World

Obama urges 'decency' in economic fight

U.S. President Barack Obama renewed his appeal for politicians in Washington to put aside their differences to help America's economy, saying Tuesday America's politics should match the "decency" of its people.

President's 2nd day of Midwest tour targets Bachmann territory

U.S. President Barack Obama has hit the road on a three-day 'jobs tour' that his opponents say is more like an early campaign for re-election in 2012. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama called on politicians in Washington to put aside their differences to help deal with America's economic "moment of challenge," saying Tuesday their politics should match the "decency" of the American people.

Bachmann wishes Presley happy birthday — on death day

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann got her Elvis Presley dates all shook up during a campaign stop in South Carolina.

The congresswoman from Minnesota played the Elvis tune Promised Land on Tuesday at a restaurant in Spartanburg, and told the crowd of 300 that she wanted to say happy birthday to the King of Rock and Roll.

But Aug. 16 is the anniversary of Elvis's death, in 1977, and someone in the crowd shouted back, "He died today!"

Bachmann didn't respond and launched into her speech.

Bachmann has stumbled over cultural references before. In June, she kicked off her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, calling it the home of American actor John Wayne. The town was actually home for a time to serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

 — The Associated Press

Obama's comments came after one of the leading Republican candidates vying to challenge him in next year's presidential election, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, called Obama "the greatest threat to our country" and suggested it would be "treasonous" for Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to print more money between now and the 2012 election to bolster the country's finances.

The Obama administration has struggled to deal with a nine per cent nationwide unemployment rate and counter growing fears the country is teetering on the brink of a second recession in three years.

Obama, speaking at a rural economic forum in Iowa, told the crowd that while "times are tough," he believes America still has the best workers, farms, scientists and entrepreneurs in the world to keep the economy growing.

"We'll get through this moment of challenge," he said. "The only question is if, as a nation, we're going to do what it takes to grow this economy and put people back to work right now, and can we get our politics to match up with the decency of our people?"

Obama has been under heavy attack from the field of Republican presidential hopefuls who insist the only way out of the current economic doldrums is to shrink the size of government by choking off federal spending, while also refusing to increase taxes as a means of lowering U.S. deficit spending.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Obama said he hasn't given much thought to the field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

"I figure I'll let them winnow it down a little bit," he said Tuesday. "When they decide who they want their standard-bearer to be, then I'll be ready for them."

The president has insisted on what he calls a balanced approach that reduces spending but sustains important social programs such as social security and Medicare through tax increases, primarily on the wealthiest Americans and big business.

Perry under fire

Perry, a staunch conservative who declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination just three days ago, triggered some controversy Tuesday over his comments about Bernanke, who was appointed in 2006 by then president George W. Bush — a Republican.

At an event Monday evening in Iowa, Perry told a crowd of supporters that Bernanke "printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, treasonous in my opinion."

Texas Governor and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry gets off his bus Monday as he arrives for a campaign stop in Iowa City, Iowa. (Jim Young/Reuters)

"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all will do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas," Perry said.

On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized the remark, saying people running for president have to think about what they say — and threatening the Federal Reserve chairman wasn't a good idea.

Perry's remark also drew a rebuke from former Bush adviser Karl Rove, who called it "a very unfortunate comment."

"You don't accuse the chairman of the federal reserve of being a traitor to his country and being guilty of treason and suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas," Rove told Fox News on Tuesday. "That's not, again, a presidential statement."

Perry, who served in the U.S. air force, also made a remark suggesting one of the reasons he was running was to make sure that men and women who put on a military uniform respect the president.

Obama said regarding Perry, "I'll cut him some slack, he's only been at it for a few days now."

"I think that everybody who runs for president, it probably takes them a little bit of time before they start realizing that this isn't like running for governor or running for senator or running for Congress," Obama said. "You've got to be a little more careful about what you say."

Tea Party confrontation

On the first day of his three-day bus tour Monday, Obama also became involved in a heated exchange with a supporter of the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement while shaking hands with audience members following a town hall in Iowa.

The activist, Ryan Rhodes, questioned the president over a disputed report that Vice-President Joe Biden referred to the group as "terrorists" in a meeting with fellow Democrats during last month's impasse over raising the federal debt ceiling.

"He said we were acting like terrorists," Iowa Tea Party activist Ryan Rhodes said to Obama. "What we stand for is limited government and a balanced budget."

Obama countered that Biden was making the point that almost failing to raise the debt ceiling was irresponsible. As Rhodes persisted and Obama continued to shake hands, the president added: "It doesn't sound like you are interested in listening."

Tea Party-backed members of Congress strongly opposed the raising of the federal government's $14.3-trillion debt ceiling at a time of record deficit spending, despite economists' concerns an unprecedented default by the U.S. on its loans would send shockwaves through the global economy.

After weeks of wrangling in Congress, Democrats and Republicans signed a last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling by at least $2.1 trillion and cut federal spending by $2.4 trillion over 10 years, without raising taxes.

With files from The Associated Press