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article imageOp-Ed: Obama and Sarah Palin have something in common – a coach builder

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By Ken Wightman     Aug 17, 2011 in Politics
It's a fast moving political brush fire flaming across the American media landscape. President Obama's black, Darth Vader bus is Canadian made. A real shocker? I don't think so.
Was this a big scoop for the New York Post? Again, I don't think so. The Obama's bus is from Hemphill Brothers Coach of Tennessee. Using a bus from these good old Southern boys puts the president in the company of other political notables such as: George W. Bush, John McCain, Fred Thompson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Guiliani, and my personal favourite user of Hemphill coaches — Sarah Palin.
An article two years ago in the Bastrop Daily Enterprise by Wes Helbling about Joey and Trent Hemphill, owner/founders of Hemphill Coach of Tennessee, reported:
Perhaps their most famous client to date has been former President George W. Bush. Trent said during the 2000 presidential primaries, a network was using their buses to interview candidates.
“The governor’s office called us, and we provided buses for him during the primaries,” said Trent. “We picked him up and took him to Austin on election night.”
The brothers were later invited to Bush’s first inauguration. The president called them again for buses during his 2004 re-election campaign. It was an unusual request, as presidents do not normally use private transportation services.
“The Secret Service armored all of the vehicles,” said Trent. “They were on the coaches 24 hours a day.”
As one might imagine, “There are a lot of logistics involved.”
Trent recalls getting a call on his cell phone from Air Force One. The reception was bad because Air Force One was flying over Iceland at the time.
The brothers were invited to a private Christmas party at the White House last December. During the final days of the Bush administration, the president sent them each a letter of thanks.
“No matter what your politics are, it was a real honor for the president to use our buses,” said Joey.
New Prevost coaches are delivered to the Hemphill Tennessee conversion shop with nothing more than a plywood floor and a driver's seat, according to information posted on a company site. This agrees with what ABC News learned from Christine Garant of Prevost, "We just make the shell. We don't know anything about the end user." Prevost's Steve Zeigler agreed, telling ABC News, "We just build an empty shell of a bus, and then sell them to a converter for outfitting,"
American craftspeople in Tennessee custom-build every wall, cabinet and piece of furniture in a Hemphill coach. Adjacent to and upstairs from the main conversion shop, there is a complete woodfinishing and upholstery shop. Many of the parts that go into a Prevost coach come from the States. The Quebec builder brags that it uses Volvo engines. Volvo engines are made in Hagerstown, Maryland.
If you are wondering whether or not the White House could have been supplied with totally American made coaches, ABC News reports: The only U.S.-headquartered coach manufacturer, Motor Coach Industries, based in Schamburg, Ill., also builds the country's only "buy American compliant" coach, the majority of whose parts are made here, an MCI spokeswoman said. Note the red flag words: "the majority of whose parts are made here."
ABC News fails to point out that MCI has a strong Canadian connection with it's roots in the Northern Neighbour going back to the Dirty Thirties and 1933 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Prevost coach shells are made in Canada but are finished in plants across the United States. A great number of skilled Americans, from Florida to Oregon and points in between, are employed completing these vehicles before delivery to their American buyers.
This story may be the Jon Stewart moment of the day.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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