President Barack Obama greets workers as he orders a beer at the Iowa State Fair during a surprise visit Monday night. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack looks on at left. The president is on a three-day campaign bus tour through Iowa.
President Barack Obama greets workers as he orders a beer at the Iowa State Fair during a surprise visit Monday night. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack looks on at left. The president is on a three-day campaign bus tour through Iowa.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

President Barack Obama bounded down the stairs Monday from Air Force One after arriving at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb. When he reached the tarmac Obama shared a few laughs with airmen.

As the president left the stage Monday afternoon in Council Bluffs a pair of “Barack diehards” got his attention. Decked in Obama T-shirts, hats and pins, Karla Laughlin and Sally Norton, of Omaha and Papillion, Neb., resspectively, hollered “thank you” as the president walked by.

Without breaking stride, Obama turned and pointed at the women, a large smile on his face.

“We love Obama,” the women both said afterward.

“Oh my God,” Norton said of the president pointing their way.

The president took the stage to U2’s “Beautiful Day,” on an overcast morning. But during his speech the sun came out, much to the joy of the president and the thousand in attendance

The crowd booed at mention of Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney named as his running mate Saturday.

The president was at times “loud and assertive” while declaring his reasons for seeking a second term. “In America hard work pays off.”

“What’s holding us back is Washington politics,” the president said.

A “four more years” chant broke out less than 10 minutes into the speech.

A tour of the drought

The drought — what else? — was the focal point for President Barack Obama on the first of his three-day trip through Iowa.

In his speech before a crowd of 1,000 in Council Bluffs, Obama focused on the lack of rain and record heat before moving on to other campaign planks.

From there the president traveled to the farm of the McIntosh brothers — Dean, Don, Roger and Richard — in Missouri Valley, about 30 miles to the northeast. Along with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Obama discussed the drought and the yellowed, dry corn on the farm.

After a look at two portions of the McIntosh land, Obama spoke to a crowd of about 50 on Roger and wife Karen’s front lawn.

With a tire swing hanging close by, Obama discussed the impact of 60 percent of the country in drought. Corn yields are down one-third, livestock producers are having trouble feeding their herds.

The McIntoshes called it “the worst in decades,” he said.  

“It’s hot and dry,” Obama said. “And summer’s not over yet.”

The president told the group about plans to help farmers and ranchers throughout drought-affected states.

 The Obama Administration, with Vilsack leading the way, plans to buy an excess bulk of meat — $100 million worth of pork, $15 million worth of chicken and $20 million worth of lamb and catfish — now, to be stored on ice, instead of later in the year, for the military and a number of government organizations. He likened it to crop insurance, which farmers may buy to hedge against low yields, for ranchers.

 “We are going to stock up,” he said. “Prices are low, ranchers need to sell. It makes sense.”

Obama also encouraged Congress to act on a farm bill that would help agriculture producers now and “ensure long-term security.” Other help from his administration includes access to emergency loans and government-owned land for grazing.

“This won’t solve the problem,” the president said. “We can’t make it rain. But this will help farmers like the McIntoshes.”

A snow-cone stop

President Barack Obama knows snow cones.

During a stop in Denison, a town of roughly 8,000 in Crawford County, the Hawaii native stopped by a Tropical Sno stand for an afternoon treat.

“I know shaved ice,” Obama said, noting what the locals in Hawaii call the frozen dessert.

The president took a bite of his “rainbow” flavored snow cone – cherry, lime and watermelon – and told the about 80 in attendance, “This is a finely shaved ice. Outstanding.”

“Really good.”

After Obama got off the campaign bus he stopped to talk with members of the crowd, asking youngsters when school starts and if they play sports.

While ordering, Obama offered to buy a few snow cones. Local elementary student Dawson Evers took the president up on his offer.

“It was awesome,” the 10-year-old said. “I never thought I’d get to meet the president.”

Though 10, Evers said if he were voting age, Barack Obama would have his vote.

Before coloring his mouth — as Tropical Sno calls it — the president spoke with a pair of teachers new to Denison High School, congratulating them on their jobs and vocation.

“When I woke up today, when we got together this morning (at school) for meetings, I never thought I’d have this opportunity,” said

Kelsey Lally, who teaches English.

“Doesn’t happen every day,” added physical education teacher Amy Nelson.

‘OK, let’s get our beer’

President Barack Obama had a cold beer at the Iowa State Fair — and a cold pork chop to go with it.

The president stepped off his all-black motorcoach with the presidential seal on the side at 7:24 p.m. and walked down 33rd Street on the fairgrounds, shaking hands, hugging and posing for pictures before ending up at the The Bud Tent almost an hour later, where he ordered a Bud Light and accepted a pork chop from the president-elect of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Upon entering the fair, Obama immediately was given a navy-blue Iowa State Fair baseball cap, which he accepted and wore throughout the visit.

On his stroll down the fairgrounds, he met Iowans young and old, including the 2012 Iowa State Fair Queen Abrah Meyer, of Redlyn, a high-school government teacher and Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater.

He was accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa. Senior campaign adviser David Axlerod was on hand as well.

When he crouched to meet Cole Nelson, resting in his mother Deborah Nelson’s arms, the 9-month-old reached out and honked the president’s nose. Obama chided Jordan Nemitz, of Ankeny, for wearing an Atlanta Braves T-shirt rather than one for the president’s favorite team, the Chicago White Sox. In their brief chat, Nemitz told Obama about playing baseball and described an arm injury he had suffered.

Obama walked up to Cinnie Smith’s Gourmet Mini Cinnamon Rolls but declined to order one. “I’m saving space for a pork chop on a stick,” he said.

As Obama approached The Bud Tent, the crowd broke out into chants of “Four more years!”

As he began to order, they began chanting, “Four more beers!” One man near the front of the crowd waved a Mitt Romney for president sign.

At the beer counter, Bud Tent owner Mike Cunningham II presented Obama with a T-shirt reading, “Save Water; Drink beer,” which was accepted by a staffer.

“OK, let’s get our beer,” Obama said. After chatting with Cunningham, he called out to the crowd, “Hey, everyone who’s over 21, you gotta buy a beer.” In response, a man in the crowd shouted back, “On you?”

That led Obama to offer to buy 10 beers for people in the crowd. He walked to the counter in which patrons could buy tickets to redeem for beer and appeared to purchase tickets and hand them into the crowd.

He took a sip of beer as he posed for photos with Cunningham and other Bud Tent staffers.

As Obama stood at the Bud Tent, he was approached by Greg Lear, the president-elect of the Iowa Pork Producers, who offered him two large pork chops on a Styrofoam plate. Obama accepted the chops, but then yelled to nearby pool and staffers that he needed a knife. With none being available, he ate a pork chop with his fingers.

Lear told the pool reporter that he’d been waiting with the pork chops in hand for quite a while, ensuring that it they were cold by the time the president ate them.

“They’d have been a lot better 45 minutes ago,” he said.

(Editor’s Note: This article comprises White House press pool reports by Jason Noble of The Des Moines Register and Mike Brownlee of the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil.