Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Early valentine

Even on television from thousands of miles away, the Egyptian revolution was breathtaking. A moment to mark in history.

President Hosni Mubarak gave the protesters an early valentine by stepping down. What had been expected yesterday was surprising today.

President Barack Obama framed the event as one of the monumental examples of peaceful resistance that the world has seen, even though he was talking about the ouster of a strong ally of the United States for the last 30 years. OBAMA/

“And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history — echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice,” Obama said.

David Alexander and Phil Stewart have an interesting look at how U.S. officials see the head of Egypt’s military council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — committed to avoiding another war with Israel but resistant to political and economic reform.

Valentine’s Day with the GOP

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by sending your special someone a pink e-card, covered in hearts, with a message from the president: “Hope you like this Valentine’s card, your grandchildren are paying for it.”

In the GOP version of My Funny Valentine and a way to raise some sweet cash, the Republican National Committee is poking some fun at the White House and its Democratic cohorts with GOPvalentine.com, and more than 30,000 of the snarky messages had been sent as of Friday morning.

The site boasts 18 card options, including “This card entitles you to one free hug  full-body pat-down” with a photo of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and “Don’t censure this Valentine” with a photo of Rep. Charles Rangel, who was censured by the House of Representatives for ethics violations.

Washington Extra – Food for thought

The U.S. government strongly supports democratic reforms in the Middle East. Just look at its comments on Egypt. But the American public doesn’t appear to be so gung-ho.

OBAMAA Reuters/Ipsos poll out today found that a solid majority, 58 percent, believe the United States should be cautious about backing democracy in the Middle East because elections could lead to anti-American Islamist governments.

The biggest opposition group in Egypt is the banned Muslim Brotherhood and President Barack Obama has acknowledged that the group’s ideology included anti-American strains.

Washington Extra – Let’s do lunch

Mending fences is clearly the White House play of the week.

USA/First a visit to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now lunch with Republican leaders from Capitol Hill. What next?

President Barack Obama at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow will host House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (that’s two of the three “Young Guns” of Capitol Hill).

Discussion will be heavy on the economy and spending. But if the Republicans are hoping for a heads-up on Obama’s budget proposal, they will be disappointed. “We will save that for them and for you for Monday,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Is Rand Paul a U.S. Senate action hero?

RTR9KH6_Comp-150x150It didn’t take Rand Paul long to become Captain America of the U.S. Senate. He’s tough-minded, strong-willed and he’s ready to battle the most dangerous titans on the political landscape, like Social Security and Medicare.

In fact, the Republican Tea Party favorite from Kentucky tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a courageous and comprehensive plan for fixing America’s public finances will soon be on the march. And if all goes as planned, much may be accomplished before the start of this year’s Major League Baseball season.

“Within two to three weeks, I’m going to propose a fix for Social Security,” says Rand, son of Ron, who has already far surpassed the fiscal aims of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill by proposing $500 billion in budget cuts.

Washington Extra – Fruitcake diplomacy

If only he’d sent fruitcake…

USA/President Barack Obama is clearly trying to make nice with the business community and he promised the Chamber of Commerce a new friendly era after two years of coldness.

The White House and U.S. Chamber of Commerce can see each other across a park, but until recently acted like the other was on the wrong side of the tracks.

But it’s never too late to make-up in Washington, where yesterday’s enmities are often tomorrow’s alliances.

Washington Extra – Game on

Think legacy. That’s what President Barack Obama advised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Obama tried to appeal to Mubarak’s ego and sense of place in history as he pressed for movement on a political transition. “I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he is also a patriot,” Obama said. USA-CANADA/

He didn’t call for the Egyptian leader to immediately step down, but brought up Mubarak’s promise not to run again. “The key question he should be asking himself is how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?”

At prayer breakfast, Obama calls Jesus “my Lord and Savior”

President Barack Obama made a clear declaration of his Christian faith on Thursday and seemed to express some frustration that his beliefs continue to be called into question.

OBAMA/“Let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith,” Obama told a ballroom full of applauding believers at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

“The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray.”

Washington Extra – Line dance

Here’s something that Republicans might want to hear: the White House is promising that its budget will include serious deficit control.

EGYPT-USA/“The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said in an interview with Reuters’ White House correspondents Alister Bull and Jeff Mason.

While the budget will make “tough choices and tough cuts,” Lew said, “there will also be the question of how far do you want to go in some of these areas and what are the consequences of going beyond a certain line.”

Charlotte’s web catches Democratic convention

It’s Charlotte for the 2012 Democratic national political convention.

Democrats picked the banking center and Republicans chose Tampa, Florida, for their convention — highlighting the importance of the South to winning the White House next year. ROUTE-RECOVERY/

In the 2008 election, Obama became the first Democrat to win North Carolina — by about 14,000 votes over Republican candidate John McCain –  since President Jimmy Carter in 1976.

First lady Michelle Obama, in a letter to Democrats, described Charlotte as a city “marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an ‘up by the bootstraps’ mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue.”