The cost of protecting a president has always been prohibitive. It's only the election of Donald J. Trump that called attention to it.
In the past week, after media got a look at internal Homeland Security and Secret Service documents, cost of protection became another side story of Election 2016.
It came to a head Wednesday, when President-Elect Trump arrived in Florida for the family's Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, watched over by the core of the Trumps' new extended family -- a contingent of at least 150 Secret Service personnel.
Protecting Trump’s family, in Florida or anywhere else, presents unprecedented challenges. First off, it’s a big family -- 18 members in all -- including Melania Trump and 10-year-old son Barron, as well as four adult children, three of them married, with a combined eight grandchildren.
It's been a long time since the Secret Service has had to protect the adult children of a president-elect.
According to NBC News, when Donald Trump is sworn in as president Jan. 20, the contingent of 150 will swell to more than 920 Secret Service agents and support personnel in Washington and New York City.
Right now the cost to taxpayers is more than $2 million a day, documents show. The number likely will rise whenever the president or first lady travels -- or when the threat level rises.
Meanwhile, the New York Police Department is already handling external security at Trump Tower, the Manhattan home base of the president-elect, at an estimated $1 million per day.
This is not a situation with an easy answer.
As Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who has protected every living president, including President Barack Obama, told NBC News, “You put a price tag on anything around the president, then you’re putting a price tag on his life and that is priceless.”
I agree with that, and with all its implications.
The president -- every president -- and his family are entitled to live their lives as they see fit. The demands of the job are enough for a president to worry about. And remember, the president of the United States becomes a symbol of the Free World the minute he's elected. Do we really want him to have to worry anymore than he does already about his family's safety while he governs?
Millions of dollars worth of infrastructure will have to be installed in Trump Tower to turn it into a White House North. And that's not simply because Melania and Barron will live there instead of in Washington for the first four or five months.
“You have to be able to conduct a global war from the front porch, that is just the reality of the situation,” said Terry Sullivan of the White House Transition Project, a non-partisan organization that helps prepare the staffs of incoming presidents for the rigors of working in the White House.
Every time Trump returns to the luxury 58-story highrise on Fifth Avenue, the feds will also need to find accommodation for staffers in a building where a modest one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment rents for $5,250-a-month. “They will need at least a whole floor, and every apartment on that floor will need to be turned into an office,” said Sullivan.
No doubt police departments in New York City and Palm Beach are already preparing reimbursement requests to present to the federal government.
No doubt another chapter in the cost-of-presidential-protection story will be written and told in the media every time any one of the Trumps takes a trip outside the Beltway or out of Manhattan.
But I submit this is a necessary cost of doing business in an increasingly dangerous world. Consider how many have threatened to do America harm. We can't let that happen. We must not.
We suck it up, we pay for it, we economize somewhere else. We let the Secret Service do its job and pray it is successful.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith