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The Gazette KCRG
Posted August 15, 2011
President’s Decorah audience respectful, supportive, frustrated

Ryan Rhodes, right, and Stacey Rogers of the Iowa Tea Party Revolution, speak to President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, during his three-day economic bus tour. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

DECORAH – They came to see their president – regardless of what they think of his job performance.

“They leader of the free world is in my town, so I thought I should see him,” said Jason Trout, who operates an Internet marketing business in Decorah. “I want to be able to tell my kids I was here.”

Trout arrived early at the 890-acre Seed Savers Exchange north of the Winneshiek County seat town of 8,100 where Obama made the second stop on his three-day Midwest bus tour focusing on rural issues.

“I certainly want to see the president when he comes to my town whether he’s Republican or Democrat,” added Richard Bernatz, also of Decorah, who was seated on the grass outside a classic red barn on the grounds of Seed Savers Exchange, where heirloom vegetables and flowers are grown to preserves and sell the seeds. “This is our chance to hear our president.”

“I’ve never seen him,” Luann Smith of Decorah said as she waited on the grassy hillside for the president to arrive.

For the most part, Bernatz and many of the other guests of the president are pleased there’s a Democrat in the White House even if he hasn’t delivered all the change they had hoped for.

“I think he was naïve in his concept of bipartisanship,” Bernatz said, and the lack of bipartisanship frustrates him.

Many expressed similar frustration with the Republican-controlled U.S. House that has blocked many changes Obama has proposed.

Earlier in the say, at a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn., Obama expressed similar frustration with those who have a “willingness to play partisan games and engage in brinksmanship that not only costs us in terms of the economy, but also is going to place a burden on future generations.”

He added: “There’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed; what’s broken is out politics.”

He’ll have to develop a stronger, more consistent message to win the battles he is fighting on economic issues, Bernatz said.

“Something stronger that will resonate with those of us in the center,” he said. “If he can do that, (the center) will turn out for a reasonable alternative to the one-size fits all solution of cutting taxes.”

“He has all the right ideas. It’s just that he’s in a tough spot,” Trout said.

He’ll support Obama again, but he’s not all that happy with the first three years of the Obama administration.

Louise Hagen of Decorah is an Obama fan “most of the time.”

“We’re supportive,” she said, indicating her friend and fellow Seed Savers Exchange member, Janet Alexander of Decorah.

“It’s easy to be a fan of a candidate,” said Alexander, formerly of Marion, “but once the get elected it’s sometime harder to be a fan.”

She hoped the president’s visit would bring attention to the issue of local food production. Iowa has the capacity to be on the forefront of developing small farmers that would produce food for the local communities, she said, “so we wouldn’t have so many empty farmhouses, there would be families living in them.”

Trout was mentally rehearsing a couple of questions he hoped to ask Obama. Both dealt with whether it was possible to revive the economy without raising taxes on the very wealthy.

Ryan Rhoads, a Tea Party leader who just a few days earlier was helping Michele Bachmann win the Iowa GOP Straw Poll, didn’t expect tom get called on in the president’s question-and-answer session. If he did, he would have just one question for the president.

“How did I get a ticket to this?” he joked.

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