March 9, 2013

Canceling White House tours to deal with the sequester.

My first reaction to this was that Obama is trying to shape public opinion by cutting things that ordinary people will feel and get irritated about. But then I read this:
Administration officials say the decision was made by the Secret Service, which estimated that ending the tours for roughly 11,000 people a week would save $74,000 in weekly overtime costs. That adds up to about $2 million in savings through the end of the fiscal year in September, it said.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said another 37 officers are needed to secure the White House grounds during public tours. The agency is looking for ways to trim a mandatory $84 million from its budget without resorting to layoffs, he said.
Why are 11,000 people a week tromping through the White House? Look at it from the outside and move on. It's a residence and a round-the-clock workplace, not America's patriotism museum.
“The White House is our house! Please let us visit!” the students pleaded in a brief Facebook video, which was featured on ABC’s “World News Tonight” to dramatize the human costs of the political gridlock that has gripped Washington.

“There were a lot of groans, and then a lot of questions about why can’t they get it worked out,” said Karen Thalacker, whose son Malcolm Newell, 12, had his picture taken with Obama when he was campaigning in Iowa in 2007.

“They’re getting a lesson in advocacy,” Thalacker said of the students’ Internet activism, “and about how their government works.”
Here's my internet activism to you kids: Learn about government from reading and studying. Have you read the Constitution? Have you read The Federalist Papers? Have you read at least 10 of the most important Supreme Court cases? Develop your mind. You don't need to go running around inside a building where people have to work. Quit getting so jazzed up at meeting celebrities and gawking at mansions. That only makes you easier prey for power-seekers who would love you to feel awed.

End White House tours permanently.

And to you parents and teachers: Quit using children in politics. Teach them some useful things that will make them effective citizens some day. Don't teach idolatry. So your child got his picture taken with Obama. So the children groaned when they didn't get what you told them they should want. That's all evidence of how you've softened them up to be pathetic little subjects.

147 comments:

Will Cate said...

Right on.

X said...

how incompetent do you have to be as a manager to incur $74,000 a week in overtime? sounds like featherbedding. the things we learn from sequester.

Bender said...

save $74,000 in weekly overtime costs

Why are they wasting $74,000 a week in having agents working this detail on overtime in the first place?

Moreover, this is yet another BS response by this Administration, conveniently hidden behind the Secret Service "making the decision." The Secret Service does what the White House tells them to do, not the other way around.

pm317 said...

Very well put. But if it a place of all work, should the Obamas stop having all those celebrity filled Wednesday night parties for the rich people? Should they stop giving private tours including the situation room for Jay-Z and that bitch Beyonce (who called us Mitches BTW) and people of that ilk?

I think they should have Wednesday night parties but they should let anybody and everybody who lines up at the gate, the first 200 people, say. And the celebrity and rich hangers on have to stand in line also.

Bender said...

Also, if His Imperial Majesty King Barack can have celebrities and rich folks come visiting the White House, then the lowly refuse of America ought be allowed in as well.

X said...

is the other 99% of the budget larded with this much waste?

Bender said...

Damn it you guys.

Will you quit saying the same things as me, but being quicker by a couple of seconds in hitting the "publish" button!

pm317 said...

Sorry, Bender! :)

AJ Lynch said...

Or ask yourself this- wtf do we need several hundred people working in the White House? How many of those are political operatives? And you are not that gullible Althouse to swallow the BS that the Secret Service made this petty, resentful decision to cancel WH tours. I see Obama's angry, hateful fingerprints all over it.

rhhardin said...

And to you parents and teachers: Quit using children in politics.

That's for the women's vote. If women didn't have the vote, it would stop, there being no point in it.

Teach them some useful things that will make them effective citizens some day.

That's using the women's vote again.

Rusty said...

Jesus, Althouse. Lighten the fuck up.

Renee said...

This reminds of schools that want children to take week long trips (vacations) so they can use the second language they learned in school.

I live in an incredibly diverse city, in which not one ethnicity is a majority and a large ESL program for elementary school children, yet the high school students go to Quebec/Portugal or where ever as a field trip. Th school committee at least put some control on it, mandating that these trips are done on winter/spring vacations and school days are not missed.

pm317 said...

I see Obama's angry, hateful fingerprints all over it.

I do too and so should everybody else. It is not rocket science.

William said...

All well stated Professor, but your initial instincts are also correct.

The administration's response to the sequester is all about the pain so as to gin up support for more taxes -- so that we can spend more money we do not have on things we do not need.

X said...

the government usually exempts itself from the laws it imposes on us. why not the overtime law too? oh yeah, because the cost is actually imposed on us. weird how it always works in their favor.

Julie C said...

This story also illustrates the education establishment's overuse of "hands-on learning experiences". Althouse is right - make the little buggers actually read something, write a report, etc.

When I was a kid we got to go on a tour of the Heinz factory in Pittsburgh. We got small bottles of ketchup and relish at the end. And a pickle pin.

I loved that pin. That was my takeaway from the tour. Oh, and realizing I didn't want to work in a factory when I grew up.

virgil xenophon said...

