Bush in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids
Marine One over the Coralville Strip.
George Bush said last week he's seen a lot of disasters as President, and Thursday he checked out one more: our very own floods right here in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
Nothing brings out bipartisanship like a natural disaster, and Bush was accompanied on his trip by a fair share of Democratic local leaders: Senator Tom Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Congressman Dave Loebsack, and mayors Kay Halloran of Cedar Rapids and Regenia Bailey of Iowa City. From his side of the aisle Bush brought along his budget director, former congressman and defeated gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle.
"We are just doing everything, obviously, to make sure we can to get the federal assistance in Iowa to come here," said Loebsack of the goal of the trip. "That's the bottom line."
The president offered the appropriate levels of shock and concern, but no details beyond "We're going to help you recover."
Nussle was more specific, citing a pending supplemental budget bill that includes an additional $2.65 billion in relief for Midwest flooding. "The funding is there and, as I say, checks are already being cut even before Congress passes this next supplemental bill," Nussle said.
Bush with Tom Harkin, Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey, Mari and Chet Culver.
Details of the trip were played close to the vest -- even in the middle of a disaster, Iowa Citians are capable of whipping up a protest on short notice. But the giant Marine One presidential chopper is hard to keep under wraps, and it and two other look-alikes were hovering over the Iowa River at 1 p.m. A few folks who were in the loop greeted Bush with small flags along the motorcade route. The president spent about 90 minutes on the ground in Iowa City.
In Iowa City, Bush toured the Normandy Drive and Southgate areas and the shelter at the county fairgrounds. Local media coverage was limited to a small pool of reporters, all from traditional media. At the Southgate area, he me with Dave Streb, owner of Streb Construction and a long-time Republican campaign donor. Streb and his crew had built an eight foot levee to protest the business and surrounding area, which was used as a staging area for relief efforts.
"Congratulations to the local folks for showing compassion, working hard, giving hope and giving hugs," he said, though he didn't say anyone had done a heck of a job.
Bush was widely bashed for delaying a visit to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and limiting his initial trip to a fly-over. In contrast, his eastern Iowa stop was his first public event after returning from a trip to Europe.
(Photos: Iowa City Press-Citizen pool coverage)