Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Major breach

pentagonIn this post-9/11, ultra-high security era, it is hard to believe that the bomb-proofing specs of a new Defense Department building in the DC area would be on public view. Then again, the Internet is a tough beast to manage.

Reuters reporters Mark Hosenball and Missy Ryan discovered the sensitive information about Mark Center — where 6,400 Defense Department personnel are scheduled to move later this year — on a public website maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Out of concern for the security of personnel who will work there, Reuters is not disclosing most of the details in the 424-page document stamped “For Official Use Only.”

But Hosenball and Ryan found an alarming detail on Mark Center: It is designed to resist threats posed by vehicle bombs detonated outside the building’s security perimeter carrying the equivalent of 220 pounds of TNT. That is far less than the amount of explosive used in the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center and 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City.

A Corps spokesman said the public posting was a mistake and that the government was working to take it down. But he acknowledged that it might have been sitting there since the document’s date -2009. Little comfort to 6,400 employees.

Obama doesn’t drive, but he feels your pain at the pump

President Barack Obama says he sympathizes with the frustration over high gas prices — even though it’s been a while since he’s had to fill a tank.

“I’ll admit to you, it’s been a while since I … filled up at the pump,” Obama joked during a townhall-style event. “Secret Service doesn’t let me get out, and they don’t let me drive anymore.” USA

The event at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale was part of Obama’s ongoing effort to sell the deficit-reduction plan he introduced last week and gear up for a 2012 re-election campaign.

White House shrugs off Obama comments caught on open microphone

The White House is shrugging off candid comments by President Barack Obama about private budget talks with Republicans. The next day’s message is — no big deal.

OBAMA/Obama was speaking to supporters at a political fund-raiser in Chicago after reporters left the room. But a microphone was accidentally left on and the comments were piped back to the White House press room and recorded by CBS News and ABC News.

Obama said he told House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that they should not try to “sneak” through a provision on Planned Parenthood. “‘You guys want to have this debate? We’re happy to have that debate. We will have the debate on the floor of the Senate or the floor of the House. Put it in a separate bill. We’ll call it up. And if you think you can overturn my veto, try it,’” he said.

Obama on conspiracy theories, birth certificates

obama_lightsPresident Barack Obama says most Americans are confident that he is American-born and bred and says the “birther” issue could be a problem for Republican challengers in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama addressed the persistent questions about his place of birth when he was invited, during an ABC News interview, to size up his potential opponents.

He was also asked his thoughts on Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican field on “fantasies” about the president’s background.

Obama and spokesman have equal “vision” on deficit reduction

President Barack Obama and his spokesman obviously see eye-to-eye.

But it was a bit surprising to what degree. White House spokesman Jay Carney during his daily press briefing yesterday used the word “vision” 15 times. Guess how many times President Barack Obama said “vision” during his speech today? 15.

(Is that Twilight Zone music we hear in the background or perhaps Synchronicity?)

Vice President Joe Biden looked like he may have needed some loud music during Obama’s speech. Intense speculation about whether he nodded off or was simply listening intently with his eyes closed.

Obama vs Ryan: how the deficit plans compare

A combination photo shows House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) taking a question at a news conference held to unveil the House Republican budget blueprint in the Capitol in Washington April 5, 2011 and President Barack Obama delivering a speech on U.S. fiscal and budgetary deficit policy at the George Washington University in Washington, April 13, 2011.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama set a goal of reducing the U.S. deficit by $4 trillion within 12 years or less, in a speech outlining his plan to tackle the country’s massive debt problem. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has laid out a dramatically different vision of a future debt-free America. Here’s a snapshot of how they compare. Add your views in the comments.

DEFICIT REDUCTION
Obama believes a goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years or less is achievable, and projects that it will reduce deficits as a share of the U.S. economy to about 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015, and put deficits on a path toward close to 2.0 percent of GDP toward the end of the decade.

Ryan’s 2012 budget reduces deficits over the next decade by $4.4 trillion, calls for $5.8 trillion in spending cuts and also calls for lower tax rates for businesses and individuals.

Washington Extra – A vision

One thing clear about President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech on reducing the long-term deficit is that the White House believes it will be a vision to behold. USA/

“The president will lay out a vision and that vision will be clear,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. But he refused to provide details and said to stay tuned.

Will there be numbers? Is it a plan? White House correspondents asked seeking clarity.

Washington Extra – Mistakes were made

Anyone in public office for more than a nanosecond is likely to have words and deeds come back to haunt them. New political realities sometimes demand a new world view 180 degrees from the old one. And then comes the explanation.

President Barack Obama, who is urging Congress to raise the debt ceiling, is finding his 2006 Senate vote against raising the debt limit when George W. Bush was president has come back to bite him. OBAMA/

The White House has decided to confront the discrepancy head-on.

Asked about the five-year-old vote, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president “now believes it was a mistake.”

Obama has budget deal “bonus” for Colorado schoolkids; Boehner bashes Democrats at fund-raiser

OBAMA/

President Barack Obama is getting into a habit of surprising tourists. Over the weekend it was a trip to the Lincoln Memorial, and on Monday he turned up to surprise a group of school children at the White House.

“Not only did things work out, but we figured we’d give you a little bonus,” Obama told the 50 students from Altona Middle School in Colorado. Then he posed for pictures with them and answered a few questions behind the White House. (One of his favorite things about being president is that he has no commute because his office is right next to his house).

The mother of one of the students, Shalini Schane, wrote a letter to Obama on April 6 begging him to find some agreement to keep the government open so that her son could make a class trip to Washington for which his class had been raising money all year.

Obama family trip cancelled over budget deadlock

Add another victim to a looming federal government shutdown – a surprise Obama family outing to Williamsburg in Virginia, which was  postponed on Friday after budget negotiations failed to break their deadlock.

OBAMA/The weekend get-away to the historically preserved 18th century colonial town had been kept under wraps, but was almost immediately in doubt after word of the trip trickled out.

Republicans and Democrats made little headway in budget talks, despite successive summons to the White House by President Barack Obama to move things along, and by Friday afternoon a shutdown looked increasingly unavoidable.