WAIT A MINUTE! OVERTIME!! The SS is JUST like the armed services, those guys are salaried employees that get paid whether they're asleep in their little beds or on duty--what the H is this "overtime" shit? If I'd of gotten "overtime" when I was on active duty you'd never read my name--I'd be a millionaire drunk all day in Bora Bora..

PS: I agree with Ann, but it ain't never gonna happen. Presidents LUV those PR pictures with the Boy Scouts..

virgil xenophon said...

PS: Amend that to read "MULTI-Millionaire"

Sorun said...

If you'd asked the teachers leading the field trip what their biggest accomplishment for the school year was, they'd tell you about the trip to the White House. Now they'll have to think of something else.

Rae said...

While I agree with what you say, you're missing the symbolism of having our elected leaders residence open for tours by the citizenry. It's a house, not a palace.

Rusty said...


Teach them some useful things that will make them effective citizens some day

That means that the teachers would have to know something, you know, useful.

virgil xenophon said...

Rusty@10:40/

LOL!!!

traditionalguy said...

And get those common kids off my lawn!

traditionalguy said...

And get those common kids off my lawn!

traditionalguy said...

And get those common kids off my lawn!

St. George said...

Yes, only give tours to special people—the rich, the powerful, the influential, the politically connected.

The tours will never end but will be limited to the above groups.

Who sent ya'?

virgil xenophon said...

To get back to the "overtime" bit, see, these are really phantom costs, just like the "cost" of the pilots that fly Air Force One. The pilots all get paid whether they're asleep or in the air, so those sort of things are naught but phantom "imputed" costs/savings. Take the touted "savings" with a grain of salt, sportsfans..

YoungHegelian said...

You think the White House tours are about teachers & schoolkids? No, the WH tours are about everybody!

When I worked at the Executive Office, one of the perqs of my badge level was that I could put folks at the front of the line for WH tours. Talk about being Mr. Popular with visiting friends & relatives!

When I finally took the tour myself, I was amazed at how boring it was. There are many more interesting things to do in DC that don't have lines that go on for two blocks. The folks just like to think they're touching history, and, while it may be a waste for many, for some it becomes a moving emotional experience that leads them to future historical reading.

So, yeah, lighten up.

barry's blog said...

Epic!

betamax3000 said...

Perhaps if we closed the White House in its entirety for several days a week we could achieve some substantial savings.

If the President must have a meeting I'm sure a Radisson Inn would be willing to rent a conference room.

Plus: free continental breakfast. More money saved right there.

Nico Lantia said...

I love this post

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann - there is a lot of history there in the WH, and it is our house, not Obama's.

My one tour was, I think, during Kennedy's first year in office, and I remember pieces of it to this day. We also toured the Capital, but that was less memorable. All I remember was meeting our Representative and some train or tunnel between buildings. Ditto for the Supreme Court.

It is bad enough that Presidents, and, yes, it seems worse with Dems, seem to think of the building as their private property. Traditionally, there has been a fairly bright line between the public and private portions of the building, but Obama seems bound and determined to eliminate the public portions from public use. Just some more of the imperial Presidency. Oh, to be back with Andrew Jackson, who would invite anyone who wanted to attend to some of the parties.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

virgil xenophon,

Exactly the question I was going to ask. What's with the overtime? You do not get overtime on salary.

For that matter, overtime seems to be popping up everywhere in these times. People objecting to cuts in hours -- not their scheduled hours, but those extra-juicy ones past 40/wk where they get time-and-a-half. How did we end up with a system in which overtime pay was something millions of people came to rely on? I am guessing that linking health insurance to employers has a lot to do with it. It's cheaper to pay time-and-a-half to your workforce than to hire another worker to do the work at the ordinary rate. Bleh.

bgates said...

You don't need to go running around inside a building where people need to work.

Not in a government building.

The Capitol rotunda is an extremely desirable location for protesters. It's also a place that people use and enjoy for all kinds of organized and casual purposes. The center of the floor in the rotunda is a popular spot for protest singers and sign-holders and also — when they're not afraid of getting stepped on — for children who lie down to stare up into the dome. How do you manage these divergent and conflicting uses?

One way would be to tell the children, You don't need to go running around inside a building where people need to work. Quit getting so jazzed up at meeting celebrities and gawking at mansions.

Oxbay said...

Good advice Althouse.

bpm4532 said...

Yes, end public White House tours. Keep that privilege for the wealthy party donors!

An organization that spends $74k a week in overtime is badly managed. Not only are staffing levels inadequate, but that much overtime leads to burnt-out staff and turnover.

Tim said...

"Administration officials say the decision was made by the Secret Service, which estimated that ending the tours for roughly 11,000 people a week would save $74,000 in weekly overtime costs."

Yeah.

Because, you see, with the most transparent Administration ever, this account is absolutely, unequivocally reliable.

That, and Obama never shifts blame to anyone.

Not ever.

Mark O said...

Hell yes. Close the National Parks. Read a book about them.

I disagree with Ann. I think there is something wonderful about physically visiting historical sites, including the White House. Closing it off was a pure political ploy.

Even a mediocre manager could figure out how to keep it open considering the iconic and historical value of the tours. Not Obama.

