Washington Extra

August 4, 2010

In the immortal words of Marilyn Monroe (although not in quite the same tone of voice): Happy Birthday Mr. President.

Barack Obama is spending his 49th birthday away from his family, and by the sound of it is in need of a little bit of TLC. At an AFL-CIO event earlier today, his host union President Richard Trumka joked that they had wanted to give the president a cake, but the Secret Service nixed the idea.obama_trumka2

“I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t a cake, though,” Obama said. “I’m going to have to talk to Secret Service.”

“You got to talk to those guys, because they nixed the cake,” Trumka said.

“They’re probably eating it right now,” Obama said, to laughter.

But if the president was feeling a bit down in the dumps, our blogger-in-chief Toby Zakaria found solace for him today in his horoscope in the Washington Post, a prediction she found worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“You have given your love to the loveless and befriended the friendless — the fantastic karma comes back to you this year,” the entry read.

Perhaps best if we end it there, since the horoscope also promised that hard work this month would be rewarded. “A dream job is on the horizon,” it said, whatever that might mean.

At the same AFL-CIO event, Obama returned to the “economy as a car” metaphor, trying once again to portray himself as the best, designated driver.

“You’ve got these folks who drove America’s economy into a ditch, and for the last 20 months, we put on our boots and we got into the mud and we’ve been shoving that car out of the ditch inch by inch, and they’ve been standing on the side the whole time watching, telling us, no, you’re not pushing hard enough, you’re not doing it the right way — not lifting a finger to help,” the president said.

“And now we’ve finally got that car up on the blacktop there, about to drive, and they say they want the keys back. Well, you can’t have the keys, because you don’t

know how to drive,” he said, pausing at just the right moments to harvest the laughter of the audience. “You’re not going to get the keys back.”

After a burst of applause, Obama delivered the punchline.

“Somebody pointed out to me that when you’re in a car and you want to go forward, you put it in ‘D.’ You want to go back in the ditch, you put it on ‘R.’  So I just want everybody to think about that.”

And finally today an apology from Reuters Washington Extra. A keen-eyed reader pointed out that we may have inadvertently fallen for a bit of White House spin in Tuesday’s newsletter, by following Robert Gibbs’ lead in describing Mark Zandi as John McCain’s chief economic adviser during the campaign.

In fact, as Chip Reid of CBS observed in his blog, Zandi had advised both McCain and the Obama White House, but was not chief adviser for anyone apart from Moody’s.

Here are our top stories from today:

Obama says ‘long battle’ in Gulf close to end

BP said it was close to subduing its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well, and the White House hailed the “beginning of the end” of efforts to contain the worst spill in U.S. history.

For more of this story by Deborah Zabarenko and Caren Bohan, click here.

Geithner blasts Bush policies for U.S. debt

The Bush administration’s “misguided” policies are to blame for huge U.S. budget deficits, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner charged, as he sought to build an election-year case for ending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

For more of this story by Glenn Somerville and Kim Dixon, click here.

Empowered US EPA will not spark energy revolution

The Obama Administration may yet notch some victories tackling planet-warming emissions but the larger war on climate change will not be won without legislation to kick-start innovation to ease the country’s addiction to fossil fuels. Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has all but abandoned climate change legislation this year, the Environmental Protection Agency has to step in to take action on climate.

For more of this analysis by Timothy Gardner, click here.

U.S. House to end recess for states’ aid vote

The House of Representatives will cut short its summer recess in hopes it can approve billions of dollars in aid for states and prevent teacher layoffs, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

For more of this story by Lisa Lambert and Richard Cowan, click here.

White House believes auto industry can grow

The Obama administration believes the recovery of the U.S. auto industry can be sustained and that it has the potential to grow.  Senior White House economic officials told reporters that Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co, and Chrysler, run by Italy’s Fiat Spa, are in a position to perform strongly if sales continue to rebound.

For more of this story, click here.

Intel agrees to end chip war with rivals

Intel Corp, the world’s largest chipmaker, has agreed to stop using threats and bundled prices to hamper competition, settling charges it illegally abused market dominance, the Federal Trade Commission said. Investors mostly shrugged off the deal, which had been expected, with Intel shares little changed in early afternoon.

For more of this story by Alex Dobuzinskis and John Poirier, click here.

Senate panel confirms Mattis as Centcom commander

A Senate panel voted to confirm General James Mattis as the new head of the U.S. military command overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A tough-talking, widely respected four-star general, Mattis was confirmed on a voice vote by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the panel’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin said.

For more of this story by Phillip Stewart, click here.

What we are blogging today…

Happy Birthday Mr. President, hope they let you eat cake

President Barack Obama turned 49 years old today, which gives him a whole year to contemplate the BIG ONE coming next.  His birthday horoscope (Leo) in The Washington Post was quite glowing and befitting a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

For the full blog by Toby Zakaria, click here.

Republicans target birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants’ children

Fresh from a bitter row over Arizona’s tough crackdown on illegal immigrants, top Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are pushing to review a constitutional amendment that grants automatic birthright citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

For the full blog by Tim Gaynor, click here.

And some tips on how to dress, from around the world …

Women find men in red more appealing

Men wanting to catch the eye of women should dress in red, a color which new research shows makes them more alluring to the opposite sex. Women in the United States, England, Germany and China said they found men pictured wearing red, or framed in red, more sexually attractive than in other colors, the research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed.

For the full story, click here.

Europeans dress most casually for work, Indians smartest

Wearing shorts to work in Hungary might not merit a second glance but in India you are likely to be deemed a slacker who won’t make senior management, according to a global Reuters/Ipsos poll on business attire. A survey of about 12,500 people in 24 countries found that Europeans are the most casual when it comes to work clothes with only 27 percent wearing a business suit or smart clothes to work.

For the full story, click here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing (President Obama (R) with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (L)  speaks at the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting  in Washington)

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