Tales from the Trail

Obama misses walks, not leaving home without shaving

President Obama is staying neutral on the Super Bowl, dislikes the “bubble” of being president, and enjoyed (go figure) political science in college.

Those were some of the takeouts from the president’s roughly 45-minute interview Thursday on the Internet site YouTube, which posed questions to him from viewers across the country.

Asked what his favorite thing was about being president, Obama said having a positive impact on people’s lives took first place.

What does he not like?

“(The) toughest thing about being president is the ‘bubble.’ I can’t go for a walk, I can’t go to the corner coffee shop, I can’t leave the house and not shave,” he said. “That is something that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to.”

The shaving part would be a drag…

The president declined to predict a winner in the February 6 Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. Probably a wise move.

Washington Extra – Red light, green light

The White House seems to be in go-slow amber mode over the protests in Egypt – declaring President Hosni Mubarak an ally, but supporting free speech as the American way.

It’s much easier to take a stance when the government is not an ally, as happened with Iran’s crackdown on street protests in 2009 when President Barack Obama said firmly: “I strongly condemn these unjust actions.” USA/

Today, Obama was asked in a YouTube interview that took questions from the public about the protests in Egypt. His response: “Egypt’s been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues, they made peace with Israel, President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East, but I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the street.”

Washington Extra – Say cheese

Civility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and last night it meant watching lawmakers smile with their teeth but not their eyes.

The day after the State of the Union it has become clear that the forced Kumbaya moment is being shrugged off for a return to the comfort of political sniping. But no one expected that rearranging the deck chairs would lead to a lasting group hug. OBAMA/

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — the state President Barack Obama chose for his day-after trip to the heartland — said when Obama mentions investment he means “government spending and government control. And that is the definite wrong direction.”

Salmon ‘chanted evening?

SALMONThe one word that leaped out of President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress wasn’t “optimism,” “business,” “teachers,” “economy” or “budget.”

To those who listened to the speech on National Public Radio, the memorable term was “salmon,” writ large in a word cloud NPR compiled from its listeners after Obama finished.

That kind of makes sense. Without the Punch-and-Judy theater of Republicans and Democrats popping up from their seats to cheer or boo, as they customarily do when they’re seated on opposing sides of the room for a presidential address, it was up to the Commander in Chief to deliver some chuckle-worthy lines.

from Ask...:

How would you grade Obama’s State of the Union speech?

OBAMA-SPEECHPresident Barack Obama proposed a five-year freeze on some government spending and struck a centrist tone in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, hoping to prove he has fiscal discipline and can work with resurgent Republicans.

Obama also said that voters want Democrats and Republicans to govern with "shared responsibility". He offered a raft of proposals that some of his opponents might find appealing as he positions himself for a 2012 re-election bid, but stopped short of the massive spending cuts demanded by some Republicans.

He called for a job-creating "Sputnik moment" fed by new investments in research and education like the 1950s space race, saying what is at stake is "whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else."  In a nod to business, Obama also called for lowering the corporate tax rate.

Obama’s SOTU speech as a word cloud

Below is a word cloud generated from President Barack Obama’s prepared State of the Union speech:
obamanewcloud

As Obama speaks, Democrats target GOP’s Ryan

RTXCDYH_Comp-150x150President Barack Obama may grab all the headlines with his State of the Union address. But Democrats want the GOP’s chosen responder, Paul Ryan, to share the spotlight — as poster boy for politically unpopular ideas that could be used against Republicans in 2012.

Here’s New York Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer’s take on Ryan on that electorally tender topic, Social Security. “What Paul Ryan suggests — privatization — is really a dismantling of Social Security,” he tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

More than that, Schumer says Ryan epitomizes policies that are straight out of the 1920s, those heady days of flappers, speakeasys and laissez-faire good times that preceded the Great Depression.

Washington Extra – Laundry list

The White House is promising that tomorrow’s State of the Union address will be something different.

And by that, they apparently mean it will not be a dry recitation of all the things that need to be done. “I don’t think you’ll see a laundry list of issues,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared. OBAMA/

Well then, how will President Barack Obama get his points across about all that’s on the plate for this year and all the help he’s going to need from a politically divided Congress?

Washington Extra – Light bulb

There is something oddly poetic about choosing a light bulb maker to head a team searching for economic ideas.

President Barack Obama named General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to lead a new presidential advisory group called the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. OBAMA/

Obama said Immelt knows a thing or two about innovation given that he heads the company founded by Thomas Edison.

Obama approval ratings on the rise

Forget November’s election “shellacking,” at least for now. Things are looking up for President Barack Obama.

OBAMA/A flurry of new opinion polls show Obama’s approval ratings climbing above 50 percent for the first time in months, fueled by growing public confidence in the economy and a positive reaction to his response to the Arizona shootings and the spurt of bipartisan accomplishment in Congress in December.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll published earlier this week put Obama’s approval at 54 percent, up five percentage points since December, and an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had him at 53 percent, up eight percentage points in a month.