I see no serious merit in the idea that it should be permanently closed, which, of course, it will not be.

Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly said...

Only the 1% should be allowed into the White House, as long as they've donated enough money to the President that is. The rest of us shlubs will never have a chance to eat low calorie canap├ęs with Obama or sip champagne from Michelle's slipper.

betamax3000 said...

If I cannot sit on the exact same toilet seat that Teddy Roosevelt once sat upon then what exactly is the purpose for the tour?

Sorun said...

"An organization that spends $74k a week in overtime is badly managed. Not only are staffing levels inadequate, but that much overtime leads to burnt-out staff and turnover."

Perhaps the Secret Service is stretched thin due to Obama's endless travel and campaigning. Maybe Obama should prioritize differently.

Bob Ellison said...

D'accord, Professor.

cubanbob said...

Zero's recent golf weekend with Tiger Woods cost the taxpayers $7mm. For that money that would cover white house tours for the next four years.

Matthew Sablan said...

I really think people -should- be able to visit the White House, at least until the White House transfers all its historic artifacts, art, etc. to a Smithsonian or other public museum.

Ironically enough, an appropriate protest chant would be: Whose house? Our House.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Why are 11,000 people a week tromping through the White House? Look at it from the outside and move on. It's a residence and a round-the-clock workplace, not America's patriotism museum.

Holy page-view hawking, Batman. And in the service of arguing for a Marie Antoinette-level of removal of the people from those exercising power. Totally ahistorical. Presidents moving within and living among crowds is a longstanding feature of America's political culture. I guess next we'll be back to proposals for the monarchical titles that Adams suggested.

Thanks for the daily controversy. And it certainly was an interesting paradox to behold: A woman who spends her days building an empire based on recirculating headlines from her computer at home or on the road while playing with dogs and snapping pictures of hubby, stressing the importance of workplace seriousness. I'm curious... just how much anal-retentiveness would you accuse the White House of lacking?

betamax3000 said...

First small children were allowed to tour the White House.

Now -- under an explanation that no one believes -- they are not allowed.

Sounds like Penn State closing off the shower rooms to small boys.

Just who IS the Sandusky in the White House?

Tim said...

Of all the possible tours in Washington, probably the two most underrated gems are the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

The library is especially stunning.

campy said...

No tours? No republican will ever see the inside of that building again!

Matthew Sablan said...

On the other hand, if no one ever tours it again, they won't need an absurd amount of Christmas trees next year.

pm317 said...

Agree with Tim, Library of Congress is stunning.

Tim said...

Post 9/11, after the Bush Administration re-opened the White House to public tours, it was pretty much self-guided.

Under Obama?

Who knows?

Although it probably makes all the sense in the world for them to now offer guided tours, assuming some significant measure of those touring are supportive of the current resident, and Obama voters are very clearly amongst the most dimwitted people walking the face of the Earth.

Wouldn't want any of those people wandering off the easily followed path searching for free phones and mortgage payments.

Could lead to a real nasty confrontation.

Michael K said...

Calvin Coolidge was the last president to actually greet visitors to the White House.The Imperial Presidency began shortly after.

Ann Althouse said...

All well stated Professor, but your initial instincts are also correct."

Yes, but sometimes it happens that you decide to do something for the wrong reason and it happens to be a good decision for other reasons.

betamax3000 said...

You are a strapping young lad. Would you like to see the Secret Library?

Matthew Sablan said...

Or, maybe it is time to relocate the President to a more office-like building and renovate the White House into a museum?

G Joubert said...

This is the same ploy liberal politicians have been playing for generations on the municipal level. After spending all their allotted revenues on superfluous pet things, and then being called to account for it, they respond by cutting, or at least threatening to cut, services and things that matter most to the rubes, fire, police, libraries, etc. That'll show 'em who's boss.

It took the community organizer politician president to take the concept national.

betamax3000 said...

Re: "Yes, but sometimes it happens that you decide to do something for the wrong reason and it happens to be a good decision for other reasons."

That is how I get through Life.

Calypso Facto said...

I hear there's an Executive Mansion guard from Wisconsin available. Probably work for less than $74,000 a year too. Just don't give her a gun.

I'm fine with closing the WH. (It would be right in line with this administration's escalating imperialism.) Just don't blame it on some phony budget BS to make political hay.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Of all the possible tours in Washington, probably the two most underrated gems are the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

The library is especially stunning.


To which a "government of, by, and for the expedient" fanatic would respond: What's the point? What an extravagant waste! Dontcha know we have an internet now! Sheeesh!!

Matthew Sablan said...

The best part though is that several people have offered to -pay the cost- for the White House, notably Fox hosts (and I think Hannity?)

It's sort of like when people ask Warren Buffet to just cut a check for what he thinks he owes to the government and he refuses, only, this time, conservatives put their money where their mouth is. They think there's value there and will pay for it.

Matthew Sablan said...

Can't people even talk about how nice the Library and Archives are without someone conjuring a right-wing strawman to derail the conversation?

Another hidden gem: The museum in the Navy Yard.

betamax3000 said...

