BLUE BELL, PA.--Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) ordered breakfast at a diner on Monday and tried to deflect a question from a reporter about Hamas, saying "Why can't I just eat my waffle."
Click below for pool report and details.
NATIONAL POOL REPORT
Margaret Talev, McClatchy
Glider Diner, between 9-10 a.m.
No news, just color. Unlike yesterday’s restaurant stop, there were not a lot of skeptical questions or Clinton fans – or they weren’t making themselves obvious. He batted away a Hamas question from a reporter, saying, “Why can’t I just eat my waffle?”
At the old-style diner, founded in 1945 by two World War II veterans, Obama met a local radio host who got him to agree to record a promo for the show via cell phone. “This is Barack Obama and I endorse Daniels and Webster,” he said after mangling it a couple of times.
Larry Perry, 57, a Vietnam veteran who owns a roofing company and whose father served in World War II, asked Obama what he’d do for veterans and said if he liked what he heard, “You can get my vote, let’s go!”
Obama said vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan must get screened for post-traumatic stress disorder and get better access to mental and physical services. “We’ve got to open up more VA clinics. We’ve got to make sure that we increase the GI benefit. And we’ve got to make sure we’ve got more people processing disability claims quicker,” he said.
Perry told him, “I’ve got a young man who works for me. He’s supposed to leave in Sept for Iraq. When you go to war, you never like to see anybody else go to war and I’m hoping that’s not going to happen, I hope that if you are president you’re going to stop that from happening.”
“That’s what we’re going to try to do,” Obama promised.
“You’ve got my vote,” Perry said.
Obama ordered waffles, sausage and orange juice for himself, and pancakes for Sen. Bob Casey, then made the rounds while he waited for his food, which he eventually wolfed down at the counter. There was a scrum of handshaking and small talk through the diner, which I was too far behind the cameras to hear a lot of. Obama complimented an older woman on her looks and high-fived little kids and posed for pictures and commiserated about high gas prices with people. Random trivia – a local professor, Hal Baillie, who sold Sen. Casey his home in 1991, just happened to be there.
Joseph Boga, 17, an Abington Heights High School student, sitting in a booth with some friends, stood up and played a trumpet solo for Obama. “Ho!” Obama said and embraced the kid. A waitress said the boys had been waiting outside the diner at 6 a.m. when they opened to make sure they could get in. On the other side of the diner, two Scranton High seniors had skipped school to meet him and they got him to sign passes saying “Excuse Colin!” and “Excuse Joey!” “I hate to be clichéd, but he’s really the Kennedy of our generation,” said Colin Saltry, 18, his class president.
And after Joseph Boga played the trumpet, a woman whom I believe was his mom, piped up, "He's available for the inauguration!"
Craig Churchill, 45, a furloughed warehouse worker who wandered in for coffee said of Obama, “He seems like he’s got a real level head” but Churchill said he’s a loyal Republican and “I have to stay with my party.” But his son Craig Churchill Jr., 20, switched parties to vote for Obama next Tuesday, saying he wanted the “opposite” of the Bush administration and that Obama seemed the most different.
PENNSYLVANIA POOL REPORT
Tom Infield, Philadelphia Inquirer, 215-313-3084
9:08 a.m., Obama arrived at the Glider Diner, a classic, steel-frame diner with red neon, across the street from Scranton High School. He was accompanied by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D. Pa.). They stayed until 9:47, with no news made.
The diner and an attached side room were packed with people, some of whom had known Obama was coming and some of whom had just dropped in.
Among the former category was Joseph Boga, 17, of Abington Heights High School in Clark Summit, Pa. He and his mom had been in a corner booth since 6:30. Boga had his trumpet, on which he played the senator a rag. Obama rewarded him with an appreciative "Whoa!", shook his hand and gave him a manly shoulder-bump hug.
Among those caught by surprise were Kayla White, 15, and her mom, Lori White. They had been to a doctor's appointment for Kayla and had stopped in for a bite before Kayla went, late, to school. They each had a glass of milk but hadn't yet ordered food. Said Mom: "I'm a Republican, but I really like Obama,and if I were a Democrat I'd vote for him."
In the side room, Obama got the only substantive question that I heard -- other than a complaint about the price of gas.
Larry Perry, of New Milford, Pa., owner of a small roofing business, identified himself as a Vietnam veteran and said his dad, 92, had been in Patton's Third Army in Europe in World War II. He wanted to know what Obama planned to do "for the veterans.'
Obama said, "First of all, for the young, we're going to make sure they're being screened for post-traumatic stress disorder." He promised "zero tolerance for homeless veterans", said he'd open "more veterans clinics" and pledged to increase the G.I. Bill benefit for college.
"You've got my vote," Perry said.
Obama asked Casey, "What do you want for breakfast?"
"Pancakes," Casey said. "But we don't have enough time."
Obama demurred. "How long can pancakes take? I might get waffles or something."
At one point, a besieged waitress, was chasing Obama and Casey through the side room, trying not to drop two big plates of pancakes and waffles on press, security or diner.
Obama and Casey eventually worked their way back to the front counter.
"Seer what you guys did to my breakfast!" Obama complained to the media throng.
The waitress, at length, caught up, this time carrying two Styrofoam boxes with the breakfasts.
Two plates appeared from somewhere. Obama and Casey each transferred their food to the crockery.
Obama spread his plate-size waffle with butter. He opened a plastic box of syrup and poured it on. He opened a second box and poured half of it. He also took one of the two big link sausages from the box and put it on the plate.
NBC asked something about Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas, but Obama pushed away the question.
"Why is it I just can't eat?"
He ended up eating just more than half of the waffle and one bite of the sausage. He did not touch an orange juice.
He signed autographs, posed for photos and received a gray "Glider Diner" T-shirt to take with him.