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Out of Change: Obama Has to Borrow Coins to Toss in Jerusalem Wishing Well During Tour Stop

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu examine the Dead Sea Scrolls on exhibit at Jerusalem's Shrine of the Book (Photo courtesy: Israel Government Press Office)

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu examine the Dead Sea Scrolls on exhibit at Jerusalem's Shrine of the Book (Photo courtesy: Israel Government Press Office)

We all know the U.S. Government is a profligate borrower. What we may not have known is that it’s not only the big bucks that are important, but the small coins too.

Even though he makes trillion dollar budgetary decisions, President Barack Obama was short of change Thursday morning at a stop on his Israel tour.

At the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed, Obama wanted to throw shekels in a wishing well there, but found he was short of change. The Times of Israel describes the scene:

The president arrives at the Museum, and is welcomed by Netanyahu, and by Israel Museum director James Snyder. He is taken into the Shrine of the Book to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. He’s to be shown a scroll of the Book of Isaiah — but apparently won’t be allowed to touch it. No, not even the president.

Snyder is giving Obama, Netanyahu and negotiator [to the Palestinians] Yitzhak Molcho, who heads the museum board, a tour of the Shrine, which he says is the only permanent building constructed with its unique design.

True to his promise, Obama is spending most of his time listening as he views fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Obama asked for a coin, and Molcho had to ask somebody else for some shekels for Obama to throw in a wishing well at the site.

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu tour the Shrine of the Book. Israel's chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho is behind Netanyahu on the right. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

According to a 2011 article on the presidential wallet in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, presidents don’t always carry wallets.

Among those who did: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln (it was found in his pockets after he was assassinated), and Ronald Reagan who once bought a burger and fries for $2.25 at an Alabama McDonald’s.

George H.W. Bush carried a wallet in which he had $53, but once told People Magazine "I've had it there for quite a while."

Reporter John Campanelli’s investigation into the presidential pocket further led him from George W. Bush to Obama:

In 2005, a Latin American reporter asked George W. Bush what he had in his pockets. The president pulled out a handkerchief -- and nothing else. He even turned his pockets inside out to show he wasn't hiding anything. "Es todo. No dinero" [That's all. No money], the president said. "No wallet, no bolsa [wallet]."

Earlier that year, as the collection plate approached him during the National Prayer Service, Bush found himself without money. Vice President Dick Cheney offered him some, but Bush refused and turned to his father, who was sitting behind him. The elder Bush slipped him some cash.

In February 1993, with the country climbing out of a recession, U.S. News & World Report quoted White House aides who said the new president, Bill Clinton, would pay for his coffee, clothes and even cat food for the first feline, and that he would carry a wallet and credit cards to make purchases.

By the end of his second term, however, Clinton did not carry credit cards or much cash, and he had become notorious for borrowing money from his Secret Service guards while out shopping, according to longtime White House correspondent Connie Lawn.

Barack Obama may or may not carry a wallet (the White House did not respond to a PDQ query asking if he did), but he carries cash. During various trips, he's paid cash for cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, shaved ice in Hawaii, books in Iowa and a giant pastry in Wisconsin.

He may not have had a coin for the wishing well, but Obama did have presidential “challenge coins” which he awarded to two disabled individuals he met during a tour of Israeli hi-tech innovations. The AP describes the scene Thursday:

In the most emotional moment of the tech tour, Obama and Netanyahu encountered a Druze Israeli war veteran and a U.S. army veteran, both paralyzed from the waist down. Both demonstrated how they were able to walk with the help of crutches and a computerized exoskeleton that supported their legs as they moved.

Obama gave both of them presidential "challenge coins," used to recognize veterans for their service.

The army veteran, Theresa Hannigan, a 60-year-old woman from Long Island, N.Y., was learning how to use the motorized aides, called the ReWalk, at the Bronx V.A. Hospital. She implored Obama to help the device obtain FDA approval. Her voice breaking, Hannigan stood straight and hugged Obama.

An Israeli company, Argo Medical Technologies, created the “exoskeleton” suit which allows paraplegics to walk again, using motion sensors hooked up to computers that activate motorized legs.

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