Aren't public libraries now just places for the homeless to hang out and watch porn on free computers?

Original Mike said...

I agree with "End them", but for a different reason. What part of "borrowing 40 cents on every dollar" do people not understand?

O Ritmo Segundo said...

It's sort of like when people ask Warren Buffet to just cut a check for what he thinks he owes to the government and he refuses, only, this time, conservatives put their money where their mouth is. They think there's value there and will pay for it.

While characteristically, completely underestimating the actual costs. But at least they get the symbolism part down pat, which we can always rely on them for.

Ann Althouse said...

"Hell yes. Close the National Parks. Read a book about them."

That absolutely does not follow from my point.

It is better to read about law and government than to go on a tour of government buildings.

It may be better to tour a given great work of architecture than to read about architecture, but you should probably do both.

As for the great sights in nature, you should go out and see them. You are not disrupting anyone's work there. But you should also read about them, in fact. If I were taking my children to a national park, I would get them to read out loud in the car about geology and botany and so forth.

You obviously have a problem with reading. And yet you are reading this blog. I'm disturbed to think of the opinions of the dolts who don't even read at all. They go out to get a photograph of the candidate and listen to the cheers of the crowd... and they are permitted to vote.

JAL said...

I want o know who pays Bo's dog handler/trainer (? $100,00 year)?

And the White House Calligraphers (the following is true fact, not fake but accurate© ).... 2 are paid >$92,000 a year, one is paid > $89,000 a year. Do we have so many hand lettered place cards a year that these people have full time jobs?

Use a laser printer for Beyonce's card.

Matthew Sablan said...

"While characteristically, completely underestimating the actual costs."

-- They offered to pay exactly what the White House said it would cost. If that was an under estimate, blame the White House.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Can't people even talk about how nice the Library and Archives are without someone conjuring a right-wing strawman to derail the conversation?

Actually no. With the obsession over expediency pouring out of right-wing circles like water these days, some of us need better information on when it's ok to actually appreciate something in the public interest. We never know where that hatchet's going to land next. Anything less arbitrary and capricious is welcome, so don't pretend we're not surprised by it, either.

chickelit said...

Have you read at least 10 of the most important Supreme Court cases? Develop your mind.

That's a disappointing list. I note the absence of Graham v. Deere and Diamond v. Chakrabarty--two decisions I've read recently.

I wonder if the list was compiled using objective metrics or if it was voted together or just plucked.

Matthew Sablan said...

So, the answer is: No, we can't have nice things while Ritmo's here. Alright, I'll keep that in mind and respond as such, by which I mean, stop responding since you can't even play nice.

Mary Beth said...

How many Secret Service people protect Biden and his family. He's got a shotgun so he doesn't need anything else. Let those people go work the White House tours.

betamax3000 said...

Heaven Forbid if the White House were to use volunteers for tour guides.

From Wiki: "Museum docent is a title given to persons who serve as guides and educators for the institutions they serve, usually on a voluntary basis."

O Ritmo Segundo said...

-- They offered to pay exactly what the White House said it would cost. If that was an under estimate, blame the White House.

Matt: To offer to pay for those tours would be both symbolic and effective. Whereas an offer to pay additional income on the part of one man to the general revenue would be almost completely symbolic. But luckily "that" man has allies in his cause.

jr565 said...

how incompetent do you have to be as a manager to incur $74,000 a week in overtime? sounds like featherbedding. the things we learn from sequester.

Cut people hours, and cut hours of operation enough that you don't need to pay overtime.
The fast food joints are doing this now because of Obamacare, why cdan't the govt learn to do the same?

Matthew Sablan said...

Getting volunteers into the White House is something that would take time, since they'd probably need at minimum a background check, possibly even a security clearance (though doubtful for tour duties.) It's a solution that could start to be implemented and be used in a few months (mattering how long the application/background check process takes), but it isn't a good short-term fix.

Matthew Sablan said...

You can't cut hours for a job that is required 24/7; the president and similar staff can't go unprotected. The obvious choice would be to cut other expenses (like the calligraphers mentioned above), but you can't cut certain things.

William said...

The Democrats are the party of Jackson. Jackson is the President who allowed the muddy boots of the common folk into the White House. For a Democratic president to limit White House visitors is a betrayal of a practice initiated by one of their founding fathers. The practice is symbolic of the underlying populism of American democracy. It would be wrong to discontinue it...It's sad to reflect that many primary school students have no interest reading about Supreme Court cases. I blame the parents. I remember all the heated discussions about Marbury vs Madison we had in the playground when I was younger. Those were the days.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

No, we can't have nice things while Ritmo's here.

I guess you can, but isn't it a bit narcissistic to believe that the exemptions from an otherwise arbitrary and capricious chopping block come at the say-so of one party alone?

That's a different point.

Lem said...

Rigth on.

betamax3000 said...

Re: "but it isn't a good short-term fix."

I was thinking long-term, as in: total replacement.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ironically enough, an appropriate protest chant would be: Whose house? Our House."

Believe me. I thought of that.

The protesters chanting that were a minority of the people whose house it is, and the majority voted for the representatives whose work they were trying to prevent.

