A week ago Barack Obama and Joe Biden spoke at a town hall meeting in Tampa for nearly an hour and a half. The big news was the announcement that Florida would receive $1.25 billion to begin construction on a high-speed rail line.
It was the president's first appearance after his State of the Union address, and the first of several stops in the past week out in the country, escaping the Washington D.C. cocoon that he yesterday urged Democratic Senators to flee as well.
But the most spontaneous moments occurred when the president fielded questions from the crowd at the Bob Martinez Sports Center on the University of Tampa campus. One such question came from Clearwater small businessman Steve Gordon, who asked Obama why the federal government couldn't make small business loans directly to people like himself.
If you'll recall, what followed was an extremely lengthy response from Obama explaining that the Small Business Administration didn't have the capability to go across the country and process loans directly to small businesses like Gordon's. At the end of his response, he did tell Gordon that he should give his card to his "body man" Reggie Love.
As we write in our current piece in CL, it was a demonstration that A) there are no easy answers for the president when it comes to addressing individuals having tough times in this economy, but B) the problem that this 'great communicator' occasionally has, which is that some of his responses aren't in digestible sound bites. It's not a matter of dumbing things down so much as it is directly communicating to people. That's our take anyway.
But back to Steve Gordon. The NY Times has a fascinating Q&A with the 53-year-old Clearwater citizen in today's paper, including Gordon's own admissions about why his credit isn't the greatest right now.
We urge you to read the entire exchange, but we want to show you Gordon's response when asked what type of reaction he's received, from banks and others, about his question. (Incidentally, Gordon said he arrived at the Martinez Sports Center approximately 2 1/2 hours before the event and chose his seat in a location that he thought would attract Obama's attention. Obviously it worked.)
Q. Whats been the reaction from banks since you asked the question?
A. Its been really good. I have a bank meeting this afternoon, from a bank that called me and said they want to help. And then I talked to someone yesterday who said hes on the board of directors of a community bank, and Ive got a meeting with them on Friday. I got another call from an investment banker who wants to meet me Thursday. So I did get three calls from banks.
And I had 15 or 20 calls from across the country from businessmen that called just out of the blue to thank me for asking the question.
Of course, we thought a couple of other questions were extremely entertaining, if only to see the president have to quickly think on his feet. The first, from a USF student about why he had not criticized Israel and Egypt in his State of the Union, put Obama immediately on the spot. Then there was the question from a woman who spoke about the problems of her brother and the criminal justice system, and how hard it was for him to gain employment because of that. It's a critical question, though frankly people were more stunned than sympathetic in the crowd when the woman said her brother had had 33 drug felonies! And let's not forget the question about same-sex couples as well.