By Craig Robinson
President Obama didn’t visit the hometown of Meredith Wilson when he was in Iowa last week, but he probably has a better understanding of one of Wilson’s classic tunes from the musical, The Music Man.
As many know, the show begins with a tune sung by the town’s people titled Iowa Stubborn.
We can be cold as our falling thermometers in December if you ask about our weather in July. And we’re so by God-darn stubborn we could stand touchin’ noses for a week at a time and never see eye-to-eye.
The genius of Wilson’s work is not only that he was gifted at writing catchy tunes, but he also accurately encapsulated the mindset and attitude of Iowans. Now, Iowans are not about to admit that we have a stubborn streak, but how many stubborn people do you know have admitted to being that way?
The President encountered three so called stubborn individuals while in the state last week. One owns and operates a popular beer tent at the Iowa State Fair. Another is the Republican County Treasurer, whose family farm the president visited. And then there is the caterer from Davenport.
Political logistics is one of the most over-looked facets in a campaign, mainly because you only make news when things go wrong and the candidate gets embarrassed. Examples include Mitt Romney’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club during the Republican primary, or Governor Sarah Palin’s turkey farm incident.
The logistical breakdown that the President experienced during his three-day Iowa bus tour had nothing to do with the actual venues that were selected. The photos from the various campaign stops all provided the image that the campaign intended when they selected the venue. What the campaign overlooked was the people that they were going to be dealing with. The result is a trail of negative stories that followed the President each day he was in Iowa.
Beer tent proprietor Mike Cunningham claims that the President’s stop cost him $25,000 in lost business. Cunningham vented his frustration to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, who then tweeted about it. Then Cunningham, who did have a beer with the President on Monday night, continued to vent to the Des Moines Register.
There is no doubt that the President’s stop cost Cunningham money. Half of his venue was roped off to secure space for Obama to talk to pre-selected individuals. Cunningham’s place of business, which is only operational for ten days out of the year, was surrounded by police cars and crawling with state troopers and secret service members. Mobs of people looking to catch a glimpse of the President clogged the sidewalks, and did not seem interested in having a cold one and a slice of pizza. I doubt that the people coming from the stock car race really wanted to have a drink in the midst of a bunch of law enforcement officers.
Marshall County Treasurer Jarret Heil’s father and grandfather hosted President Obama at their rural Marshall County farm on Tuesday. Heil, a Republican elected official, once worked for Iowa Congressman Tom Latham in Washington, D.C. The Heils were gracious hosts during the President’s visit, but after the President left, Jerret issued a harsh critique of the president in the form of a press release.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ross Murty, the co-owner of the Village Corner Deli in Davenport, got in on the action. Murty was selected by the Obama campaign to cater a meal for the national press that was traveling with the president. Murty became the story when he wore a Romney campaign shirt that read, “Government didn’t build my business, I did.”
Whoever is in charge of advancing President Obama’s political events should be fired following the President’s three-day tour in Iowa. It’s one thing to select a venue that happens to embarrass the candidate, in this case, the President of the United States, but it’s inexcusable to have people who are either hired by the campaign to provide a service or host the President turn around and trash him in the press.
While one could make the argument that these three individuals were in some way disrespectful to the President, I’m afraid that what is going on here isn’t a case of bad manners. I think it’s obvious that President Obama has lost the respect of these individuals, and it’s not just by happenstance that the Obama campaign stumbled upon three of them. Respect for the office of the presidency has declined since Obama has taken office.
I’ve worked on a number of presidential events during President George W. Bush’s presidency here in Iowa. Sometimes you have to deal with people who may not agree politically with the President and his policies. Still there was always respect that comes with the office of the presidency. To be honest, solid advance work should have prevented all three of these incidents. Is there not a Democrat farmer who has a windmill on his property? Maybe instead of visiting a beer tent, President Obama could have visited the Pork Producers tent, which hosts politicians of every stripe on a daily basis. Plus a visit to the pork tent wouldn’t have occurred during its prime hours of business. Yet getting a photo of the President with a beer in his hand seemed like the main objective. As for the case of the Romney-shirted caterer, a staffer simply needed to tell him to take it off and show some respect for the guy who is paying the tab.
Even with all of that said, respect is earned before it is given. The President’s three-day bus town of Iowa was a complete debacle. The events were designed to make him come of as a President who was in touch with common, everyday Iowans. Instead, Obama’s major ailment was exposed, that he has not only lost the faith of the American people, but after a term in office, people no longer respect the office that he holds.
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