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Close en-counter: Bachmann relative at Obama's diner visit

August 16, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Jason Reed/Reuters )

Reporting from Peosta, Iowa — Remember the epic line from Casablanca: “Of all the gin joints, in all the world...?”

Well, there was a variation on that theme during President Obama’s bus travels Tuesday down America’s blue highways.

Obama’s bus pulled to a stop in the small town of Guttenberg, Iowa, nestled along the Mississippi River, so that the president could have breakfast at a diner with some local business leaders.

As the president walked in, trailed by a mob of cameramen and reporters, there sat on a stool by the door one Larkin Edward Rutledge, who was busy celebrating the feats of local boy Jim Thome at the time. (Thome, of nearby Peoria, Ill., smacked his 600th homer in the big leagues Monday night.)

As it turns out, Rutledge has a famous relative. And to revisit the Bogart line: Of all the small-town diners in all of Iowa, the president of the United States had to walk into the one where a man sitting at the counter is related to Michele Bachmann.

Turns out Bachmann is a sister-in-law to Rutledge’s niece. In fact, he traveled to Waterloo, Iowa, in June for Bachmann’s presidential campaign announcement.

“That lets you know where I stand,” he said with regard to Obama. But he said that he respected the president “as a person.”

Being an Iowa resident, Rutledge hardly blinked at the president’s arrival. They’re used to famous political faces around here. He ticked off local visits by Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Pat Buchanan.

Still, he was delighted. He called the slightly surreal tableau— the president, his aides, Secret Service agents and members of the media all crushed together in the small diner—“wild.”

“I’m glad to be here,” he said.

Bachmann's not Rutledge's only famous relative in politics, by the way. He said he's also tied by blood to Edward Rutledge, the South Carolinian who was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence.

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