Former Presidents: Travel Restrictions Abroad?

can former presidents travel abroad

Foreign travel for former presidents of the United States was acceptable in the 19th century, though it was taboo for incumbent presidents. The first international trip by a sitting president was Theodore Roosevelt's 1906 visit to Panama. Since then, international trips have become a valuable part of the United States' interactions with other nations. Former presidents can still travel on private jets or commercial flights, but their travel costs are covered by taxpayer dollars if the travel relates to their capacity as a former president.

Characteristics Values
Can former presidents travel abroad? Yes
Is it common for former presidents to travel abroad? Yes, especially for leisure purposes
Do former presidents travel commercially? No, due to security details and the disruption it would cause. They usually travel by private jet.
Who pays for former presidents' travel? Taxpayers, but only if the travel is related to their capacity as a former president. There is a cap of $1 million per president and $500,000 per president's spouse.


Former presidents are entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection

Former presidents of the United States are entitled to lifetime protection from the Secret Service. This protection also extends to their spouses, unless they divorce and the spouse remarries, and their children, but only until the children turn 16. This protection is guaranteed by the Former Presidents Act (FPA), a 1958 federal law that provides several lifetime benefits to former presidents.

The FPA was enacted to maintain the dignity of the Office of the President after former President Truman was so poor after leaving office that he had to move into his mother-in-law's house. When the FPA took effect in 1958, there were two living former presidents: Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to fall under the act upon leaving office, and he and all subsequent presidents are entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection.

In 1994, protection was reduced to ten years after leaving office for presidents inaugurated after January 1, 1997. This reduction was reversed in 2013 by the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012, which reinstated lifetime Secret Service protection for former presidents. The only president to have relinquished his Secret Service protection is Richard Nixon, who waived his protection 11 years after leaving office in disgrace following the Watergate scandal.

The Secret Service is authorized to protect the president, the vice president, the president-elect, and their immediate families, among others. In addition to providing protection, the Secret Service also investigates crimes against the financial infrastructure of the United States, such as counterfeiting of U.S. currency.


Travel for former presidents is covered by taxpayer dollars

Former presidents and their spouses are entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection, and their offspring are protected up to the age of 16. This means that flying commercial is usually not viable, as a president's appearance would likely cause a traffic jam in a public airport terminal. As a result, former presidents typically travel by private jet.

The Former Presidents Act (FPA) of 1958 covers travel expenses for former presidents and no more than two of their designated staff. In 1969, the General Services Administration (GSA) took control of determining travel costs and capped annual appropriations at $1 million per president and $500,000 per president's spouse. For travel to be funded by the GSA, it must be related to the former president's capacity as a former president, and not for pure leisure travel.

In the fiscal year 2015, only former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used official travel funds, which totaled $66,000. Despite the availability of public funds, former presidents who make millions of dollars in public speaking fees and book deals have received criticism for accepting benefits under the FPA. The FPA was originally enacted to "maintain the dignity of the Office of the President" after former President Truman was so poor after leaving office that he had to move into his mother-in-law's house.


Ulysses S. Grant believed there was a law that prevented presidents from travelling abroad

Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president of the United States, serving two terms from 1869 to 1877. After his presidency, Grant and his wife, Julia, embarked on a world tour that lasted for more than two and a half years. During this time, Grant is not known to have believed there was a law that prevented presidents from travelling abroad. In fact, Grant's world tour was encouraged by his successor, President Rutherford B. Hayes, who asked him to represent the United States in an unofficial diplomatic capacity.

Grant's world tour began in May 1877, just a few months after his second presidential term ended. He and his wife travelled to various places and met with prominent figures, including Queen Victoria, Pope Leo XIII, Otto von Bismarck, Tsar Alexander II, and Emperor Meiji, among others. Grant was often received by cheering crowds as the Civil War hero, "General Grant", in the various countries he visited.

Grant's world tour was a significant event that brought the United States into the realm of international prominence. It demonstrated to Europe and Asia that the United States was an emerging world power. Grant's tour also gave him much-needed foreign policy experience, which he had lacked at the beginning of his presidency.

It is worth noting that, during his presidency, Grant did face some criticism and resistance for his attempts to annex the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). However, this does not seem to have been related to any belief that there was a law preventing presidents from travelling abroad.


Trips abroad are complicated undertakings that require months of planning

The complexity of such trips is due in part to the security measures that must be put in place. The Secret Service, for instance, must rely on foreign security forces to augment their own when travelling with the president. Additionally, the president's presence often requires host countries to implement heightened security measures, such as city lockdowns, which can cause disruptions.

The mode of transportation is another important consideration for trips abroad. In the past, transportation options were limited, and it could take up to nine days to sail to Europe. Today, presidents typically travel by private jet or jet aircraft, which has made international travel more feasible. However, even with modern transportation, international trips still require significant planning and coordination.

The cost of presidential travel is also a significant factor. While the data is confidential, it is known that such trips can be extremely expensive, with costs running into the millions of dollars. For example, a Secret Service internal memo leaked ahead of Obama's 2013 three-nation Africa tour revealed that the trip required hundreds of Secret Service agents, a Navy aircraft carrier, military cargo planes, and fighter jets providing 24-hour air coverage. All of these factors contribute to the complexity and planning required for presidential trips abroad.


Foreign travel by former presidents was acceptable in the 19th century

In the 19th century, American social convention dictated that international travel by incumbent presidents was taboo. However, foreign travel by former presidents was acceptable. The most well-publicized example of this was Ulysses S. Grant's world tour from 1877 to 1879.

While domestic travel was seen as an opportunity for presidents to connect with voters, foreign travel was viewed differently by the general public. People did not want their president mingling with royalty, visiting grand palaces, or exchanging bows with kings and queens.

This taboo was broken in the early 20th century, as policymakers at the federal level began to reevaluate the nation's role in international affairs. In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt became the first incumbent president to travel outside the US on official business when he sailed to Panama to inspect the construction of the Panama Canal.

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