Political Notebook

President’s bus tour of Midwest starts today

August 15, 2011

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Trading Washington’s hothouse for states critical to his reelection prospects, President Obama is headed to the Midwest after a summer of discontent over a protracted debt showdown with Republicans and the downgrade in the nation’s credit rating.

Obama’s bus tour, his first as president, begins today and will take him to Minnesota and through Iowa and Illinois, with stops in the farmland and rural towns that launched his first White House bid.

The president is expected to tell audiences that he agrees with their frustrations about a dysfunctional federal government.

“What we’ve seen in Washington the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock - and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy,’’ Obama said Thursday in Michigan. “It’s made things worse instead of better.’’ — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Perry touches on a variety of issues in N.H. swing GREENLAND, N.H. - After an announcement speech full of anti-Obama rhetoric, Governor Rick Perry of Texas answered questions from New Hampshire political activists for nearly a half-hour Saturday that fleshed out his policy views for a group, a state, and a country that barely knows the latest Republican presidential contender.

Like most in the GOP, Perry espoused a muscular support for Israel amid a turbulent Mideast, saying, “Israel is not ever going to have to worry, if I’m the president of the United States, where we’re going to be.’’

Like most Republicans, he also labeled himself a fiscal conservative bent on reining in government spending. “We’re going to stop spending the money, unless I run out of ink in a veto pen,’’ the governor pledged.

Perry also professed a pro-business bent, a calling card of his party, especially when it comes to small-business support.

“I can go small community with you; that’s how I grew up,’’ said the native of Paint Creek, Texas. “We didn’t even have a post office.’’

But in a bold-yet-folksy way, the Texan also put his own spin on an array of questions from a crowd of more than 150.

Asked about how the country can cope with the growing cost of Social Security and other entitlement programs, Perry said political leaders had to show courage especially in dealing with Social Security.

He said: “I can promise you, my 27-year-old son - Social Security, under the program that we have today, will not be there.’’

Perry, himself 61, pledged to back a base level of support for needy retirees, but he said that calling the current retirement system a Ponzi scheme - in which contributions from one group pay immediate benefits to another group - is the first step in deciding how to alter it.

Perry dealt more carefully with another issue that riled the party base for another Texas governor who ran for president, George W. Bush.

Perry said that before deciding how to deal with immigrants already illegally in the country, the United States must secure its border with Mexico, both to block new illegal immigrants and also to tamp down on drug-related violence.

On national security, Perry outlined a hawkish doctrine: “If you try to hurt the United States, we will come defeat you,’’ he said. — GLEN JOHNSON