Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – People’s choice

The United States has decided — it is up to Egyptians to decide.

CANADA/Anyone looking for a clear sign that the United States does or doesn’t back its ally of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak, won’t find it in the official words out of Washington today.

Instead, Washington took the firm stance to perch on the tightrope — call for Democratic reforms, stay away from public opinions about Mubarak.

“We’re not picking between those on the street and those in the government,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

What about the perception among Egyptian protesters that the U.S. government still appears to be backing Mubarak? “I do not think that those protesters would be assuaged by the notion that somebody in a series of buildings several thousand miles away have determined the extent to what that means for them. That is for the people of Egypt to decide and determine.”

What does the United States mean by an “orderly transition” then?

“I do believe orderly transition means change, and what we’ve advocated from the very beginning is that the way Egypt looks and operates must change,” Gibbs said.

Americans want Tea Party ideas in Republican brew – poll

Americans think Republicans should listen to their Tea Party colleagues, not ignore them.

In the aftermath of November elections that gave some Tea Party supported candidates seats in Congress, a Gallup poll finds that most Americans believe that Republicans should take into account Tea Party ideas when they tackle the problems facing the country. OBAMA-SPEECH/

The poll found that 71 percent of adults, and 88 percent of Republicans, say it is important that Republican leaders in Congress consider Tea Party movement ideas. The survey was conducted Jan. 14-16, more than a week before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 25.

Washington Extra – Job prospects

The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in 2010, the biggest GDP gain since 2005, but still too weak to make a big dent in the unemployment rate which ended the year at 9.4 percent.

EGYPT/USAEgyptian protesters again took to the streets seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak from the job he’s held for 30 years.

Rather than risk a fissure in messages, the White House held its press briefing, while the State Department canceled. In the strongest public message so far, the United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on the government’s response to the massive protests.

Obama misses walks, not leaving home without shaving

President Obama is staying neutral on the Super Bowl, dislikes the “bubble” of being president, and enjoyed (go figure) political science in college.

Those were some of the takeouts from the president’s roughly 45-minute interview Thursday on the Internet site YouTube, which posed questions to him from viewers across the country.

Asked what his favorite thing was about being president, Obama said having a positive impact on people’s lives took first place.

Washington Extra – Red light, green light

The White House seems to be in go-slow amber mode over the protests in Egypt – declaring President Hosni Mubarak an ally, but supporting free speech as the American way.

It’s much easier to take a stance when the government is not an ally, as happened with Iran’s crackdown on street protests in 2009 when President Barack Obama said firmly: “I strongly condemn these unjust actions.” USA/

Today, Obama was asked in a YouTube interview that took questions from the public about the protests in Egypt. His response: “Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues, they made peace with Israel, President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East, but I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the street.”

Washington Extra – Say cheese

Civility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and last night it meant watching lawmakers smile with their teeth but not their eyes.

The day after the State of the Union it has become clear that the forced Kumbaya moment is being shrugged off for a return to the comfort of political sniping. But no one expected that rearranging the deck chairs would lead to a lasting group hug. OBAMA/

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — the state President Barack Obama chose for his day-after trip to the heartland — said when Obama mentions investment he means “government spending and government control. And that is the definite wrong direction.”

Salmon ‘chanted evening?

SALMONThe one word that leaped out of President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress wasn’t “optimism,” “business,” “teachers,” “economy” or “budget.”

To those who listened to the speech on National Public Radio, the memorable term was “salmon,” writ large in a word cloud NPR compiled from its listeners after Obama finished.

That kind of makes sense. Without the Punch-and-Judy theater of Republicans and Democrats popping up from their seats to cheer or boo, as they customarily do when they’re seated on opposing sides of the room for a presidential address, it was up to the Commander in Chief to deliver some chuckle-worthy lines.

from Ask...:

How would you grade Obama’s State of the Union speech?

OBAMA-SPEECHPresident Barack Obama proposed a five-year freeze on some government spending and struck a centrist tone in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, hoping to prove he has fiscal discipline and can work with resurgent Republicans.

Obama also said that voters want Democrats and Republicans to govern with "shared responsibility". He offered a raft of proposals that some of his opponents might find appealing as he positions himself for a 2012 re-election bid, but stopped short of the massive spending cuts demanded by some Republicans.

He called for a job-creating "Sputnik moment" fed by new investments in research and education like the 1950s space race, saying what is at stake is "whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else."  In a nod to business, Obama also called for lowering the corporate tax rate.

Obama’s SOTU speech as a word cloud

Below is a word cloud generated from President Barack Obama’s prepared State of the Union speech:
obamanewcloud

State of the Union liveblog

Watch here for the State of the Union liveblog.