The White House’s public-relations campaign on the sequester keeps on paying dividends … to their opponents. Yesterday, Neil Cavuto interviewed former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who explained that the Secret Service has no decision-making authority in regard to tours of the White House, despite Barack Obama’s initial claim that the DHS agency had forced their cancellation due to a lack of funds. Bongino blasted Obama for passing the buck, calling it “an act of political cowardice” (via National Review):
A former agent blasted President Obama for blaming the Secret Service for the decision to shut down White House tours, calling it “an act of political cowardice” on Your World with Neil Cavuto this afternoon. Dan Bongino explained that the agency’s job is to provide security for the White House; it does not determine who comes in. “To say that this was the Secret Service, and that they somehow injected themselves into a political decision — well, do they get to tell [the president] to stop taking vacations and to stop going golfing as well?” Bongino said. “This doesn’t even pass the smell test.” …
Bongino, who was Maryland’s Republican candidate for Senate in 2012, called the administration’s laying the blame for the decision on the Secret Service “nonsense.” He added that he knows current agents who are upset with the White House for “throwing the Secret Service under the bus,” but they will “take it on the chin.”
Fox News wasn’t the only news agency that wasn’t buying the Secret Service explanation, either. Two days ago, ABC’s Jon Karl laid into Jay Carney for pushing the line:
Later in the briefing, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl grilled Carney over the cost of the tours, relative to other expenses. “The Secret Service told us that the tours cost $74,000 a week. How much is it going to cost for the President to travel later this week to Illinois?” Karl asked.
“Well, the President is the President of the United States,” Carney replied, “and he is elected to represent all of the people. And he travels around the country, appropriately. I don’t have a figure on the cost of presidential travel. It is obviously something, as every President deals with because of security and staff, a significant undertaking. But the President has to travel around the country. He has to travel around the world. That is part of his job.”
“How much does it cost for him to go and play golf?” Karl shot back.
“Jon, again, you’re trivializing an impact here,” carney said. “People will lose their jobs. Three-quarters of a million people will lose their job.”
“This is about choices,” Karl said. “You have a certain amount of…”
“Right,” Carney interrupted, “The law stipulates what the costs will be for each agency. Those jobs will be lost, okay? And you can report on White House tours, or you can find out what the impacts are out in the real world, additional impacts are. This is a real-world impact here, and it is unfortunate. And it is an unhappy choice.”
Actually, the White House trivialized the impact of the sequester by churlishly canceling the tours, although in all fairness it’s almost impossible not to trivialize a mere 2.3% reduction in spending — especially after watching the federal budget grow by more than a third since 2007.
Update: DHS, not Treasury. I’ve corrected it above.