Tales from the Trail

White House Intrigue: Could Hillary Replace Joe?

OBAMA/Could Hillary replace Joe as Barack’s main squeeze in 2012? That’s the juicy bit of palace intrigue enlivening today’s U.S. political melodrama.

It started when author Bob Woodward told CNN that the idea of a Clinton-Biden switch was “on the table” — at least among some Clinton advisers. A switch would mean Hillary becoming President Obama’s vice presidential running mate and Joe taking up her State Department chores.

“President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries. And so they switch jobs,” explained the veteran journalist whose new book, “Obama’s Wars,”  offers an inside look at the administration. 

It may not be a bad idea given the latest Pew poll showing that Latinos are disillusioned with the political process. Only 51 percent of Latino registered voters are sure to get to the polls in the November midterm elections, according to Pew. That’s bad news for Democrats because Latinos favor them over Republicans by a margin of 65 percent to 22 percent.

But some who might welcome a Clinton-Biden switch could have more than the 2012 campaign in mind.
    
“The other interesting question is (that) Hillary Clinton could run in her own right in 2016 and be younger than Ronald Reagan when he was WATERGATEelected president,” Woodward added. For the record, Hillary would be 65. Ronnie was the oldest incoming president ever, at 69.

Biden’s F-bomb lesson: microphones are mighty sensitive

What were the lessons learned for Vice President Joe Biden on dropping the F-bomb on national television?

Number one: microphones are waaaayyyy more sensitive than you realize.

Number two: the boss has a keen sense of humor.

Number three: it’s still embarrassing. USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

Biden amid the giddiness of the passage of healthcare reform in March whispered into President Barack Obama’s ear “this is a big f—ing deal.” It was picked up by the microphone and became an online video sensation.

So when Biden was teased about it on ABC’s “The View,” he looked quite sheepish.

Poll suggests political consequences from U.S. healthcare deal

HEALTHCARE/OBAMAThink today’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts could be bad news for President Obama? Then consider what pollsters are saying now about the healthcare reform debate’s potential effect on the November congressional elections.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows little overall movement in public sentiment since August — only 44 percent of Americans favor healthcare reform vs. 51 percent who oppose it.

But findings also show popular support for reform losing some of its cohesion. As recently as November, 30 percent of USA/HEALTHCARE/POLITICSAmericans “strongly” backed proposed changes. But people in that category now account for only 22 percent. That compares with 39 percent who are strongly opposed.

Obama admits security “screw up,” but some wonder who’ll pay

President Barack Obama may have hoped to limit the political fallout from last month’s attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by admitting there was a “screw up.” Will firings follow? Some think Obama’s unusually sharp rhetoric raises the odds that heads will roll.

One such observer is U.S. Rep. Peter King, an influential New York Republican.
SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA
“If the situation is as bad as the president says it was, as far as so many dots not being connected, so many obvious mistakes being made … I would think once the president set that stage, that to show that he’s serious, someone will have to go now,” King told ABC’s Good Morning America.

But the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee says he can’t tell which official should pay because the Obama administration hasn’t let Congress know who did (or didn’t) do what, when.

The First Draft: White House takes a lonely road to openness on Crasher-gate

President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, feels the White House doesn’t need Congress to help it maintain openness on the Crasher-gate scandal. That’s why it’s chosen to eschew the limelight of a Capitol Hill hearing today. USA/

“We think we’ve really answered the questions fully,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America, while making the TV rounds to defend a White House decision not to send its social secretary to explain how a Virginia couple got into last week’s state dinner without an invitation.

“Having a full review up on the (White House) Web site, where everyone in the country — anyone who goes on our Web site — can read it, is the definition of transparency.”

The First Draft: Afghanistan inspires Freudian slips about that other battlefield – Iraq

President Barack Obama may have invoked Vietnam to banish that ugly specter of defeat from his shiny new Afghan strategy. But a day later, Iraq seems to be the wartime nightmare dogging two congressional veterans of the Bush wars.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was a Democratic senator from Delaware during Rummy’s “Shock and Awe” bombardment of Baghdad, let the musings of his unconscious psyche slip out Freudian style in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.

