Blakeman: Obama Should Start by Opening Gates to White House

Image: Blakeman: Obama Should Start by Opening Gates to White House President Obama waves to the crowd in Berlin on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Wednesday, 19 Jun 2013 11:59 PM

By Bradley Blakeman

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Who can ever forget the picture and the words of President Ronald Reagan as he stood defiantly in front of the Berlin Wall and demanded “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Two years after Reagan made his iconic plea, the international symbol of Communist oppression started to come tumbling down.

Just as the Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of oppression, the White House should stand as a beacon of freedom.

Americans and people from all over the world plan years and months in advance to come to Washington, D.C. for a chance to walk the hallowed halls and stand in awe as they take in the one house where so much American and world history has been made.

I have witnessed throngs of people standing silently over the years as they waited patiently in long lines — in sunshine, rain, sleet and snow — for their chance to tour the White House. Many of them had big smiles on their faces and great anticipation in their eyes.

That was then and this is now.

Today, no one visits the White House as President Barack Obama stood on the same spot this week where President Reagan gave perhaps his most memorable line to the world.
Since March 2013, the president of the United States has suspended White House tours indefinitely, citing budget cuts due to “sequestration.”

This was the notice given by the Obama Administration:

"Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013, until further notice.
‘Unfortunately we will not be able to reschedule affected tours. We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season."

With the summer vacation season upon us, millions of Americans and foreign guests are descending on Washington, D.C. for their vacations.

I can assure you for many this will be a once in a lifetime experience and the top on any visitors’ wish list of attractions.

I live in the suburbs of Washington and I am in the Capitol almost daily to witness thousands standing at the North and South Lawn Gates with their cameras at the ready, wishing they could be on the other side of the fence.

They make this trek to see for themselves where the president lives and works.

The cost of keeping public tours of the White House in operation pales in comparison to the cost of the president’s personal vacations.

“White House tours cost the Secret Service an average of $74,000 a week,” reported Politico back in March.

The publication noted that 37 Secret Service officers — each paid $50 an hour based on a 40-hour work week — are needed for the tours, which amounts to $74,000 per week.

Those officers haven’t lost their jobs. They’ve merely been shifted to other posts at the White House and in the surrounding area, including the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the Treasury Department.

At the time, officials said the savings would come from not having to pay out as much overtime by reassigning officers.

If the president cannot even figure out how to keep White House tours functioning, how can we have any confidence that he will be competent enough to solve the heady challenges of a national budget, immigration, entitlements, debt, etc.?

The fact that the president has not sacrificed his vacations in cost and time has many wondering whether he cares about the people. He tells us this is a time for sacrifice and savings yet he does not lead by example.

The Weekly Standard on the heels of the president shutting down White House tours reported on the president’s costly vacations, which he has not cut.

“In the first three months of the year, members of the first family have been on three vacations, averaging a vacation a month. And now it's being reported that the first daughters are on a spring break vacation in the Bahamas.”

As you may recall, the Obamas began the New Year with their annual Christmas vacation to Hawaii.

In February, Michelle Obama and the first daughters took in a weekend trip to the chic ski resort of Aspen.

While the rest of the family was in Colorado, Obama went to Florida for golf.
"It was not his motivation, certainly, but president Obama is honoring his modern predecessors on this Presidents’ Day weekend by doing what many of them liked to do on breaks: chill out in Florida with the guys — including, in his case, one of golf’s most famous guys, Tiger Woods," according to an account of the trip in The New York Times.

Of course, there's no reason to begrudge the first family a good vacation. But at a time when the White House is closed to the public, it all seems a bit odd.

No average American family could afford the lavish vacations the Obama’s have taken over the past four years yet they have been burdened to pay the costs of security and travel to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

While many Americans struggle to make ends meet to come to Washington, they are sadly welcomed with a sign on the White House stating, “The White House is closed to tours until further notice.”

On Wednesday President Obama had the audacity to speak to thousands of Germans in the very spot President Reagan stood in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate. He talked about freedom and openness at a time when back home he was shutting out the American people from his White House.

The country that is supposed to be the beacon of openness, freedom, democracy and hope has been reduced to shuttering the people’s house to its citizens.

It is a national disgrace that the White House is closed to the public.

Now is the time for the people to stand up in front of the gates of the White House and demand, “Mr. President, open these gates!”

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.

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