Embattled US President Barack Obama embarked on a three-day Midwestern bus tour to "connect with ordinary Americans", slamming the partisan politics of the country and calling on lawmakers to prioritise economic growth.
At a town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa, on Monday, the first day of his tour, Obama said he will release a detailed plan to boost the economy, create jobs and control the country's deficit when Congress returns to Washington in September.
"There are a whole host of ideas that we could be implementing right now that traditionally have had bipartisan support," Obama said. But "The problem we have is not with our country. The problem is that our politics is broken," he lamented.
"The only thing that is preventing us from passing them is that there are some folks in Congress who think that doing something in cooperation with me, or this White House, that that somehow is bad politics," he said.
Touching on similar themes at another meeting in Minnesota, Obama blamed economic problems in part on turmoil in the Mideast, debt problems in Europe and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but he said the biggest problem was intransigence in Washington, particularly among Republicans unwilling to accept any tax increases to help solve the nation's budget problems.
Obama's three-day Midwestern tour was billed by the White House as an opportunity for the president to talk about job growth and the effects of national economic policy with people in their own communities.
Earlier, the Republican National Committee issued a "briefing book" on the trip made to resemble one produced by the administration in which it mockingly described the trip as "a totally non-political taxpayer-funded administration event that just happens to criss-cross several battleground states critical to the president's re-election."