Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, President Obama boarded Air Force One and headed out of Washington for a three-day Midwest bus tour aimed at convincing the public that his administration has not run out of will or ideas to stimulate the sluggish economy.
Before the president had even landed in St. Paul, Minn., however, his critics were attacking the trip. The Republican National Committee, citing Obama’s “disastrous record of epic policy and leadership failure,” labeled it the “Debt-End Bus Tour” (DEBT) and called on supporters to “bring a halt to the ‘Debt-End’ Express.”
In an e-mail to reporters Monday, the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called Obama’s trip a “no jobs tour.”
On Monday, the president will answer questions at town-hall-style events at Lower Hannah’s Bend Park in Cannon Falls, Minn. — where White House officials were expecting a crowd of 500 — and at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.
On Tuesday, he will host a rural economic forum at Northeastern Iowa Area Community College in Peosta, Iowa.
And on Wednesday, the president will hold two more town hall events in the western Illinois towns of Atkinson and Alpha.
“Missing from his agenda will be new proposals to create jobs,” Brian Patrick, Cantor’s spokesman, wrote in the e-mail. “Last week, after the President said he would reveal new job proposals ‘week by week,’ the White House rushed to clarify that no new proposals would be forthcoming. Heavy on rhetoric and light on jobs policy — the hallmark of the Obama Administration.”
Patrick was referring to an Obama speech last week at a factory in Holland, Mich., where he promised “to be putting out more proposals, week by week, that will help businesses hire and put people back to work. And I’m going to keep at it until every single American who wants a job can find one.”
Yet White House aides have said that Obama will not unveil new proposals during the bus tour. Last week, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the tour will serve as an opportunity for the president to hear from local communities “how the difficult economic recovery has impacted them in their community and their businesses.”
After Air Force One touched down in St. Paul on Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president will be focused “exclusively on the economy.” Obama is traveling by bus to reach small communities that would be hard to visit by plane, Carney said, and he wants to hear about the “real economy.”
Among the group that greeted the president on the tarmac were Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and Sens. Al Franken (D) and Amy Klobuchar (D).
Rep. Keith Ellison (D), walking with crutches following knee surgery, told reporters at the airport that he was “glad the president was in Minnesota, glad he’s finally going to talk about jobs” and advised Obama to “cut through the noise and talk about nothing but jobs” while in the state.
Asked when the president would be specific about the new proposals he promised, Earnest said last week: “I don’t think he was committing to a 9:30 a.m. Monday morning announcement for the next several weeks. But rather . . . there are a number of things that the American people expect of their president in these difficult economic times. Certainly, that is continuing to advocate for policies that have bipartisan support that could be beneficial to the economy right now.”