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For Palin, flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids was ‘slice of Americana’
In September 2008 Cedar Rapids was only three months removed from the most devastating natural disaster in its history, and thousands of residents and small business owners were still in the process of mucking out and gutting flooded properties.
But none of that is what former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin remembers about her visit.
On Sept. 18 — two weeks exactly from the close of the 2008 Republican National Convention — the McCain-Palin campaign planned their first joint stop in the Hawkeye State. The event was initially planned as a rally at the local airport; however, public outcry forced the campaign to make time for a trip into the city for a short walking tour of flood damage.
In her book, “Going Rogue,” Palin briefly discusses the visit to Cedar Rapids as follows: “… Jason, Jeannie and Bexie were there at one of our first campaign stops after the convention, a stop I’ll never forget. It was at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The town was a slice of Americana, with its quaint town square with mom-and-pop stores; red, white and blue bunting; moms and dads; kids in strollers; seniors; and people of every color. …”
Green Square Park, located in downtown Cedar Rapids, is likely the only place in the city that could be mistaken for a traditional town square. Located on 4th Avenue SE, it is bordered by a large parking ramp, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the True North building, the First Presbyterian Church and Waypoint Services. None of the facilities that surround Green Square Park could be misidentified as mom-and-pop businesses, and those larger businesses in the area, like the museum, were open but still renovating and restoring at the time of the McCain-Palin visit.
More importantly, though, the downtown area was not a portion of the city that McCain and Palin visited during their flood tour. According to several reporters and local officials who participated in the tour, the campaign drove from the rally at the airport directly to a predominately residential section on the northwest side of town, known locally as the Time Check neighborhood.
After walking roughly four blocks of residential streets flanked by flooded-out homes and curbside debris, McCain and Palin paused in front of a completely gutted structure on which someone had hung an American flag to make brief remarks for the accompanying press pool. American flags were a commonplace feature in the flood zones of the city, and perhaps those are what Palin mistook for “red, white and blue bunting.”
While it may be easy to excuse a politician for confusing towns along a long campaign trail, this error happens against the backdrop of numerous concerns about facts in Palin’s book. The Associated Press dedicated a team of reporters to the book and found numerous discrepancies, ranging from her contention that President Barack Obama pushed the through a bailout package that actually was achieved by his Republican predecessor to her statements with regard to travel expenses.
But the Cedar Rapids stop should have been memorable because of the one thing that Palin appears to have forgotten: The flood-ravaged neighborhood she toured.
Long before she joined the campaign, McCain appeared to have made the Iowa floods a priority. Despite calls by Gov. Chet Culver for both McCain and Barack Obama to not tie up precious state resources in the immediate aftermath of the flood by visiting the state, McCain toured flood-damaged sites in Iowa on June 20, 2008.
When local Republican officials complained that McCain and Palin were not making time to see the devastation in Cedar Rapids first-hand at the time of the September airport rally, the campaign made time concessions so that the short walking tour could take place. A month later, in October 2008, both the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee targeted Iowans with mailing pieces and robocalls that indicated Democrats “went on vacation” instead of helping flood victims.
The stop described in Palin’s book might very well be one she’ll “never forget,” but it did not take place in Cedar Rapids.
The Iowa Independent requested comment from Palin’s political action committee. There has been no response as of publication.