Obama buscapade: bribe cookies, marinara mishaps, and hair with blue spikes

Ah, the presidential bus tour, filled with diners, handshakes, and delightfully unscripted ramblings. Here are Decoder's three favorite moments from President Obama's two-day trip. 

Susan Walsh/AP
President Obama trades hair-styling tips with a boy at the Kozy Corner diner in Oak Harbour, Ohio, Thursday. No word yet on what the 'product' was.

President Obama’s bus tour this week was meant to rally his supporters and spread his economic message in the all-important swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was also a chance for Mr. Obama to get out of the confines of the White House and experience a taste of freedom on the road.

Not that you’d ever mistake a presidential motorcade for a couple of buddies heading for the lake camp in an old Subaru. But trips such as this always produce some genuine unscripted moments, despite the best efforts of advance personnel to make stops run as predictably as German railroads.

Here, culled from invaluable White House press pool reports, are some of our favorites from the week:

Broken (cookie) campaign promise. Food has played a big part in the trip, as it does in pretty much all political campaigning. Most politicians at least make a show of bemoaning the easy availability of sweets, saying they’ve got to lose weight. Not so Obama. “I’ve been eating a lot and people are commenting I need to gain weight,” he said at one point.

Thus on Friday at around 1 p.m. the president of the United States strolled across Third Street in Beaver, Pa., and entered Kretchmar’s Bakery, a third-generation sweets-dispensing emporium.

The glass front displays were full of luscious cakes. Obama, however, went for a pie. “We’re close to the Fourth of July, don’t you think apple pie is appropriate?” he asked a Kretchmar employee.

“Maybe I’ll get some cookies,” he added. “Press, do you want some cookies?”

Pool reporters were noncommittal.

“Will you consider this a bribe once again?” said Obama. “Why don’t we get a dozen chocolate chip cookies and send them on the press bus, and I won’t know if you guys ate them, all right? I know the photographers will eat them. Those guys have no shame.”

Obama paid for pie and cookies with a crisp $20, and told employees to keep the change. After he returned to the bus, campaign officials trotted over to the media vehicle and delivered the promised goods.

“Aides delivered cookies, but they weren’t chocolate chip,” declared the pool report, drily.

Another campaign promise, broken.

Who's minding the marinara? Earlier on Friday POTUS made a stop at the Summer Garden Food Manufacturing plant in Boardman, Ohio. The event was meant to highlight increased hiring at the plant and its use of local produce to produce pasta sauces sold under the Mario Batali name, among other brands.

As Obama walked onto the factory floor he asked an employee to identify nearby ingredients.

“I smell a little oregano around here or something,” said Obama.

In fact the goods in question were onions and garlic, cooking in a giant vat.

Obama strolled through the plant, chatting with employees. At one point he stopped to talk to workers who were attending a conveyor belt rolling with Gia Russa-brand marinara sauce.

The workers in question paid a little too much attention to standing in line for photos with POTUS. Cardboard boxes on the line got out of alignment and started crumpling until the line shut down automatically, as a red “fault” light shone.

Perhaps the Romney campaign will turn this into an ad about how the president’s celebrity status gets in the way of the economic recovery or something like that.

No, it grows that way. On Thursday the president’s traveling buscapade pulled up at the Kozy Corners in the little town of Oak Harbor, Ohio. On his way into this cash-only diner (specials start at $4.65) Obama stopped to talk to a little boy whose hair was fashioned into blue-tipped spikes. The youngster, according to the pool account of the event, was spellbound.

“I like that hair man. I was thinking of getting some hair like that,” said Obama.

Yes, that would make an impression at the campaign debates in the fall, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, Obama touched the boy’s head. “What do you put in there to make it spiky?” he asked. “Product?”

The boy, apparently still in thrall to the moment, did not respond, and had to be prompted to shake the hand of the leader of what used to be called the free world.

“Product”? That’s what they call it in hair salons. A barber would call that “hair gel,” if they referred to it at all.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.