Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Obama’s China cloud

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event in Chantilly, Virginia earlier this week on May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Benjamin Myers

A bright spot of Barack Obama’s presidency – foreign policy – all of a sudden was taking some hits as the White House struggled to deal with a crisis involving a Chinese dissident. 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney blasted away at Obama, talking of a “day of shame for the Obama administration.” Charges – vigorously denied by the White House – swirled that Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng may have been persuaded to leave his protective shelter at the U.S. embassy in Beijing so that high-level U.S.-China talks could go more smoothly. Another scenario being floated was that Obama’s team naively accepted Chinese assurances that Chen would not face government harassment if he rejoined his family at home.

The drama only escalated when Chen himself made an appeal, by telephone to a congressional panel, to come to the U.S.

Obama’s bid for re-election on Nov. 6 is thought to hinge on matters far from China: mainly whether he can convince voters that he is best suited to improve a U.S. economy that has been slow to add jobs in the aftermath of a deep recession. And that’s where Romney and his fellow Republicans are sure to keep most of their focus between now and November.

Washington Extra – ‘Wild ride’ ends

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (L) and his wife, Callista walk together after he suspended his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in Arlington, Virginia, May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The sharpest debater in the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates exited the race touting a hodgepodge of initiatives that made his failed race so colorful. 

“Suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship,” Newt Gingrich warned in his long-awaited announcement that he was quitting. He then ticked off the vision of America he will continue to pursue as a private citizen:

Watch live: Gingrich officially bows out

Gingrich is expected to officially suspend his campaign with a speech at the Arlington Hilton hotel in Washington at 3pm ET.

Watch live:

Washington Extra – An anniversary observed

Troops at Bagram Air Base listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak during his visit to Kabul, May 2, 2012. Earlier, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement at the Presidential Palace. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

One year ago, President Barack Obama was secretly holed up in the White House Situation Room monitoring what turned out to be the successful U.S. military operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

A year later, he spent the day on another secret mission: flying aboard Air Force One to Afghanistan, the country from which bin Laden hatched his Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

New Obama ad goes after Romney on outsourcing


The Obama reelection team is out with a new ad today defending itself against allegations, advanced last week in an ad from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, that billions of stimulus dollars meant to create “green energy” jobs in the U.S. had been spent instead on creating jobs abroad.

“Obama’s clean energy initiatives have helped create jobs for projects across America, not overseas,” the new ad insists, citing fact checks at Politifact and the Washington Post and suggesting that “Big Oil” was the force behind the AFP attack. The video, which will air in Ohio, Virginia, and Iowa, also alleges that Mitt Romney has outsourced jobs in the past, first as a CEO and then as governor of Massachusetts, and now supports tax breaks for companies that do the same. “It’s just what you’d expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account,” the ad’s narrator says.

The Romney campaign called the ad “desperate”: “President Obama is trying to distract Americans from the real issues with a series of sideshows,” Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg said. “Unable to defend his failed record of 23 million Americans struggling for work, wasteful boondoggles like Solyndra, skyrocketing national debt, and unacceptably high energy prices, President Obama has once again resorted to attacking Mitt Romney.”

Romney says Obama “is focused on taking away from those that have the least”

At a campaign stop today in Portsmouth, NH, Mitt Romney portrayed President Obama as a foe — and himself a champion — of the poor, noting the “greater and greater gap between those that have the most and those that have the least” and accusing President Obama of being “focused on taking away from those that have the least.”

“I want to help everybody, particularly those that are being left behind,” said Romney, who memorably told CNN he’s “not concerned about the very poor” in February. “I want to help the poor. I want to help the middle class get the kinds of jobs that raise their income. Let’s focus on helping the people who need the help the most.”

With Senator Kelly Ayotte — whom Romney has said is on his short list of potential running mates — at his side, Romney told the audience the president was “trying to divert” attention away from the economy “with all the silliness day in and day out.”

Obama campaign reveals new slogan: “Forward”

Team Obama today introduced a new, one-word campaign slogan, “Forward,” in a seven-minute web video of the same name that lays out a case for the president’s reelection.

The ad suggests Obama fell heir to, in Alan Greenspan’s words, a “once in a half-century, probably in a century” economic crisis, but argues that things are improving: the stimulus “saved up to 4.2 million jobs” and the auto bailout another 1.1 million; manufacturing has seen its first increase in jobs “in a decade”; between March 2010 and March 2012, 4.1 million jobs were created in the private-sector. The president “took on” credit card companies and “the Wall Street banks,” the ad says, passing reforms to stop “unfair fees and hidden penalties” and ensure financial institutions “never again wreck our economy.”

The video also hits on Obama’s healthcare reforms — now, the narrator says, “insurance companies can’t deny children coverage for preexisting conditions [and] seniors pay less for prescriptions” — and claims wins, despite what the ad portrays as an obstructionist Republican opposition, in middle class tax cuts, wind and solar power, equal pay for women, the eradication of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” foreign policy, small business tax cuts, spending cuts, reproductive rights, stem cell research, fuel efficiency standards, domestic oil and natural gas production, science funding, and more.

New Obama ad suggests Romney wouldn’t have gone after bin Laden

In advance of the May Day anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s assassination, the Obama reelection campaign is out with a new web ad, this one narrated by Bill Clinton who, echoing the words of another former president, praises Obama as “decider in chief.” The bin Laden operation was risky for Obama, Clinton says — if the intelligence was wrong or if the Navy Seals were captured or killed, “the downside would have been horrible” — but “that’s what you hire a president to do. You hire a president to make the calls when no one else can do it.”

The ad contrasts Obama’s action with speculation about whether Romney would have done the same, citing comments he made during the ’08 campaign suggesting it wouldn’t be worth it to spend “billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”

Watch the ad, via barackobama.com:

Photo credit: Screenshot/barackobama.com

Washington Extra – Kids, cover your ears

It’s true, you learn much more out in the real world than you do in school. Just look at the kids who today attended the State Department press briefing for Take Your Child to Work Day. Instead of lessons in nation-building or food aid, they were treated to a discussion of prostitutes and strip clubs. 

With Washington gripped by a widening Secret Service scandal, reporters just couldn’t steer clear of the salacious story. Soon after spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saluted the handful of underage observers, the questions moved to charges that Secret Service agents and other government workers cavorted with strippers and prostitutes while on overseas assignments. Nuland lamented the topic du jour and one Department employee jokingly moved to cover his daughter’s ears.

The roughly half-dozen kids were models of decorum. There they sat, on the sidelines of the briefing room, staring down at the floor. None asked a question. But they might have been thinking “Mom, Dad, when we get home tonight, you’ll have some explaining to do.”

Romney looks to give Bernanke the boot

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke attends the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) meeting during the spring IMF-World Bank meetings in Washington April 21, 2012.

“I’d be looking for somebody new.”

Those words from the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney may give Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke some pause – or at least thinking about some other job prospects if the GOP frontrunner wins the Nov. 6 election.

As we report,  Romney, a former business executive who’s made the economy the cornerstone of his campaign, has made it clear that if he wins the White House he will try to replace Bernanke. The Fed chief’s term ends in January 2014 – a year after the next president takes office. Although Bernanke was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush, Democratic President Barack Obama give him second term in 2009.