By the same token, the President and his executive branch are supposed to be working for us. That's the sense in which it's our house. The notion that we can drop in when we want is a superficial way to distort the serious principle.

YoungHegelian said...

RE: Overtime & the Secret Service

There are two kinds of Secret Service officers: uniformed & plainclothes (or as we called them un-uniformed).

It's the plainclothes officers who guard the President, VP, and accompany them on trips, etc.

The physical grounds of the WH, New & Old Executive Office Buildings, & the Treasury are guarded by uniformed SS. So, the tour route is managed by the uniformed branch of the SS.

The un-uniformed guys are all salaried, I'm sure. I would bet that the uniformed guys are hourly, but I don't know that for sure.

Matthew Sablan said...

That is true; I honestly think the best solution is to start a slow transition of the White House political and office work to, you know, an actual office. The simple fact is that having our central nerve center so clustered is just a bad idea, logistically, now that we have VTCs and reliable instantaneous, relatively secure, communications. It would probably be a decade-long or more transition, but I would like to see a lot of the White House opened up because it is such a historic building with a lot of artifacts left inside.

It's kind of a waste to use it as a fancy office.

Matthew Sablan said...

Congress isn't nearly as bad; they need a space like that to work from, and they collaborate regularly in ways that you need face-to-face meetings almost daily... when they're there daily. Also, from what I remember, we don't have nearly as much history just casually strewn about the floor, though I may be wrong. (Also, I think, people are able to visit there... ish, so it isn't as big of a deal.)

Sorun said...

"The un-uniformed guys are all salaried, I'm sure."

Special agents are GSers, so they get a salary but they also get overtime or comp time depending on current budget conditions.

betamax3000 said...

Now is the perfect time for a stranger to make a replica of the Oval Office in their basement.

betamax3000 said...

Note: I do not have a basement.

betamax3000 said...

If I did I would only use my Oval Office for Good.

I would let guests play the Pinball Machine in the corner. Or what amounts to a corner in an office that is oval.

betamax3000 said...

Everyone would get a chance to sit in the Presidential Bean bag Chair.

betamax3000 said...

I would construct a diorama of the Rose Garden in one-sixteenth scale.

It would be next to the mini-refrigerator.

Colonel Angus said...

If we just raise taxes to the tune of an extra trillion dollars a year, the children would be able to keep their field trip.

Chip S. said...

...some of us need better information on when it's ok to actually appreciate something in the public interest.

Here's a good starting point: Is it worth the cost, including the disincentives imposed by the taxes to finance it?

People disagree on where that principle takes them, but it's a coherent framework for discussion. And--please note--it means something other than yapping about "the rich" or "the children". Which means that it would elevate most blog discussion substantially where applied.

rehajm said...

A big conversation about overtime for White House tours instead of what entitlements we should be entitled to and what they will look like when we reinvent them.

Obama wins.

betamax3000 said...

I will cover the basement windows with tin foil to be safe from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Henry said...

I don't know if anyone has said it yet, but how about we make a model of the White House in Disney World and people can tour that.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Here's a good starting point: Is it worth the cost, including the disincentives imposed by the taxes to finance it?

People disagree on where that principle takes them, but it's a coherent framework for discussion. And--please note--it means something other than yapping about "the rich" or "the children". Which means that it would elevate most blog discussion substantially where applied.


Oh, right! Because children have no value... they're worthless! And the wealthy are untouchably, morally superior vanguards of civilization! Their illiquid wealth keeps us free!

Here's the problem. Value follows appreciation. Not vice versa. (Your post reverses this). The thread shows that people value and appreciate White House tours. And polls show that people value the other programs that Republicans want to cut.

So unless you're willing to repeal the democratic inputs that the Constitution provides - and don't get me wrong, I understand that many Republicans are - then you have to accept that what's valued is reflected in the polls. Raise top marginal rates, and keep the tours and national parks open. Keep the benefits that are yours, cut those that "the other (mooching) guy" needs. Stop conducting alliance-free military restructuring of the world every few years - and the costs associated with that will decrease as well.

That's what the public wants, that's what the public appreciates, that's where the value is. Problem is, Republicans would rather play the role of Soviet-style technocrats and tell the people that they know better. Cutting according to partisan interests and pretending that those decisions reflect in any way what the public values is the Republican way.

LYNNDH said...

"UNIFORMED SS" - Well with this admin that may not be far wrong. Thanks YoungHegelian, needed a laugh today.

GrandpaMark said...

Holy page-view hawking, Batman. And in the service of arguing for a Marie Antoinette-level of removal of the people from those exercising power. Totally ahistorical. Presidents moving within and living among crowds is a longstanding feature of America's political culture. I guess next we'll be back to proposals for the monarchical titles that Adams suggested.

Thanks for the daily controversy. And it certainly was an interesting paradox to behold: A woman who spends her days building an empire based on recirculating headlines from her computer at home or on the road while playing with dogs and snapping pictures of hubby, stressing the importance of workplace seriousness.


C'mon guys, you hafta admit, that's kinda funny.

whkeeler said...

It's a residence and a round-the-clock workplace, not America's patriotism museum.

