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Obama knocks politics, calls for growth on three-day Midwest bus tour

By the CNN Wire Staff
President Obama speaks at a town hall-style meeting Monday at Lower Hannah's Bend Park in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
President Obama speaks at a town hall-style meeting Monday at Lower Hannah's Bend Park in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
  • Obama speaks at a town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa
  • The state is his second in a three-state tour
  • The president's trip is designed to talk about job growth in rural communities, the White House says
  • But Republican critics say the trip is a thinly disguised, taxpayer-funded political trip

Decorah, Iowa (CNN) -- President Barack Obama slammed partisan politics and called on lawmakers to prioritize economic growth Monday, the first day of his three-day Midwestern tour.

The president spoke in the afternoon at a town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa.

"The problem we have is not with our country. The problem is that our politics is broken," he said.

"There are a whole host of ideas that we could be implementing right now that traditionally have had bipartisan support. The only thing that is preventing us from passing them is that there are some folks in Congress who think that doing something in cooperation with me, or this White House, that that somehow is bad politics."

The president said he will release a detailed plan to boost the economy, create jobs and control the country's deficit when Congress returns to Washington in September.

Obama's three-day Midwestern tour was billed by the White House as an opportunity for the president to talk about job growth and the effects of national economic policy with people in their own communities.

He began his tour earlier in the day with a town hall meeting before a supportive crowd at a riverside Minnesota park in Cannon Falls.

The president touched on similar themes at the two meetings, addressing issues from broadband policy to increasing capital available for small farmers.

"If you help the farm economy in rural areas, you help entire states," Obama said in Minnesota.

But at times, the event also took on a touch of the political rally Obama's political opponents said it was.

"I'm not just here to enjoy the nice weather, I'm here to enlist you in a fight," he said to the cheering Cannon Falls crowd.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus derided the event -- the first stop on Obama's three-state trip -- as nothing more than a campaign event disguised as a public one.

"He's spending taxpayers' dollars on a bus tour disguised as some kind of economic event for the country when we all know that it's a campaign event paid for by the taxpayers," he said.

Earlier, the Republican National Committee issued a "briefing book" on the trip made to resemble one produced by the administration in which it mockingly described the trip as "a totally non-political taxpayer-funded administration event that just happens to criss-cross several battleground states critical to the president's reelection."

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign posted a message to his website that was similarly critical.

"During his Magical Misery bus tour this week, it is unlikely President Obama will speak with unemployed Americans, to near-bankrupt business owners, or to families struggling to survive in this economy," the statement reads. "He is more interested in campaigning in swing states than working to solve the economic crisis that is crushing the middle class."

Administration officials defended the trip last week, saying it was not political in nature. It was meant as an opportunity for Obama to visit with residents in their own communities to talk about national economic policy, they said.

"That isn't just an appropriate thing for a president to do, it's something that a president should do," Josh Earnest, Obama's principal deputy press secretary, told reporters Friday.

At the Cannon Falls meeting, Obama hit on recent themes blaming economic problems in part on turmoil in the Mideast, debt problems in Europe and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but he said the biggest problem was intransigence in Washington, particularly among Republicans unwilling to accept any tax increases to help solve the nation's budget problems.

He also touched on education, health care reform and other topics.

On Tuesday, the president is scheduled to attend a rural economic forum in Peosta, Iowa, with members of the White House Rural Council, created by Obama in June to report on the economic climate in rural America.

He will travel to Illinois on Wednesday for events in Atkinson and Alpha before returning to Washington.