President Obama finishes his three-day listening tour of the Midwest today, where he talked about jobs initiatives and ways to strengthen the American middle class, but Republicans are calling the journey a taxpayer-funded campaign trip, according to CBS News.
One of the biggest criticisms stems from the vehicle Obama is using for the tour: a $1.1 million armored bus sold to the Secret Service by Hemphill Brothers Coach, an American company based in Tennessee, but initially built in Canada by Quebec-based Prevost.
"He should spend more time in the White House doing his job rather than riding around on his Canadian bus," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a conference call to the press.
According to the New York Post, the heavily armored bus is equipped with state-of-the-art telecommunications equipment, luxury seating, and the equipment Obama would need to remotely launch nuclear weapons during wartime.
Although the Secret Service will not confirm details about the vehicle, Edmonds Inside Line reports that the bus -- codenamed 'Stagecoach' -- "is said to have tank-like armor and cutting-edge technology that is similar to the presidential limo 'The Beast.' Like The Beast, it is likely to have its own supply of oxygen, a self-sealing gas tank and bags of Obama's blood in case of a medical emergency."
The bus has no external logos or markings to identify it as the president's vehicle.
Fox News said the all-black vehicle creates an imposing appearance, reporting "Some say the million dollar blacked-out behemoth looks like it should be carrying Darth Vader rather than a president."
But meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports that this bus does not set a precedent: "President George W. Bush used a bus from the same manufacturer, Quebec-based Prevost, for a spring 2004 'Yes, America Can' campaign tour through the Midwest."
There is a long history of building specialized vehicles for sitting U.S. presidents. According to the Benson Ford Research Center, President John F. Kennedy's customized Lincoln Continental, codenamed the X-100, cost $200,000 when it was built in 1961, although it remained the property of the Ford Motor Company, which leased it to the government for just $500 a year. After President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the vehicle was overhauled and armored. The project was estimated to cost $500,000 in 1964.