Tales from the Trail

Testing their partnership, Obama and Australia’s Gillard disagree on…vegemite

They may be the strongest of allies, but U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard disagree on at least one thing: the culinary strengths and weaknesses of Vegemite.

The president, it turns out, is not a fan.obama_aussie

“It’s horrible,” Obama told a class of high school students on Monday after one asked the visiting Australian leader what the substance really was.

Gillard acknowledged the conflict.

“This is also a little bit of a division between the President and I.  I love Vegemite,” she told the student.

“It’s actually a byproduct of making beer, apparently.  That’s how the story goes.  It’s a yeast paste.  I’m making this sound really good, aren’t I?”

Obama, trying to get the kids on his side, made clear he wasn’t convinced.

“So it’s like a quasi-vegetable-byproduct paste that you smear on your toast for breakfast.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?” he said to laughter.

Washington Extra – 9 below

Don’t underestimate the PoliPsych impact of the unemployment rate falling below 9 percent for the first time in nearly two years.

That number is the one which resonates with the public when candidates talk about jobs on the campaign trail. USA-ECONOMY/JOBS

The economy is still shaking off the doldrums so the White House did not want to be seen as publicly reveling in what must have been a privately gleeful moment after the 8.9 percent February unemployment rate was revealed.

Washington Extra – Trying it out

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… oh wait… sorry, just some trial balloons floating around…

President Barack Obama took a harsh tone on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at today’s news conference.  USA/

The way he repeatedly emphasized “COLONEL” was an effective reminder that Gaddafi was not an elected leader like a president, but rather a military man who took power through a coup.

Obama, lawmakers may lose own paychecks in government shutdown

President Barack Obama and members of Congress may soon have added incentive to reach a budget deal and avert a possible government shutdown: their own six-figure salaries.

OBAMA-SPEECH/The Democratic-led Senate unanimously passed a bill on late Tuesday to deny pay to the president and U.S. lawmakers during government shutdowns. The measure now goes to the Republican-led House for final congressional approval, which would clear the way for Obama to sign it into law.

“If we fail to keep the government operating, which is our basic responsibility, then we don’t deserve a paycheck,” said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a chief sponsor of the bill.

Washington Extra – Two weeks

Perhaps the fifth time will be the charm. (Don’t hold your breath).

OBAMA-SPEECH/Looks like legislation to keep the government funded for another two weeks is heading for approval. “I think we’ll have a vote on that in the next 48 hours,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

But then what?

This would be the fifth temporary measure passed by Congress to prevent a government shutdown this fiscal year. The last one is set to expire on Friday.

That’s a half year the government has functioned on continuing resolutions, with another half year to go. (Yes it adds up).

Obama tweaks Republicans at governors lunch

President Obama leaped into political frays on a whole bunch of different levels when he addressed state governors at a White House luncheon.

Of singular interest was his mention of Republican Mitt Romney, a potential 2012 presidential candidate who is OBAMA/spending time these days defending the healthcare overhaul he executed as governor of Massachusetts.

The plan has been criticized by Romney’s potential 2012 rivals as little different from the Obama plan that Republicans want to repeal.

White House has a new social secretary – and it’s a man

USA-CHINA/

President Barack Obama’s White House has named its third social secretary in just over two years and made history. It’s the first man  ever to fill the position in the 110 years it has existed.

Jeremy Bernard, who is now based in Paris as a senior advisor to the U.S. ambassador in France,  was named to replace Julianna Smoot as social secretary, the person responsible for organizing social events at the White House as small as a tea with first lady Michelle Obama or as large and elaborate as a state dinner for the president of China.

Smoot, who left to join Obama’s re-election operation, had replaced the administration’s first social secretary, Desiree Rogers, who held the post when a couple participating in a reality television show crashed a state dinner in November 2009.  Rogers’ appointment had also made history — she was the first African-American to fill that position.

Washington Extra – Table options

What to do about Libya? Options. So many options.

President Barack Obama is taking his time to think it all through. The White House today threw down the line: “There are no options we’re taking off the table.” OBAMA/

That deliberately leaves murky whether military action is being contemplated.

Former President George W. Bush used the “all options are on the table” line from time to time when talking about Iran’s nuclear program, leaving some wondering if he was signaling an attack on Iran. Obviously he never did.

One option is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. The United States imposed no-fly zones over Iraq for a decade and it didn’t shake Saddam Hussein’s grip on power.

Washington Extra – Club CEO

At one point, business isn’t just about money.

President Barack Obama just assembled corporate heavyweights to advise him on the economy. OBAMA/

It was the president’s latest move to show that he is trying to get the economy rolling and is reaching out to business.

Those who made the honor list included an eclectic bunch: Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, AOL co-founder Steve Case, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, and Kodak CEO Antonio Perez.

Obama ‘grappling’ on gay marriage, Nadler to introduce respect bill

President Barack Obama has ordered the U.S. government to stop defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that bars gay marriage, but his personal views are not so clear.

CALIFORNIA-GAYMARRIAGE/White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized that there was a distinction between Obama’s personal views and the legal issue.

So what is Obama’s personal view on gay marriage? “I would refer you just to his fairly recent statements on that.  He’s grappling with the issue,” Carney said.