In Kiev, Presidential Bubble Feels Pinch of Dollar's Demise
KIEV, Ukraine -- President Bush is on the road again, landing here in this former Soviet republic this evening for the first leg of a week-long trip that will also take him to Romania, Croatia and eventually Russia as he tries to reorganize the security architecture of Europe before leaving office.
As we have in recent months, we'll be blogging the trip along the way to give a sense of what it looks, sounds and feels like on a presidential overseas journey. So far, there's not that much to tell -- the president arrived here on Air Force One late this evening, accepted the traditional greeting gift of bread and salt at the airport and headed immediately to bed before his meetings tomorrow.
But anytime the president travels abroad, a whole entourage of aides, Secret Service agents, military officers, advance people and journalists arrives first to set up. Multiple cargo jets filled with the president's sophisticated helicopters and armored limousines land in advance. And with scores and even hundreds of people involved in setting up the complicated logistics of such a trip, these excursions are usually good for the local economy.
They're not always so good for the budgets of news organizations and government agencies that go along, however. Take the Radisson SAS Hotel here in Kiev, where White House staff and journalists are staying. It's not uncommon for hotels to jack up the rates a bit to take advantage of the captive audience. But the Radisson may be hitting a recent record in presidential profiteering, charging those following Bush more than $1,000 a night. In Kiev.
Our own bill, to take an example, comes to $1,071 -- exactly double the already steep $535 rate for the same room advertised on the Radisson Web site, including the 20 percent value added tax. Some colleagues were put in even pricier rooms.
And Kiev isn't even hosting a big multinational summit, as Bucharest, Romania, will later this week, when dozens of heads of state will show up with their own traveling parties for a NATO meeting, taxing the local infrastructure. Nor does that count the additional charges the White House press pays for a ballroom to be set up as a filing center or the food that is served.
Maybe tomorrow morning the Radisson will tell us it was just an April Fool's joke and deliver a more reasonable bill.
-- Peter Baker
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