ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller reports:
“I'm going to try to avoid making, you know, just a straight political speech here,” President Obama said opening up another backyard event today, this time in Des Moines Iowa.
His fifth backyard event in recent weeks, the president comes as an official visit, not political, the White House says. But there is after all an election coming up in just five weeks, and so president’s promise only lasted for so long. Moments later he was targeting the Republicans in his so-called “straight political speech”, suggesting they have been dishonest with the American people.
“When you look at the choice we face in this election coming up, the other side, what it's really offering is the same policies that from 2001 to 2009 put off hard problems and didn't really speak honestly to the American people about how we're going to get this country on track over the long term.”
The president said it is his hope that between now and election day – and onward – is that people keep in mind that problems are not going to be able to be solved “unless we honestly address them and to act collectively like the next generation is important.
“We can't pretend that there are, you know, short cuts or that we can cut our taxes, completely have all the benefits that we want and balance the budget and not make any tough choices. That's, you know I think more than anything the message that I want to be communicating to the American people.”
The president spoke at the picturesque setting of the backyard of the Clubb family – supporters but mainly chosen by the White House because of that backyard – complete with a birdhouse, tiki torches, blooming flowers and plenty of room for the president to be seen having a dialogue with middle-class Americans.
But the Iowa that Senator Obama knew from the presidential campaign of 2008 seemed long gone. The Iowa that President Obama encountered seemed a bit more critical and questioning.
The first question right off the bat was one that has been on the White House – and the president’s mind – as forecasts for a grim election turnout of the 2008 young voting army has predicted tough results for the Democrats.
Mary Stier of Des Moines said that her 24-year-old son “who campaigned fiercely” for the president and “was very inspired by your message of hope,” now is basically hope-less. “
He graduated from Simpson College about a year and a half ago, with honors and he's still struggling to find a full-time job,” Stier said, “he and many of his friends are struggling. They are losing their hope, which was a message that you inspired them with.”
The president said that no doubt that young people are having a tough time right now — worried about the future in a way that most are not when they get out of college.
The president said that his message to them is that he is doing “everything we can” to make sure that they can get the best education, and that he is working to help get the economy back on track.
“Here's the good news,” he countered, “I think that this generation, your son's generation, is smarter, more sophisticated, more passionate, has a broader world view. I think that they don't take things for granted. They're willing to work hard for whatever they can achieve. I think they think about the community and other people, and they don't just have a narrow focus on what's in it for me.”
The president referenced the large crowd count at his rally last night in Madison, Wisconsin – with 25,000 young people turning out.
“It was a terrific reminder of the fact that young people still have so much energy and so much enthusiasm for the future.”
Over the course of the backyard town hall the president fielded many questions indicative of the tough times Americans are facing and worries as they head into the voting booth– a man convinced that the Bush tax cuts on the upper income inspiring would hurt small businesses, a woman concerned about the high poverty rate, a pastor questioning how his economic plan would lead to increased employment, and a woman confused and frustrated about the health care law.
“As I listen to the questions it’s a good reminder we got a long way to go, but I do want everyone to be encouraged about our future,’’ President Obama said at the end of the discussion.
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller