Tales from the Trail

Rahm’s White House going away present – dead fish wrapped in newspaper

What do you get a guy who’s leaving the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago?

White House colleagues presented Rahm Emanuel with a dead Asian carp wrapped in Chicago newspapers at the morning meeting on his last day. fish

It was a symbol of two of the many political battles fought by the man who became President Barack Obama’s chief of staff — he once sent a dead fish to a pollster as a message of displeasure, and the other was his fight against the Asian carp threatening to invade the Great Lakes.

Our White House correspondent Steve Holland tells us that Austan Goolsbee gave it to Rahm at a senior staff meeting, saying, “I talked to the policy team and we wanted to give you a going away present—something to show how we feel about you but also shows we understand your new possibilities.  I was the natural go between—I voted for you all three times you ran for Congress and even in that first primary.  So here is your present.”

Emanuel opened it and said, “this is a dead fish!” And Goolsbee said, “to most people, it looks like a dead fish.  But to a future mayor of Chicago, it looks like a dead Asian Carp.  And you’ll be happy to know that it wasn’t easy to find one of these.”

from Summit Notebook:

Lady Gaga may not be the only one singing a new tune in November

The 2010 Reuters Washington Summit included 4 days of on-the-record interviews with policymakers, congressmen and Obama Administration officials here in the DC bureau. The interviews covered a wide range of topics…from the impact of the mid-term elections to the importance of the Lady Gaga vote.

With less than six weeks to go before the mid-term elections the focus was on what a potential shift in power to a Republican-controlled Congress could mean for policy priorities in the coming year. We heard from Senators’ McCain, Dodd, Gregg and Bingaman. On the House side we spoke with the man responsible for getting Democrats elected…Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He called this election season a “tough and challenging environment,’ but predicted Democrats would retain control of the House.

From the Obama Administration, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened his comments by admitting that early on the administration did not have a “real understanding of the depth of what we were in.” News of Larry Summers’ departure as White House advisor came on the eve of our interview with a man who has worked with Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee said he expected that Mr. Summers’ replacement wouldn’t be part of “a dramatic change in direction.” On the economy, Goolsbee noted that he does not see a double dip on the horizon and that “pulling back on current spending programs could spook the markets.”

from Summit Notebook:

No time for fun for White House officials

WASHINGTON-SUMMIT/While senators like Lamar Alexander have time to play classical piano with the symphony or attend sporting events, some people in Washington don't have as much time for fun or relaxation.

Take Austan Goolsbee, the new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who until recently worked as a member of the council and a long-time economic adviser to Obama.

Goolsbee used to compete in triathlons. Now he jokes that he is so out of shape he can hardly make it up the stairs without losing his breath.

Washington Extra – The finer things in life

lamarIf I come back in my next life as an American, I am thinking that a career in the Senate might be a better way to go than in the administration or the military. Whatever you think of their political views, the senators who have visited our offices for the Washington Summit this week have not just been charming and interesting to talk to, they also seem to have time for the finer things in life. Take Senator Lamar Alexander, who not only has the time to watch Tennessee football pretty regularly, but also likes to play classical piano and has a date on center stage with the Jackson Symphony at the end of next month. “I try to keep a balanced life,” he said.

gibbsNo such luck for hard-pressed administration types, working at a pace that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “is and has been grueling for a long period of time,” especially if you take two years of campaigning into account. Take Austan Goolsbee, who used to compete in the triathlon, but now has no time to train and jokes he is so out of shape he can’t walk up the stairs without gasping for breath. Or General David Petraeus, who is already at work by 5:30 in the morning, and when he goes to bed around 10 or 11 at night, only manages a couple of pages in whatever book he is reading “before it falls on the floor.”

That grueling pace is one reason, Gibbs argued, why many members of Obama’s economic team and political inner circle are on their way out, to spend a bit more time “with their family and their friends.” It is not, as Goolsbee insisted, an acknowledgment that the administration has made mistakes, or that it needs to change direction.

Obama to push message on economy, hold news conference

Washington pundits questioned President Barack Obama’s decision to devote so much time this week to foreign policy with his Iraq speech on Tuesday and his foray on Wednesday into Middle East peacemaking at a time when Americans are preoccupied with the economy.

But Obama’s message next week seems like it will be heavily focused on jobs and the economy. He will mark Labor Day with a “Laborfest” event on Monday in Milwaukee and travel to Cleveland on Wednesday for an event on the economy. USA/

On Friday, he will hold a news conference at the White House.

Could next week bring a decision on how he will fill two key jobs — chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and the head of the new U.S. consumer agency?

White House adviser nods to bubble risk in China

He was probably only trying to be funny. But White House economist Austan Goolsbee touched a raw nerve by inferring Chinese investors currently exhibit the same kind of bubble mentality that Americans displayed prior to the collapse of the U.S. technology stock bubble in 2000.stocks

Goolsbee, chief economist to Obama’s Economic Recovery and Advisory Board, was asked if poll findings that 72 percent of Chinese would invest money in technology stocks, versus 60 percent of Americans who would put it in a bank, meant the United States had lost its nerve on taking risk.

“We are in a deep recession. It is clear that that has scared people,” Goolsbee told a panel at a conference on innovation and the economy sponsored by Intel Corp. and the Aspen Institute.

Goolsbee: economist by day, comedian by night

USA-POLITICS/OBAMAFunny guy emerges from the dismal science.

Austan Goolsbee, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, proved last night that economists can dish as good as they get.

He turned the tables on the image of the economist as a numbers nerd usually on the receiving end of jokes, by winning the 16th annual “D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity” contest.

The video of his winning routine at the Washington D.C. Improv posted on Politico.com can be seen below.

First Draft: toxic central

It’s all about toxic assets today.

The Obama administration has come up with a plan to deal with those loans that are so underwater you need a deep-sea diving outfit to find them (kind of like my NCAA bracket, but that’s another sad story).

OBAMA/The plan is for the government to partner with the private sector — including hedge funds (remember their role in bringing the markets down?) — and provide an antidote for the  toxicity of the bad loans.

Christina Romer, a White House economic adviser, in her explanation of the program managed to mix a sports metaphor with a coin toss (again we’re back to the NCAA bracket).