Tales from the Trail

Iranian leader’s plane shares tarmac with Air Force One

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport after a visit to Latin American countries January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 – As President Barack Obama and passengers on Air Force One left for campaign events in Ohio on Wednesday, there was an unusual sight spotted from the presidential aircraft: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plane.

At Joint Base Andrews, which houses the U.S. president’s jet, reporters traveling with Obama spotted a plane marked “Iran Air” parked on the tarmac.

The 89th Airlift Wing, which oversees the runway at Andrews, confirmed the Boeing 747 was indeed Ahmadinejad’s plane, which was used for this week’s United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York before parking at the U.S. military base.

“It is something we afford all heads of state,” said Major Michelle Lai, a spokeswoman for the 89th Airlift Wing. “It’s a courtesy that allows them a place to put their aircraft and provides a little bit of extra security,” she added.

Gingrich camp heads off ex-wife interview

The Gingrich campaign launched a preemptive strike  as news spread that ABC plans to broadcast a potentially damaging interview with Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife  on  Thursday –  just two days before Saturday’s crucial South Carolina primary.

Gingrich’s daughters (from his first marriage) Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman came to their father’s defense in a letter released by his presidential campaign.

“The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events,” the daughters said in the letter addressed to ABC News Leadership.

Washington Extra – The Keystone cudgel

President Obama had until the end of February to make a decision on the Keystone oil sands pipeline, but he made his move today. And, predictably, he rejected the $7 billion project. That keeps him in good standing with his environmental base for November 2012 but creates new tensions with his Republican foes.

Republicans had forced Obama to make a decision in 60 days as part of the deal for the two-month payroll tax cut extension. House Speaker John Boehner quickly reacted to the rejection by saying “all options are on the table” to craft a bill to fight for the pipeline.

But Boehner may not have many options. If the Republicans push for a bill to get approval for Keystone, the president can veto it. If they choose to make it a bargaining chip in talks for a full-year extension of the payroll tax cuts, they will likely meet fierce resistance from Democrats. We are hearing Boehner just wants to seal the payroll tax cut extension and move on after his painful capitulation in the December deal.

Washington Extra – A man and his dog

Here’s a modern-day twist on Harry Truman’s quip “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” If you, the president, have called John Boehner and urged him to compromise on extending the payroll tax deal by two months, then all that’s left to do is go out Christmas shopping with your dog.

That’s what President Obama did today, taking Bo, the only family member who hasn’t gone to Hawaii, to a pet store in a Virginia strip mall.

Bo made friends with a brown poodle named Cinnamon, prompting a warning from his master “Okay, Bo, don’t get too personal here.” Aw, Mr President, let the First Dog enjoy his time out in the real world.

Washington Extra – Black box

For the past week or so, we’ve watched Democrats and Republicans playing chess on the payroll tax cuts, trying to outmaneuver each other and gain the upper hand in this final bitter budget battle of 2011. Today, it looks like the match moved off the chessboard and into the unknown.

In this vacuum, people are struggling to know what happens next. Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management in Toronto, told us his confidence that the tax cut will be extended in 2012 “is beginning to waver.”

“As usual,” he added, “the political process is such a black box it’s hard to credibly put odds on this.”

Obama says Washington vitriol is still a solvable problem

President Barack Obama thinks Washington’s political climate of vitriolic partisanship could start to wane over the next few years. Republicans just have to calm down, and Democrats have to stop playing the same silly political games as their opponents.

“A party that’s out of power, often times in those first few years of being out of power and reacting very negatively, their base ends up being very agitated. And it may take the next election or the next presidential election before things settle down,” the president told NBC’s Today show.

One problem is the media, and not just the mainstream media with its 24/7 news cycle but the cable-TV and radio talk shows, the Internet and the blogosphere — “all of which tend to try to feed the most extreme sides of any issue instead of trying to narrow differences and solve problems.”

Younger Americans lean toward liberalism but Obama support lags

USA/

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.