Tales from the Trail

Bill Clinton big fan of most things tech

Former President Bill Clinton, who jokes that a cell phone weighed five pounds when he took office in 1993, told a VeriSign event to mark the 25th anniversary of dot com that he’s a big fan of the Web, cell phones and email, but hasn’t yet sprung for an electronic reader.

CLINTONClinton marveled at how the Web has revolutionized fundraising for his foundation, which tackles a range of global issues from health problems facing the poor to climate change.

“An enormous amount of what we do is either made possible or leveraged because of the Internet,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”

His favorite web sites are Politico, Huffington Post, Daily Beast and Firedoglake. But the former president said he also reads the right wing to make sure he’s getting the full story.

He watches Fox News Channel: “They say they’re ‘fair and balanced’ but, you know, it’s tongue in cheek.”

Two Bills on the Hill. One mission

Bill Clinton and Bill Gates banded together on one mission Wednesday: deliver a message to Capitol Hill that increasing funding for the U.S. Global Health Initiative would be good foreign policy and the right thing to do.

SENATE/The program administered by the State Department works to improve healthcare in poor nations, with a particular focus on women and children. The Obama administration proposes to invest $63 billion in the program over six years. The State Department’s budget request for FY2011 includes $8.5 billion for GHI.

The former president and the founder of Microsoft have more in common than just their first names — they both head foundations that focus on global health. The two Bills testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that while they were aware of the federal budget challenge, adding to the Global Health Initiative now would pay off in the long run.

Bill Clinton to headline Gridiron Club dinner, Obama away

Former President Bill Clinton will be the main speaker at the March 20 Gridiron Club dinner where journalists wear costumes and perform musical skits in a roast of the movers and shakers in Washington, and political leaders respond with speeches that poke fun right back. USA/

President Barack Obama will not attend for a second straight year. He will be on an overseas trip, and last year he went to Camp David.

While he spoke at the white-tie dinner of the oldest journalistic organization in Washington, D.C. when he was a senator, Obama last year became the first U.S. president not to attend in his first year of office since Grover Cleveland.

U.S. politics? “It sucks,” former chief of staff says

USA-OBAMABarack Obama’s plate is piled high with problems — two wars, stubbornly high U.S. joblessness, a stalled healthcare overhaul and a poisonously partisan political environment in Washington. But one thing he isn’t low on is advice.

A recent suggestion comes from a former chief of staff to the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who says the overall health of  U.S. politics “sucks,” but has an idea for how Obama can seize back the political story from the Republicans, who seem to stand stubbornly united against everything he tries.

If he wants to get back control of the political narrative, Obama needs to make better use of his cabinet, John Podesta told the Financial Times.  “He’s got a terrific cabinet. Use it. Get out into the country and use it,” Podesta, who now runs a Washington think tank and advises Obama, said.

Gingrich once again at head of Republican pack

Once, a first-term Democratic president failed to deliver on healthcare reform and found his party USA-POLITICS/swept from office by a wave of voter anger that brought Republican Newt Gingrich to the forefront of American politics. Could this history lesson from the Clinton era be repeated?

Healthcare reform is stalled, voters are angry and Gingrich — who rose to prominence as House speaker after Republicans won Congress in 1994 — is again leading the pack, this time among  potential White House hopefuls for 2012.

The Washington-based political news outlet, Politico, says Gingrich’s political action committee is raising money far faster than those of 2008 campaign veterans including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Is Obama a party animal? U.S. political trends make it so

The folks at Gallup say Barack Obama is easily the most ‘polarized’ first-year president of the postwar era — and they’re not talking about pre-digital camera snapshots.
    
They mean that Obama, like his immediate predecessors,  is the object of growing partisanship within American public opinion.
OBAMA/
Obama finished his first year in office on Jan. 19 with an 88 percent job approval rating among Democrats but only 23 percent approval among Republicans.
    
That leaves a 65-percentage-point gap between the two partisan lines, eclipsing the previous first-year polarization record of 52 points, held by Democrat Bill Clinton.
    
If Obama’s numbers don’t change, he will exceed Republican George W. Bush as the most polarized of post-World War II presidents. (Over the course of Bush’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats were 61 points apart on average.)
    
But there’s something more afoot than the individual horse races.
    
Gallup says its findings illustrate an upswing in voter partisanship since the time of Republican Ronald Reagan. Before the 1980s, partisan approval gaps ranged from a low of 19 percent for Democrat Lyndon Johnson to a high of 34 percent for Republican Richard Nixon.
    
“Obama — like his immediate predecessor Bush — sought to bring Americans together after periods of heightened political polarization in the United States. But despite their best intentions and efforts, both men’s approval ratings have been characterized by extreme partisanship,” Gallup said.
    
“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio.”

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama)

Clinton says Haiti’s development prospects can still be good

Former President Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate global relief for Haiti with former President George W. Bush, CLIMATE/COPENHAGEN-BILLCLINTONsays the quake-stricken country could bounce back much more quickly than people might think.

Clinton told NBC’s Today show that Haiti had made it onto the path to modernization when the earthquake struck on Tuesday. But he denied claims that the devastation may have set the impoverished country’s development back by half a century.

“Because they started from a low base, we can reconstitute where they are quicker than everyone thinks. I just do not agree that they’ve been set back 50 years,” he said. “If we go back to work, we’ll be all right.”

Laughter, emotion and presidents at funeral of Biden’s mother

When it comes to showing support, bringing an entourage of people on a huge famous plane to the funeral of your friend’s mother says a lot. USA/

That’s what President Barack Obama did for his pal and vice president, Joe Biden, on Tuesday. Biden’s mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden, died on Friday at the family’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. She was 92.

The president, along with first lady Michelle Obama and a large cadre of Obama’s senior White House staff and Cabinet members, flew on Air Force One to attend her funeral in Delaware.

Chelsea Clinton is engaged – for real

This time, it seems, it is for real. PHILANTHROPY-CLINTON/

Chelsea Clinton, the only child of former President Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has announced her engagement to long-time beau Marc Mezvinsky.

The pair delivered the happy news by a mass email sent out on Friday, a copy of which was provided by a spokesperson at the former president’s charitable foundation.

“We’re sorry for the mass email but we wanted to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving! We also wanted to share that we are engaged! We didn’t get married this past summer despite the stories to the contrary, but we are looking toward next summer and hope you all will be there to celebrate with us. Happy Holidays! Chelsea & Marc,” the email said.

‘Going Rogue’ Palin trumps best sellers in first week

Watch out James Patterson, Stephen King and Dan Brown. Sarah Palin has you beat — at least this USA-POLITICS/PALINweek.

All that experience on the campaign trail has served Palin well. The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, who is popular among many U.S. conservatives, has excelled in the first week of her multi-state, campaign-style media tour to promote her new book which was released on Nov. 17.

The former Alaskan governor’s memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life” topped the charts in its first week of publication.  Nielsen Bookscan said the new author eclipsed best-sellers Patterson and King whose books also debuted that week.