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White House claims Obama’s bus tour is presidential, so taxpayers will fund it

August 5, 2011 |  5:10 am

Sarah Palin and her one nation Bus 6-11

Somehow, from somewhere, a bright political strategist on the president's reelection team has come up with the idea of sending Obama out in a bus on Midwestern roads in two weeks, just like real Americans, or real Americans who can still afford a short summer road trip.

The spectacle of a passing politician's bus and waving citizens provides grand visuals for TV during the usually slow summer news days. The president of the United States might even happen upon a curbside lemonade stand operated by surprised children who deserve the kind of future he has in mind for all Americans. And more of that.

Not so good visuals of the trailing motorcade of press buses, Secret Service SUVs, SWAT team vans and communications cars. Nor the angry motorists stalled nearby because the highway and every on- and off-ramp has been closed by uniformed motorcyclists wearing large guns.Obamatalks Debt at another Podium 8-2-11

But a presidential bus tour could help refresh the image of this poll-plagued Democrat a year before his renomination for POTUS.

For weeks now Obama's only been seen at a pompous lectern lecturing members of Congress about the need to raise the national debt limit so he can make new "investments" in America's future and avoid default.

Or he's been seen reminiscing about the good old disastrous days of 2008 with Windy City poobahs who dropped $35,800 each to say they had dinner with the president.

Or Obama could not be seen in closed-door meetings with union leaders, who really liked the $787 billion stimulus plan but don't like any of this spending cut talk. As one result, Obama's job approval has never been lower.

So, on Aug. 15-17 he'll set out from somewhere and go somewhere else in a bus. You wouldn't announce your itinerary until the last minute either if you had Republicans itching to buy critical billboards along the route. And compute how few miles per gallon your big bus gets.

Political road tours do have other dangers. Remember Democrat John Edwards' bus breaking down on an icy Iowa roadside in early 2008, providing an irresistible media metaphor for his campaign on life-support?

So, where's the commander-in-chief going? Politically, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan make strong sense, although a dash into Iowa could help rain on campaigning Republicans' media parade. Yes, they're all run by Republicans now after last November's Democratic debacle. But Obama's got to retake at least two of them if he hopes to keep putting his feet up on that Oval Office desk.

However, according to Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney, the 72-hour bus trip is not political. (Laughter) No, really. Carney told doubting reporters this week, "The air of cynicism is quite thick. The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous."

Carney was fed such lines during his reporting days. But he persevered with the president's pitch: "It is absolutely important for the president, whoever that person is, in the past and in the future, to get out and hear from the people in different communities." Scroll down to watch Carney attempt to make that case on video.

The main trip topics will be the economy and jobs, he said. And no one would suspect the topics have anything to do with more discouraging employment figures expected out this morning.

Anyway, because the bus trip is so clearly presidential, America's taxpayers will be footing the bill for the non-political, three-day Obama odyssey through politically important Midwestern battleground states.

After all, taxpayers covered all the costs of Sarah Palin's successful One Nation bus tour back in June. Oh, wait. No, they didn't. Her political action committee paid for that.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: (top) Sarah Palin. Credit: Steven Senne / Associated Press

(middle) President Obama makes an appearnace on Tuesday. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

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