Oops: WH unaware Obama’s landing at Ohio base he wants to close

posted at 10:28 am on August 1, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

All politics is local. Which, presumably, would require the White House or the Obama campaign to Google local issues in Mansfield, Ohio before President Obama lands there today.

But the White House was caught flat-footed by the Mansfield News Journal, which editorialized before his visit:

Our first question to the president would be: What about the C-27J program at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport?

The Air National Guard base where Air Force One will land remains threatened by Obama’s proposed cuts to the military budget. With no replacement mission for the 179th, the cargo planes that served so valiantly in Afghanistan could be scrapped next year.

The cost to operate these planes — and staff the Air National Guard unit — is far lower than any alternative aircraft operated by our full-time military. We have proven the cost effectiveness of the 179th, yet the president’s military budget has proposed eliminating the aircraft and ending the 179th’s mission in Mansfield.

Beyond the threat to national security, Mansfield stands to lose nearly 1,000 jobs if the president gets his way.

So, Mr. President, please explain to the people of Mansfield why the U.S. government wants to eliminate such a worthwhile part of our community and nation.

The community has been in an all-out fight to save the 800 jobs connected to the Air National Guard base for months, and the president just visited the area in early July on a bus tour. But here’s Jay Carney answering the questions of the people of Mansfield:

REPORTER: “Can you talk a little bit about why the president is going back to the same area of Akron, Ohio tomorrow that he has visited before? And in Mansfield the local paper is reporting if President Obama has his way his Air Force One arrival would be one of the final flights into the Mansfield airport, because the president wants to do away with the mission for the 800 guardsmen at the Mansfield.”

WH Spokesman Jay Carney: “I’ll have to take the question, I’m not aware of that particular issue. In terms of why is he is going to Ohio and Akron –”

REPORTER: “But that area of Ohio, Mansfield and Akron, I mean he was just there on the bus tour.”

CARNEY: “There is not an inch of Ohio that the president does not love to visit. It’s a great state, my wife’s home state.”

REPORTER: “In terms of Mansfield, can we get you to take that question?”

CARNEY: “Sure. I’m not aware of even the policy implications or what issue this is.”

The White House revised its answer for the News Journal today:

“After President (Barack) Obama ended the war in Iraq and began winding down our military presence in Afghanistan, Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed to tough cuts in defense spending. Military leaders, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, developed a strategy for military restructuring that will impact the C-27J fleet, whose missions can also be fulfilled by the larger C-130 aircraft.

“That said, the president is committed to working with the Department of Defense to find a mission for Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, so that the men and women who serve there can continue to make their important contribution to our national security,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said Tuesday night.

That answer implies the cut is part of sequestration, the cuts for which have yet to be outlined, but the C-27J program is one cited specifically by Obama, not the sequestration process, as “unnecessary.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has fought against the cut with Republican counterpart Sen. Rob Portman, has talked about the cut as “Obama’s proposal.”

It’s not the only issue the local populace has questions about. The government’s handling of a GM plant has caused some local grumbling:

Next, Mr. President, we are looking for any insight you might have regarding the sale of the former General Motors plant in Ontario.

The once-vital part of our community provided several thousand jobs. When the plant was idled, the jobs vanished, but the workers remained in our community, ready for whatever might take GM’s place. To date, nothing has. The federally managed trust overseeing the sale of the plant continues to say a sale is close.

We are assuming the president has some idea of what is going on about the pending sale, and we would like him to tell us what it might mean to the future of our community.

The Romney campaign tries to tap into some of that rancor with its new ad, “Dream,” which features an Ohio GM dealership owner closed down when the government took over the company:

VIDEO TEXT: “Al Zarzour”

VIDEO TEXT: “Lyndhurst, OH”

AL ZARZOUR: “Grew up here in Lyndhurst, started 1972, selling cars.”

VOICEOVER: “In 2009, under the Obama Administration’s bailout of General Motors, Ohio dealerships were forced to close.”

ZARZOUR: “I received a letter from General Motors. They were suspending my credit line. We had thirty-some employees that were out of work.

ZARZOUR: “My wife and I were the last ones there. You know, it was like the dream that we worked for, and that we worked so hard for, was gone.”

MITT ROMNEY: “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.”

If Obama wants to play the layoffs card, he’s got something to answer for, too. If the president keeps ignoring local concerns when he touches down, maybe Romney can make up some of that empathy gap hurting him in swing states.

Note (Ed): Through a miscommunication, we published a post from Dustin that was clearly not ready to go and had it up for about 20 minutes.  I’ve pulled it back into draft.  I apologize for the error.


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