It's actually all of those things. I went on a tour about 15 years ago and didn't get the sense, at all, that I was disrupting anybody's workday. This isn't the living quaters and not the West Wing. The only folks working were the ones giving tours and providing security. We were shown the East Wing, the State Dining Room and points on between.

I took the tour with the same eye that I experience a National Park - wow, this is a real thing - so much history has happened here and I get to be in that. Some of us are more tactile. Sorry (not really), about that...

Matthew Sablan said...

"I don't know if anyone has said it yet, but how about we make a model of the White House in Disney World and people can tour that."

LilyBart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EMD said...

It is better to read about law and government than to go on a tour of government buildings.

Spoken like a true ivory-tower academic.



JAL said...

I would bet that the uniformed guys are hourly, but I don't know that for sure.

I will be glad to ask, as a family member has been both uniformed at the WH and is now plain clothes.

The latter position also does investigative things like counterfeiting, fraud etc. Sec Service does things besides protection -- although said family member now gets to guard Biden periodically when he is at home ;-P

Haven't heard that Poppa Joe has waved them off with his and Jill's shotgun and told them to go home.

(Is he really at risk? I would think leaving him be results in the most damage. Or entertainment.)

Amexpat said...

Why not have visitors pay for the cost of their visit? If you charge $10 a pop, that should cover the Secret service's overtime and other costs.

Is there a gift shop? If not they should put one in as that would generate lots of revenue.

betamax3000 said...

In my Basement Oval Office I will display busts of Presidents carved from potatoes.

There will be contests where people compete with their carved potatoes.

Winning entries will be judged with no Post-Modern criteria: likeness matters, not commentary.

betamax3000 said...

The addition of hair on the Potato Presidential Bust will be allowed.

vza said...

The real working areas of the White House, including the Oval office and where the President's family lives, are off limits during the tours. Tours are not scheduled when they would interfere with major events being held at the White House. The vast majority of visitors do NOT get to have their pictures taken with the President or anybody else in government. I think closing off the White House to the public would do more to help power seekers inculcate a subservient awe than any tour of that lovely, surprisingly modest house.

Tours of this kind might inspire some kids to do further reading about our government and history.

Good teachers use tours like this as part of an extensive lesson plan including pre and post visit activities and readings.

damikesc said...

Why are 11,000 people a week tromping through the White House? Look at it from the outside and move on. It's a residence and a round-the-clock workplace, not America's patriotism museum.

It's not OBAMA'S house to make that call with. It's OUR house and we are letting him use it.

I'd buy "We're doing it for the sequester" if they had ANY OTHER SAVINGS PLANNED.

They don't. They have to cut $24M and the ONLY thing they cut is the $2M here.

Are Obama's constant vacations more important? Apparently.

Petunia said...

Actually, the White House IS in part a patriotism museum, along with the Capitol, the Washington Monument, Arlington, etc.

Why the snark toward people who want to see it? It's not like the visitors are traipsing through the workers' offices and stopping them from doing their jobs.

Of course it's appropriate to learn about laws, government, and history by reading about them in books. But it's ALSO important to see the places where events actually occurred. I've read a LOT about D-Day. But walking on Omaha Beach, looking over the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, and visiting both American cemeteries, and thinking about what I had read, was an experience far more profound than simply reading would have been.

Off to Guadalcanal in August, I hope!

Mark O said...

"You obviously have a problem with reading. And yet you are reading this blog. I'm disturbed to think of the opinions of the dolts who don't even read at all. They go out to get a photograph of the candidate and listen to the cheers of the crowd... and they are permitted to vote."

Did I strike a nerve or are you always this defensive?

I have no problem reading and nothing I said would make such an imaginary problem "obvious" to anyone of ordinary intelligence.

Your paragraph from which I quoted is not only a nasty ad hominem attack, it is incoherent.

The idea of closing the White House to visitors is just silly.

Mark O said...

"By the same token, the President and his executive branch are supposed to be working for us. That's the sense in which it's our house. The notion that we can drop in when we want is a superficial way to distort the serious principle."

Have you been on a WH tour? No one goes where the President and his staff works. It is designed to let us "drop in" when we want. That is the object.

Do you think the President now needs extra space? That 2% sequester has crushed our hopes and dreams.

Michael said...

The tours should not have been curtailed. It is chickenshit money saved and chickenshit policy and theatre. There are thousands of places where effective cuts could be made within this department, that could be identified by the very children wishing to take these tours.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain flew to the US on a commercial airlines recently. And back. A similar trip by our chief "executive" would save ten times the projected savings of stopping White House tours. And would show a bit of character in the bargain. Instead our presidents swan around like Latin dictators.

Rusty said...


Thanks for the daily controversy. And it certainly was an interesting paradox to behold: A woman who spends her days building an empire based on recirculating headlines from her computer at home or on the road while playing with dogs and snapping pictures of hubby, stressing the importance of workplace seriousness.


C'mon guys, you hafta admit, that's kinda funny.

Kinda whiny , actually.

Original Mike said...

"Is there a gift shop? If not they should put one in as that would generate lots of revenue."

You could sell Obama's used golf balls. Could probably eliminate the deficit.

