Tales from the Trail

Blagojevich trial to begin in June

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s trial will begin in June, which gives fellow Democrats reason to squirm before the mid-term elections. BLAGOJEVICH/

The judge in Blagojevich’s corruption case turned down the defense’s request to delay the trial to November, which would have been after the November 2 election.

“I think there has been adequate time” to prepare, Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said.

Defense lawyers had argued a pending Supreme Court ruling on the “honest services” law, expected in June, would have a bearing on trial strategy. They also complained of having to review a mountain of evidence.

“The evidence is going to be the same no matter what the law is,” Zagel said, in turning aside the defense motion that he labelled a “red herring.”

Are folks ‘for’ or ‘agin’ healthcare reform? Both, according to the partisan rhetoric

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Republicans say Americans don’t want the president’s healthcare reforms. Democrats beg to differ. What’s true? Depends how you figure, though as Mark Twain observed: figures don’t lie, but liars … well, you know.

Not that anyone would lie, of course. But opinion polls have been dumping figures aplenty into the debate in Congress, and the debaters have been eagerly using them to patch up their arguments’ foundations.

Take the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 46 percent want Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s plan; 45 percent don’t.

Millions of dollars shelled out in TV ad war over U.S. healthcare

A TV ad war is raging on healthcare legislation. And it’s costing millions of dollars on both sides. USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

The campaign-style messages target Democratic and Republican lawmakers who will decide the fate of the White House-backed measure, and are up for reelection in November.

“Pass health insurance reform now,” declared an ad by Health Care for America Now, a coalition of more than 1,100 groups — including labor, civil rights, children and women. The group announced it had begun airing the spot on Tuesday in selected congressional districts at a cost of $1.4 million.

Armey says “unreliable” Republicans are Tea Partiers’ only hope

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Dick Armey says the Tea Party movement is willing to back Republicans for office, but only if they agree to reform their sinful ways when it comes to fiscal dangers like the budget deficit and the federal debt.

In fact, he predicts that Tea Partiers and their conservative allies will be around for a long time to make sure Republicans who get into office avoid the perils of backsliding on the road to fiscal purity.

“If we’ve got any hope at all, we must put it, as unreliable as they are, with the Republicans and try to rehabilitate them, reform them … and manage their behavior,” the former House Republican majority leader told a National Press Club luncheon.

Company dispenses with lobbyists and launches bid for Congressional seat

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Murray Hill is running for Congress to rid Washington of lobbyists and weak-kneed politicians once and for all. And there may be no better candidate, for Murray Hill is not a frail human being but a company.

“Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves,” the public relations firm from Silver Spring, Maryland, says in a statement.

It’s referring to the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which has drawn a torrent of criticism from officials including President Barack Obama by treating corporations as human beings when it comes to the constitutional guarantee of free speech. Critics claim the decision will unleash a new flood of corporate money into U.S. election campaigns, including money from foreign companies.

Massa waning as news fodder but may rise again to plague Democrats

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Eric Massa may soon vanish from the 24-7 news cycle. But the martyred Democrat, who says he fell from grace beneath the naked power of Satan’s spawn, could reappear some day soon as a burr under the saddles of his former congressional colleagues.

Republicans would like Massa to do for them what Mark Foley did for Democrats four years ago: provide a scourge with which to flail the other guy in a mid-term election year.

Foley, a Republican, resigned from Congress in September 2006 amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit emails and instant messages to male congressional pages. As such, he was among the denizens of that swamp of Republican corruption that Nancy Pelosi vowed to drain just before Democrats took control of Congress and gave her the speaker’s gavel.

Prospects for healthcare up, insurance stocks down

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It may be a gamble, but at least one tell says that President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress may win the big bet they have made to push healthcare reform legislation over the finish line, despite public doubts and Republican opposition.

Just look at the healthcare provider stocks.  Health insurer shares were lower on Thursday in afternoon trading after the White House announced Obama would meet with several House Democrats in an apparent  bid to lock in votes.

“It looks like he’s really getting involved at the very micro level, and I think that probably shows the administration is really going to put everything on the line for this initiative,”  Morningstar analyst Matthew Coffina told Reuters correspondent  Lewis Krauskopf in New York.   ”They’re kind of going for broke at this point.”

McCain says he was misled, but not everyone agrees

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John McCain says he was misled by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson into supporting the Wall Street bailout.

“We were all misled,” the Arizona Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend.

Misled in what way?

With the economy showing every sign of burning to the ground, McCain says Paulson told Congress the Bush administration wanted to buy up toxic mortgages blamed for the conflagration. But he turned around and gave the money directly to Wall Street.

Republicans declare Healthcare Summit victory

USA-HEALTHCARE/A day after President Barack Obama’s nationally televised healthcare summit, Republicans are out declaring victory.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn said the summit was good for the American public. Good, that is, for the public to hear the Republican argument and see Obama lose his usual cool, particularly during the highly publicized exchange with his former presidential election adversary, Sen. John McCain.

“It was good for the American people see him kind of become a bit agitated,” the Tennessee Republican told MSNBC.  “There were a couple of times that maybe he did get a little bit frustrated, and that’s good for the American people to see.”

Younger Americans lean toward liberalism but Obama support lags

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Today’s young Americans are the most likely of any generation to identify themselves as liberals. But their political enthusiasm for President Barack Obama and the Democrats appears to be waning.

That’s one finding in a wide-ranging Pew Research Center poll of so-called “Millennials,” the 18 to 29 year olds now making the passage into adulthood.

Young voters overwhemlingly supported Obama in 2008 in hopes that he would change the way Washington works. But more than a year into the Obama presidency, their political enthusiasm has cooled with the realization that Washington is still the same. Three in 10 blame Obama for the failure, while more than half say the president’s opponents and special interests are responsible.