GOP takes aim at Obamas’ NYC trip

GOP takes aim at Obamas’ NYC trip
By: Politico Staff
May 30, 2009 05:44 PM EST

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama landed in New York Saturday afternoon, and after taking a helicopter from JFK into Manhattan, drove up the West Side Highway, where the northbound lanes were shut down by police for their visit, past Ground Zero, into the Village for dinner at the Village’s Blue Hill restaurant. From there, they went north to Times Square, where they went to to see a production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at the Belasco Theater on West 44 Street.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest read a statement from Obama: “I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished.”

Asked about the cost of the trip, which Republicans have criticized as indulgent, coming just ahead of the expected announcement of GM’s bankruptcy filing on Monday, Josh Earnest told pool reporter Dave Michaels of the Dallas Morning News, that he “didn’t anticipate being able to provide a cost estimate tonight.”

After the play let out at about 11:30 p.m., the presidential motorcade went down Sixth Avenue, shut down by the NYPD, and onlookers packed onto the East side of the street cheered as the presidential motorcade passed as the Obamas headed back to JFK for a return flight to Washington.

The Republican National Committee slammed the outing in an “RNC Research Piece”: “As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills. … Have a great Saturday evening – even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense. … PUTTING ON A SHOW: Obamas Wing Into The City For An Evening Out While Another Iconic American Company Prepares For Bankruptcy.”

The RNC’s Gail Gitcho added: “If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn’t the Presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?”

The president traveled in a smaller, Gulfstream-type plane rather than the larger planes typically used as Air Force One. Two other planes carried staff and reporters.

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Here are Dave Michaels’ pool reports to the White House press corps:

“We touched down at JFK International Airport about 4:35 p.m. in the first plane of three. We held in helicopter for POTUS AND FLOTUS arrival at 4:43 p.m., which we witnessed through windows. We took off before Marine One and passed over the rooftops of Queens before turning south over the East River. Just after passing over the Brooklyn Bridge we landed at the downtown Manhattan Heliport, which I’m told is also called the Wall Street landing zone.

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“The sky is clear and blue here, same weather as in Washington. No traffic on West Street as NYPD had cleared the road. Some observers watched for Marine One from a pier about 100 yards north. I could see ten or more NYPD motor jocks, a bunch of cruisers and a rather large RV-style van, perhaps a mobile command center.

“We headed north on West Street in vans and passed Ground Zero. Southbound traffic on the Westside Highway seemed light, but probably slowed down as the rubber necking began. We turned right on Clarkson Street and headed cross town. Plenty of pedestrians and diners at the trattoria checking us out.

“POTUS waved to enthusiastic watchers as his vehicle headed toward the Blue Hill restaurant on Washington Place.

From an earlier report from Michaels as the presidential party took off from Washington: “Three presidential helicopters descended on Andrews Air Force Base about 3:42 p.m. A group of about 20 people, a few members of the military wearing camouflage and what must have been their families, watched from a distance of 50 to 75 yards.

“Exactly five minutes later, President Obama and Michelle Obama stepped down from Marine One. POTUS was business casual, but very sharp, in a dark blue suit and black shoes. His white shirt was unbuttoned at the top — no tie. Mrs. Obama wore a black cocktail dress and black heels. Her hair was up and she held a small blue purse, which I’m informed is called a clutch. They boarded a presidential Gulfstream 500 and we took off shortly before 4 p.m. en route to New York City, where the first couple is to have dinner and watch a play, ‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone’ at the Belasco Theater. The name of the production is courtesy of the New York Daily News.
“The first couple has left the Blue Hill restaurant in the West Village and headed north of the Belasco Theater, arriving at 7:55 p.m..

“NYPD had blocked 6th Avenue for our motorcade to move north from the restaurant toward Midtown. Pedestrians lined both sides of the street, taking photos and waving behind metal barricades, as if we were part of a parade.

“A bit earlier, your pooler asked Josh Earnest, deputy press secretary, how much this trip costs taxpayers. He said other reporters had asked and he ‘didn’t anticipate being able to provide a cost estimate tonight.’”

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