Amexpat said...

You could sell Obama's used golf balls..

Why not? Vegas casinos sell their used cards and Mount Vernon and Monticello monetize the legacy of Washington and Jefferson.

To my knowledge, all the presidential libraries charge admission and I assume they have gift shops.

Chip S. said...

Oh, right! Because children have no value... they're worthless! And the wealthy are untouchably, morally superior vanguards of civilization! Their illiquid wealth keeps us free!

Only an uncomprehending idiot or a completely bad-faith commenter would write something this stupid.

Either way, you're a complete bore.

Saint Croix said...

Quit getting so jazzed up at meeting celebrities and gawking at mansions. That only makes you easier prey for power-seekers who would love you to feel awed.

Oh boom!

Alex said...

I think what Ann is really getting at is that we need a test for voting.

Gahrie said...

Move the actual working staff into the office building next door. The only ones who should have offices in the presidential mansion are the president, first lady and their chiefs of staff. Everyone else is close enough next door.

Resume the White House tours. The White House is a public space, not a royal household.

JAL said...

err ... Rusty ... you do know Ann Althouse is a tenured law professor? She's had more published in the Harvard Law Review that the POTUS.

You know how to google, right?

Blaze said...

At first I railed against the idea, but after really thinking about it, I must agree with you.

JAL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CWJ said...

I'm sure someone has already suggested this point, but I'm not sure how the SS defines overtime to get to that $74k a week number. Seriously, do they have WH tours scheduled outside of business hours, or when the SS is NOT on duty? Really?

JAL said...

Consider that the amount being spent even with the sequester (2.3%?) kicking in is more than what was spent last year, I have serious doubt that the actions of the Secret Service in not providing security for the WH so the tours could go on could *not* (correction on deleted comment)have been avoided.

But that's what happens when you don't vet the people who spend our (seized and borrowed) money carefully.

And where does the Secret Service fit in the across the board cuts? Arent they part of Treasury?

Don't pay Jack Lew. He's got "enough."

Barack Obama is a nasty, childish piece of work.

way2opinionated said...

Yeah, Secret Service takes the fall for their Master.

Obama is King and how can you be King with peons traipsing through your castle all day. Now he can live in the WHOLE mansion.

To whoever brought it up above, the White House is NOT His house. He has access to a residence upstairs for the duration of his administration just like every other president in history. The rest of the WH is public property, including the Oval Office.

Why do so many people think President equals King? Why do so many people want President to equal King?

If the White House wants to save money, let the royal pair pay for their own security on their weekly vacations.

DADvocate said...

And to you parents and teachers and presidents: Quit using children in politics.

Fixed it for you.

DADvocate said...

Obama's also cutting education assistance funds for military and military reserves. You're incredibly naive if you don't believe he's doing this, and stopping the WH tours, to try and get ordinary people irritated. Of course, you did vote for the guy once whch attests to your bouts of terrible naivety.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Chip, if it's excitement you want, perhaps a good can of nitrous might do the trick. Or an Evil Kneivel performance.

Not a policy debate.

jeff said...

"Why are 11,000 people a week tromping through the White House? Look at it from the outside and move on. It's a residence and a round-the-clock workplace, not America's patriotism museum."

Actually, its a stupid point and exceedingly shallow thinking. The tour doesnt go thru the living quarters, and doesnt go where anyone is doing any work. What it does is give us a tour thru history and represents the open government that we are supposed to have. Its not a palace. I went on the tour back during the Clinton administration and was struck by the fact that a little ol taxpayer such as myself, who has no inside connections was still allowed to come inside and look around.

dwick said...

Ann Althouse: If I were taking my children to a national park, I would get them to read out loud in the car about geology and botany and so forth.

Sounds like a cross between Mommie Dearest and National Lampoon's Vacation...

Gahrie said...

Hey I've got an idea....


If ending public tours of the White House will improve the funcytioning of the government, why don't we go to the logical extension.....

Let's build a wall around Washington D.C.. We move out all the people who live there, tear down their houses and turn them into landscaping.

No one is allowed into Washington D.C. unless they work for the federal government.

Then we can change its name to the Imperial City....

Cedarford said...

Agree with Althouse. The White House is a round the clock center of high government policy and decision-making.
It is not the "People's House" , as that stupid non-voting "House Member" Eleanor Norton brays it is - as a DC tourist attraction to bring in taxpayers and non-taxpayers to tour the thing..
There are not "regular tours" for governor's mansions.


Cedarford said...

Bruce Hayden said...
Ann - there is a lot of history there in the WH, and it is our house, not Obama's
=====================
No, it really isn't "your" house you have a right to tour and enjoy yourself at or educate your children somehow through a visit with heavy hidden taxpayer costs.

Like Governor's mansions, it is the living and working residence of a high elected official...many of which also do a poor job because they spend way to much time on ceremonial matters and "bread at the circus" events - and not enough on simple work and effective governing.


Those M-16s over in the Army really aren't "your" rifles you should be able to shoot on a tour of "your" Army bases, or for that matter demand a school outing on an aircraft carrier ...or "The Peoples Ship" if you want to frame it such.

