'The Beast' Has Had a Tough European Tour

Obama's limousine has faced a "congestion" charge, Simon Cowell's envy, and a curb

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You might say that President Obama--despite awkwardly toasting Queen Elizabeth above "God Save the Queen" and losing a game of ping pong to a couple teenagers--has enjoyed a smooth tour of Europe so far. But for President Obama's bullet- and bomb-proof Cadillac limousine, "The Beast," the trip's been far bumpier. In the latest setback, London Mayor Boris Johnson tells the Evening Standard that he's charged Obama's motorcade $16 for driving in central London while also raising the subject of the U.S. embassy's unpaid $8.7 million "congestion" bill during the state banquet at Buckingham Palace. (Mr. President, I hope you're enjoying your Pommes Boulangère. Now, about that $9 million you owe us ...). "The Beast will pay the charge, I'm delighted to say," Johnson told the Evening Standard. Yes, he conceded, the Popemobile didn't have to pay the congestion fee when he came to London, but that's because the city closed all its roads for the visit. The Beast, it seems, had no such luck.

What's more, after its stop in London, the Beast may no longer be able to call itself "the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world," as one Secret Service member described it in 2009. The Sun reported this week that Simon Cowell, of American Idol fame, got one glimpse of the Beast and immediately called his spokesman Max Clifford about getting one of his own. "Simon Cowell phoned me this morning and said he wants the same car as Obama," the spokesman explained.

All these tribulations come after the Beast got stuck on a ramp as it left the U.S. embassy in Dublin, forcing Secret Service agents to drive a minivan in front of the vehicle to keep the Beast's struggles hidden from the shocked crowd, according to The Washington Post. The President and the First Lady eventually moved to a sports utility vehicle after about five minutes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.