- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2011

CANNON FALLS, Minn. — President Obama launched a Midwestern bus tour devoted to the economy Monday by again calling for tax increases and accusing Republicans who oppose his plans of failing to put the “country first.”

Several hours away in Iowa, Texas Gov. Rick Perry wolfed down hard-boiled eggs on a stick at the Iowa State Fair and pointed the finger right back at Mr. Obama, saying the president has burdened the economy with taxes, regulation and spending, and vowed to undo Mr. Obama’s signature achievement of enacting a health care law.

Mr. Perry was on his first day of retail-politics campaigning after announcing this weekend that he will seek the Republican nomination to face Mr. Obama in next year’s election.

The president, meanwhile, said his own three-day, three-state Midwestern swing is official business, designed to try to rally support for his plans to bolster the sluggish economy. He said the holdup is the bickering in Washington.

“You’ve got to send a message to Washington that it’s time for the games to stop,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of about 500 at a campaign-style event in a sun-splashed park. “It’s time to put country first.”

The president referred to the “debt debacle” that he just concluded with congressional Republicans, calling out Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, by name for resisting the president’s efforts to raise taxes as part of a proposal to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.

“I put a deal before the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, that would have solved this problem,” Mr. Obama said. “And he walked away. His belief was we can’t ask anything of millionaires and billionaires and big corporations. Think about that. I mean, that’s just not common sense,”

Mr. Obama, freed from the contentious debt negotiations in Washington that lasted most of the summer, is using the trip as an opportunity to portray himself to middle America as an independent voice fighting against partisan interests to create jobs.

At the day’s second event — a town-hall meeting at the Seed Saver Exchange in Decorah, Iowa — Mr. Obama said he will unveil “a very specific plan to boost the economy” in September when Congress returns from its summer recess. He said his bus tour is aimed at “enlisting” the public to pressure Congress to approve his plan.

“If they don’t get it done, then we’ll be running against a Congress that’s not doing anything for the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “The choice will be very stark and very clear.”

Still, Republican attacks followed him outside the Beltway.

The Republican National Committee announced plans to greet Mr. Obama at each stop of his tour. In New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign called the president’s Midwestern trip the “Magical Misery Tour.”

Mr. Perry questioned Mr. Obama’s role as commander in chief, vowed to repeal his health care initiative, and said he needs to “free up the employers of this country to create jobs, get rid of the regulations that are stifling jobs in America.”

Taxpayers are funding the three-day presidential trip, but the first event had many of the appearances of a campaign rally in this swing state.

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