If it is so vital "For the Children! The Children!!" then build a replica, hopefully in a depressed part of America that could use the tourism more than the Imperial City (it and its suburbs are now the wealthiest part of the USA).

Have Disney come in and manage the White House replica attraction...and stock it with ex-politicians to be well-paid greeters.

Cedarford said...

Agree with Althouse. The White House is a round the clock center of high government policy and decision-making.
It is not the "People's House" , as that stupid non-voting "House Member" Eleanor Norton brays it is - as a DC tourist attraction to bring in taxpayers and non-taxpayers to tour the thing..
There are not "regular tours" for governor's mansions.


jacksonjay said...


That idiot wunderkind Ezra Klein says that the Constitution is old, confusing and hard to understand! He even said we don't all agree on what it means! You expect school kids to make sense of it?

Does the good professor think that 6th grade school kids can understand the Federalist Papers and Brown v. Board? It was my experience that they didn't understand it after I explained it to them!

ken in sc said...

Normally civil service people get comp time, not over time. Some times they get one and a half hours off for one hour of working late, but never extra pay. Has something changed since I retired?

wyo sis said...

All this back and forth about what was a wholly cynical and calculated move by Obama.
No wonder he just keeps getting away with this kind of crap.

MrCharlie2 said...

that's 1/2 million people a year, like disney land or something

PianoLessons said...

Good plan to keep Americans away from the White House and other Washington DC institutions, Ann - where folks work. Plus, we smell bad.

Harry Reid says us tourists stink up the Capitol as well - literally - he finds the "smell" of us tourists disturbing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP6qeBPl_HA

Google "Harry Reid Hates Smelly Tourists" for the You Tube.

PianoLessons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dwick said...

Cedarford said... There are not "regular tours" for governor's mansions.

Someone needs to get out more?
While you won't be greeted by the governors and thus need to worry about interrupting their governing - regular tours of Governor's mansions are offered in a number of states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington to name a few. The Governor's mansions of some states like Montana, Nevada and Althouse's home state of Wisconsin are open for public tours at limited times like during the summer or Christmas holidays.

Also note that the White House is one of 75 National Historic Landmarks (operated under the auspices of the National Parks Service) in Washington, DC - many of them having some form of public access.

SukieTawdry said...

Jeez, what a grinch.

Why bother to go to museums? You can look at pictures of the art on the Internet and have the added advantage of being able to learn something about the artist.

Why bother going to places like the Alamo or Little Big Horn or Fort McHenry or Gettysburg? Isn't just learning what happened in those places good enough?

Why bother with the Grand Canyon, Big Sur, the Great Pyramids, the Great Wall of China...

Well, you get the picture.

Every president but Washington has lived in the White House. It's part of our history. It's a beautiful and historic building filled with beautiful and historic art and artifacts. Why shouldn't ordinary Americas have access to the areas not used for living and working. We're welcome in the Capitol, another work place. Or would you discontinue those tours as well?

Perhaps we don't actually need 37 agents securing the grounds when the public is in the house. It sounds like overkill to me. And there's no reason to allow self-guided tours. If all tours were docent-led, visitors would be much easier to keep track of. They already have to go through security and the only items they can take inside are keys, wallets and cell phones (although cell phone use inside the WH is prohibited). If you show up with anything else, you can't even get in.

This is a political ploy, pure and simple.

Rusty said...

I think MORE people should visit the White House. NOt just the White house, but the west wing, the csapitol building, hell, every government office in Washington DC.And not the just the public areas. Right in their offices. While they're working. Stand over them. Look over their shoulders.
" Do you know what your doing?" " How much is this gonna cost me?" "Hey! Get the hell back here. Nobody told you you could go on break."

dbp said...

"Administration officials say the decision was made by the Secret Service"

Where is the bullshit tag?

JAL said...

AS I mentioned several days ago I have a family member who worked the uniformed Secret Service at the WH, and is now one of the suits. (Does fraud, cyber stuff, and some protection.) I asked him about the $74,000 / salary / OT questions.

Here, from an "unnamed source" (always wanted to say that) - that is straight from the guy in the black fatigues (what they wear as uniformed SecServ.):

As for your question, everyone is salary (both agents and uniform division) but when you accrue overtime its based off of an hourly rate. I'm not sure where that $74,000 number comes from but it seems awful high? I haven't been in contact with anyone down there in a while so I'm not sure how things are being run and how much overtime is being accrued. But when I was there (over x years ago) I don't think there was much overtime at all. Tours were tuesday-saturday like 8a-4p. (normal 8hr shift) So no one would have been getting overtime? They could get overtime only if they went to work an additional 4 hours after their shift somewhere else on the complex. (not dealing with tours) Also, they could possibly get overtime when they have parties or events in the evening. They would work the normal day of tours and then work whatever cocktail party or event that happened to be going on that day? Also, the tours are worked only by the uniform division officers.


Soooo.... one might reasonably suspect that the WH tours are closed (which anyone can take) because the WH needs the uniformed guys to cover all the Obama's kewl Wednesday night bashes for their celeb friends??

Obama is an ugly person.

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