Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Lady Gaga may not be the only one singing a new tune in November

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The 2010 Reuters Washington Summit included 4 days of on-the-record interviews with policymakers, congressmen and Obama Administration officials here in the DC bureau. The interviews covered a wide range of topics…from the impact of the mid-term elections to the importance of the Lady Gaga vote.

With less than six weeks to go before the mid-term elections the focus was on what a potential shift in power to a Republican-controlled Congress could mean for policy priorities in the coming year. We heard from Senators’ McCain, Dodd, Gregg and Bingaman. On the House side we spoke with the man responsible for getting Democrats elected…Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He called this election season a “tough and challenging environment,’ but predicted Democrats would retain control of the House.

From the Obama Administration, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened his comments by admitting that early on the administration did not have a “real understanding of the depth of what we were in.” News of Larry Summers’ departure as White House advisor came on the eve of our interview with a man who has worked with Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee said he expected that Mr. Summers’ replacement wouldn’t be part of “a dramatic change in direction.” On the economy, Goolsbee noted that he does not see a double dip on the horizon and that “pulling back on current spending programs could spook the markets.”

On the regulatory front, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair was adamant in her remarks about “ending too big to fail” and said that “the banking system is healing…and there is continuing improvement in low quality loans.” Meanwhile, Treasury’s Special Inspector General for TARP, Neil Barofsky, the man charged with policing the government’s exit from GM and AIG, said his group would begin a probe into the GM IPO after it launches to make sure that it was in the best interest of taxpayers.

No time for fun for White House officials

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WASHINGTON-SUMMIT/While senators like Lamar Alexander have time to play classical piano with the symphony or attend sporting events, some people in Washington don’t have as much time for fun or relaxation.

Take Austan Goolsbee, the new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who until recently worked as a member of the council and a long-time economic adviser to Obama.

Senator Lamar Alexander tickles the ivories

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SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/ALEXANDERIn the run up to the Nov. 2 mid-term election, senior Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander has more to worry about than just the results of the vote.

Just three days before the election, Alexander has a date on center stage to play the piano with the Jackson Symphony in Jackson, Tennessee.

After a hard day’s work in Afghanistan, Petraeus reads… about Afghanistan

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After spending 16-plus hours each day running the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, American General David Petraeus tries to thumb through a few pages of a book each night before his eyes close and it falls to the ground.  The most recent topic? Afghanistan of course.

AFGHANISTAN-PETRAEUS/The four-star general told Reuters that currently on his nightstand is a book by a leading expert on the country:  Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: a Cultural and Political History, a book ranked 21,047 on Amazon.com (as this blog was being published).

Rumors of our demise exaggerated, Van Hollen says

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SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/VAN HOLLENRepresentative Chris Van Hollen likes to paraphrase Mark Twain when talking about the Democratic chances in the November mid-term election.

“News of the Democratic demise is greatly exaggerated,” the man in charge of the House Democrats’ election effort told the Reuters Washington Summit. “I think the pundits have been wrong before and they’ll be wrong again. Democrats will retain a majority in the Congress. I’m very confident of that.”

Gregg sees Republican victory in November as keeping Obama in check

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SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/GREGGIf Republicans are able to capture either chamber of the U.S. Congress in the November election, they will use that power to try to block any further expansion of the federal government by the Obama administration, Republican Senator Judd Gregg said on Wednesday.

“I think clearly going into the next Congress, if you have one or the other houses controlled by the Republican party, you’re going to have much more financial discipline, there’s no question of that,” Gregg, who is from New Hampshire and is retiring after the election, told the Reuters Washington Summit.

With end of TARP, investigations into fraud take center stage

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SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/BAROFSKYWhile the much maligned $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has officially ended, not everything has wrapped up — auditors are just starting to hit their stride investigating scores of cases of possible malfeasance.

Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the program, nicknamed SIGTARP, said his office has more than 120 criminal investigations underway. They are looking into whether the money loaned to financial institutions and automakers was used properly or not, if there was fraud in applications for TARP financial backing and other wrongdoing.

If Democrats hold US House, Pelosi seen concentrating power-lobbyist

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SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/JOSTENIf Democrats are able to hang on to the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 2 elections, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely be able to concentrate her power because there will be fewer conservative Democrats giving her a hard time on critical votes, according to top senior lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Political prognosticators have said that Republicans are within striking distance of taking control of the House in November, with Republicans needing a net gain of 40 seats and polls showing them closing in on that target.

Dodd Rejects Carter Criticism of Ted Kennedy

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U.S. Senator Chris Dodd on Monday came to the defense of his old buddy, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, against new criticism by former President Jimmy Carter.

doddDodd rejected Carter’s charge that Americans could have begun enjoying the benefits of sweeping healthcare long ago if Kennedy hadn’t stopped a plan by Carter in 1979.

McCain to Gaga: I’ll save my talking for the Senate

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Don’t expect Senator John McCain to respond to critical Twitter comments from pop star Lady Gaga as the U.S. SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/MCCAINSenate girds for a showdown over gays in the military.

“I only Twitter with Snooki, as you know,” McCain said Monday at the Reuters Washington Summit.

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