Obama picks up books for his girls at Iowa City's Prairie Lights
By William Branigin
After delivering a speech on health-care Thursday at the University of Iowa, President Obama made a surprise stop a small bookstore in Iowa City, where he bought books for his daughters and his press secretary -- and lamented that he can no longer browse for reading material as he once did when he was a little-known candidate.
"Well, this used to be my favorite place," Obama told the owner of Prairie Lights, an independent downtown bookstore, as she showed him around. He had mentioned the shop in his speech, noting that it has been offering health-insurance benefits to full-time employees for the last 20 years, only to see premiums shoot up 35 percent last year, making it harder to afford the same coverage.
Obama walked around the store in search of the children's/young adult section. Along the way he picked up "No Apology" by former GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney and "Courage and Consequence" by former Bush administration senior adviser Karl Rove.
"What do you think, guys?" Obama asked pool reporters, holding up a hardcover copy of each book before setting them back down.
On the same row was the book "Inside Obama's Brain," which press secretary Robert Gibbs remarked on as he walked by. Obama headed upstairs, then came back down.
A few minutes later, he stepped up to the cash register with two books for his daughters -- "Journey to the River Sea" by Eva Ibbotson and "The Secret of Zoom" by Lynne Jonell -- and pulled out a wad of cash. He also bought a book for Gibbs, who was holding a large Star Wars pop-up book for his 6-year-old son, Ethan.
"It's a little expensive, sir," Gibbs said as he handed the book to Obama, who showed it to reporters while the cashier rang it up for $37.44.
"I can handle it," Obama said, rejecting Gibbs's offer to pay. "It's for keeping his dad away for too many hours a day."
"I need more books than that, sir," Gibbs said.
Obama then shook the hands of a few customers in the store.
"Thank you so much, guys," he said. "You have a wonderful bookstore." He added that, hopefully, he was helping "to make sure everybody has health insurance."
On his way out, Obama showed his purchases to pool reporters. The books for his daughters, Sasha and Malia, were "based on recommendations," he explained. "Of course, the question is how they take to them, but I think they're going to like them," he said.
"Nothing for Mrs. Obama?" Bloomberg's Ed Chen asked.
Obama paused to think for a second. "Thanks for getting me in trouble," he replied.
Outside on the sidewalk, Obama encountered some excited local residents, one of whom reminded him of a visit during the campaign. Obama shook hands outside an Indian restaurant and greeted some people outside a clothing store.
The president and his entourage then returned to his motorcade for the trip to the airport, where he jogged alone up the stairs of Air Force One for the return flight to Washington.
March 25, 2010; 5:09 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , 50 States , Barack Obama , Health Care
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