While refuting worries among critics that the Afghan strategy’s 18-month timeline might embolden the Taliban, Biden said: “How are they emboldened knowing that by the time we train up the Afghanis, we’re going to be gradually handing off beginning in 2003?”

The First Draft: White House “gate crashers” to tell their own story

She’s blond and beautiful. He’s debonair. Together, with irresistible charm and a voracious appetite for self-promotion, they penetrated White House security to attend this week’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and got close enough to kiss Vice President Joe Biden.

That’s the current media image of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who could be the world’s most celebrated gate crashers since the British comedian who attended Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle in 2003 while dressed as Osama bin Laden in drag. OBAMA-DINNER/SECURITY
    
But is there more to the story?
    
The Salahis’ lawyer, Paul Gardner, suggests there is. “My clients were cleared, by the White House, to be there. More information is forthcoming,” he says in a statement published by the Washington Post.
    
The now-famous couple also plans to appear Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live.
    
Paul Wharton, a friend of the Salahis, tells ABC’s Good Morning America that the couple has had lots of contact lately with Indian officials and has spent a fair amount of time in India. Could that explain why they were at a dinner honoring the Indian PM? 
         
News accounts cast the Salahis as determined publicity seekers who posted their wedding on YouTube and boast an online photo gallery of themselves with loads of celebrities including Britain’s Prince Charles.
    
Michaele, a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, is being considered for cable TV channel Bravo‘s upcoming reality series, The Real Housewives of Washington. In fact, the Post reports that she spent seven hours at a posh salon, TV production crew in tow, getting ready for the big night.
    
The camera crew followed Michaele and Tareq to the White House but couldn’t get in. The Salahis did and wound up being snapped for photos with Biden and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. USA-GERMANY/
    
The Secret Service, which is charged with protecting President Barack Obama and other high-level officials, says the Salahis were not invited to the dinner. The agency is conducting a comprehensive review to get to the bottom of one of the most embarrassing security breaches in the history of White House dinners.
    
It’s not clear what could happen to the Salahis if they really did crash the party. But another friend of the couple, Casey Margenau, doesn’t sound too worried. “Whatever they do, they’ll land on their feet,” he tells ABC. “Promotion and parties are part of their life.”

Photo credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Michaele and Tareq Salahi); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Biden)

The First Draft: Palin for President?

Is she running for president? Seeking a coffee summit with Hillary Clinton? Or just selling her book?

The only clear answer about Sarah Palin’s intentions is that the questions are drawing lots and lots of U.S. media attention. 
PALIN/  
This week, the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor is on the cover of Newsweek magazine. She’s also going on-air for separate interviews with TV’s Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters of ABC News.
    
It’s all about promoting her new memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” which goes on sale Tuesday. But the notion that she also might be testing the waters for a 2012 presidential run is what’s drawing the serious attention.
    
Supporters liken her to a populist 21st century Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. But not all the coverage is as she’d like it. OBAMA/
    
Newsweek, which pictures her on its cover as an attractive young woman in running shorts, scoffs at the idea of a Palin 2012 presidential campaign.
    
“Her brand of take-no-prisoners partisanship is not good for the Republicans in the long run and not good for the country,” Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham told MSNBC.
    
“When you have a kind of ‘death panel’ ideology, where you make pronouncements that are factually untenable and tend to inflame the conversation … that’s not good for governance.”
 
She got a warmer reception from another woman of the campaign trail, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom Palin thinks she might like to meet over coffee.
 
“I absolutely would look forward to having coffee. I’ve never met her. And I think it would be, you know, very interesting to sit down and talk with her,” Clinton, now U.S. secretary of state, said over the weekend. USA-GERMANY/
    
But the last word is likely to be Palin’s. Her book promotion is expected to draw huge crowds across the country. And while a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of Americans don’t think she’s qualified to be president, a similar percentage of Republicans say she is.
  

Photo Credits: Reuters/Nathaniel Wilder (Palin); Reuters/Jason Reed (White House); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Clinton)