Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: healthcare march

President Barack Obama keeps up the march on healthcare, although today’s headlines are turning a bit pessimistic.

The Washington Post leads with “GOP Focuses Effort to Kill Health Bills,” and The New York Times has “Obama Pushing, But Early Vote On Health Fades.”

Obama is scheduled to make brief remarks on healthcare at about 1 p.m., before meeting with Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 1:20 p.m. (imagine some arm-twisting at that table), before the panel continues mark up of healthcare billat 2 p.m.

Financial markets will be watching Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony on the economic outlook and monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee at10 a.m. to see if he shows a strong front against expected criticism that the Fed has done too much and gained too much power.

Bernanke will want to stand tall as he is awaiting Obama’s judgment on whether he can keep his job after his current term expires at the end of January. BASEBALL/OBAMA

The First Draft: A bumpy Mideast landing

OBAMA/SAUDI ARABIAWithin minutes of President Barack Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia today, a recording by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was played on Al Jazeera television. U.S. television networks showed Air Force One landing in Riyadh and the first images of Obama greeting Saudi King Abdullah, the audio recording from bin Laden took aim. The militant leader accused the Obama administration of “planting seeds for hatred and revenge.”

It was a rough beginning to what could be a challenging visit to the Middle East and Europe by Obama. He spends tonight at the Saudi monarch’s farm, then flies to Cairo tomorrow for a much-previewed address to the Muslim world. He then travels to Germany and finally to France to commemorate D-Day, returning to Washington on Saturday.

There’s a full cast of characters testifying today on Capitol Hill. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke appears before the House Budget Committee on challenges facing the economy. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu talks to a panel of the House Appropriations Committee. And executives from GM and Chrysler testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on protecting auto dealers and consumers after the closure of hundreds of car dealerships at both companies.

First Draft: White House “victory garden”

USA/Spring blew into Washington this morning and the signs are everywhere: the cherry blossoms are starting to come out, magnolia trees are budding and at the White House, workers are digging up the lawn.

Um, what?

As it turns out, the Obamas are part of the local food movement and plan to grow veggies in a patch of lawn on the executive mansion grounds. This was front page news in The New York Times, and a big headline in The Washington Post’s well-read Style section.

Calling up memories of the “victory gardens” of World War II, when Americans were encouraged to grow their own produce to help the war effort, the White House garden is not a brand new idea. John Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt had gardens, while Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep and the Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the White House roof.

The First Draft: From education to Bernanke to borders

Topic of the day for the White House: education. OBAMA/

President Barack Obama is unveiling his plans to reform the U.S. education system, which has one of the worst high school dropout rates in the industrialized world.

USA/But while Obama’s education reform plans drew applause on the campaign trail, he might face tough competition for airtime as he is talking at 0945 EDT — roughly the same time as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks about financial reform.

In his speech to the Council of Foreign Relations, Bernanke said governments needed to take forceful and sometimes coordinated action to heal markets and said sustainable economic recovery was out of reach until the financial system is stabilized.

Fed staff in trouble, but cited for raise, too

USA/It’s not just U.S. stocks that are on a roller coaster ride in reaction to congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other top officials.

Fed staff stock plunged on Wednesday when they put their boss in an awkward position during Bernanke’s testimony before Congress on the financial bailout and efforts to stabilize the swooning economy.

Rep. Scott Garrett testily reminded Bernanke that he was still waiting for answers for a letter he sent in December.

Fed Chair: No Night of Living Dead Banks

They won’t stay dead!

 

Members of the U.S. Senate grilled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday on whether the next gruesome episode in the U.S. economic horror show could include an appearance of “zombie” banks. 

 

During Japan’s economic stagnation in the 1990s, the government propped up failing banks and firms that came to be known as zombies.  The failure to let such institutions expire prolonged Japan’s agony, many analysts believe.

 

Now that the U.S. government is struggling to keep the banking system alive, Senator Bob Corker worried aloud that the government is propping up banks that deserve to die.

Bush looks forward to being a quiet sports spectator again

WASHINGTON – In between packing up to move back to Texas and trying to save the U.S. automotive industry, President George W. Bush squeezed in 40 minutes to talk extensively about one of his greatest loves — sports.

BASEBALL/In an interview with a Washington Post sports writer, the former baseball team owner said the financial meltdown would likely cascade down to major league sports, noting that they tend to thrive on regular attendees.

“If you’re unable to get the American family to come to your park more than once a year, you’re going to have a difficult time when it comes to your attendance. Of course this will exacerbate the problem,” Bush said according to the Post.