other missions without a substantial increase in its budget of some $60 million, nearly $30 million of which would go to protection.
While there have been reports that the Office of Management and Budget has rejected the boost in the Secret Service budget, the White House (or Mar-a-Largo, or Trump Tower, or wherever) denies that.
The total cost of the presidential security is usually classified, so one can only guess the full figure given the family’s size, movement and so forth. To paraphrase The Donald, who is fond of saying, “Most people don’t know,” most Americans, and that includes me, couldn’t come close to an accurate prediction of the total amount.
The extra money may have to come from other sources in the Secret Service’s budget, which might normally go toward other missions such as counterfeiting, cybercrimes and exploited minors, according to The Washington Post. Most federal departments and agencies are facing dramatic reductions if Trump has his way. But that might not happen given growing congressional alarm.
The figures are illusive in all cases but reach into state and local pocket books heavily. The estimated costs to the New York Police Department when the president is at Trump Tower is $300,000. That declines to between $127,000 and $145,000 a day when only first lady Melania Trump and the son are in residence, according to the Post.
At Mar-a-Largo, Palm Beach County authorities say they already have spent $1.5 million for overtime for their force because of Trump’s visits. This is beyond federal outlays, of course.
All this becomes surreal when one considers that Trump during his campaign never forgot to criticize Barack Obama for alleged excessive travel and failure to hold down expenses. He even disavowed vacations.
The Trump lifestyle does not bode well for an agency that has struggled over the years against budget cuts and increased demands and still has no recourse but to carry out its mission. Besides, Americans expect their president to occupy the home it early citizens so lovingly built.
Dan Thomasson is a columnist with Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.