Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Assessing the first six months

It won’t be a conversation over beer in the Rose Garden, but today President Barack Obama USA-OBAMA/gathers his Cabinet together across the street at Blair House to talk about the first six months of their term.

With public opinion polls showing support for Obama and for his main legislative priority — healthcare reform — waning, the president retreats with his Cabinet this weekend to talk things over.

Six months ago Obama and his family lived at Blair House for a couple of days before he was inaugurated as the 44th president.

The mood might be different today. Maybe the president and his deputies will be trying to figure out a better way to sell the healthcare overhaul to Americans. Obama has been making nearly daily appearances over the past few weeks in campaign-style events, interviews and statements, opinion polls show Americans are afraid healthcare change will hurt them.

The gathering of the Cabinet takes place as lawmakers prepare for their month-long August recess, without reaching a deal on healthcare reform.

Obama wants YOU … to buy a car

AUTOS-OBAMA/President Barack Obama is now America’s car salesman.

Obama made his sales pitch on Monday as he laid out White House plans for restructuring the struggling auto giants General Motors and Chrysler. Buy a car, he said, and you might qualify for a tax deduction.

“The IRS is launching a campaign to alert consumers of a new tax benefit for auto purchases made between February 16th and the end of this year — if you buy a car anytime this year, you may be able to deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes. And this provision could save families hundreds of dollars and lead to as many as 100,000 new car sales,” Obama said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs followed up on this theme a bit at his daily briefing saying Obama “absolutely” would prefer for Americans to buy U.S.-made cars.

The First Draft: Tuesday, Dec 2

Today’s the deadline for the Big Three auto makers to present their recovery plan proposals to Congress in order to get a $25 billion bailout.

All eyes will be on Capitol Hill to see the reaction of top lawmakers after the plans are in place. GM, Ford and Chrysler hope to convince lawmakers to approve the $25 billion in low-cost loans to help them survive the current downturn.  The deadline comes as auto companies are due to release their November sales figures, which are expected to be low.

We all knew the economy had been in a slump, but stocks tumbled around the world after confirmation that the United States had entered recession in December 2007. The confirmation by the U.S. arbiter of recession plus a warning from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke triggered a sell-off on Wall Street which in turn sparked a domino-effect around the world.

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 1

With the images of death and destruction in Mumbai last week fresh in everyone’s minds, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is set on Monday to name his national security team
 
At a 10:40 EST (1540 GMT) news conference in Chicago, Obama is expected to name former rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state and nominate Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in that role. In addition he is expected to name Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, Eric Holder as attorney general and adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations.
    
After a series of three straight news conferences last week focused on the ailing U.S. economy, Obama will switch gears today as he will likely face questions about India and Pakistan and his proposed policies toward the two nuclear-armed nations.     
    
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to India on Wednesday. She has been in contact with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in recent days to ease tensions between the states.

    
Indian investigators said the militants who attacked Mumbai underwent months of commando training in Pakistan, raising tensions between the neighboring nations as recriminations mounted in India. 

In an interview with the Financial Times , Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to India not to punish his country for the Mumbai attacks, saying militants have the power to precipitate a war in the region.
    
In economic news back home, stocks appeared set to fall after poor manufacturing figures from China and a raft of economic data expected in the U.S. this week.

Shocker: Fat cat CEOs fly on private jets!

Congress is taking a hard look at Detroit’s autos these days. But what about Detroit’s jets?

When the chief executives of Ford and General Motors flew in to Washington yesterday to ask Congress for a $25 billion lifeline, they didn’t fly coach.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner arrived on his company’s cushy Gulfstream IV, ABC News reported. Ford CEO Alan Mulally flew in on a private company jet as well.