Tales from the Trail

Can Obama launch “peace talks” with Republicans at Camp David?

Camp David may be getting ready for another round of peace talks – of the domestic variety.

President Barack Obama is emphasizing bipartisanship after the midterm election shellacking dealt by Republicans and today decided to wave a olive branch — the possibility of a summit wiith congressional leaders early next year at the presidential retreat. OBAMA/
He offered the invite at a White House meeting with leaders of both parties where they discussed tax cuts, the START treaty, and other issues Obama wants to see resolved during the remainder of the “lame duck” session of Congress.

An invitation to Camp David is considered an honor. In fact, Obama said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid mentioned to him that despite 28 years in Congress, he had never been to Camp David.

“And so I told him, well, we’re going to have to get them all up  there sometime soon,” Obama said.

Obama has long cast himself as a bridge builder but the post-election call for bipartisanship has been greeted skeptically on both the right and the left. The president himself acknowledged that a “hyperpartisan” environment could make any effort to work across party lines extremely difficult.
He also said even the idea of bipartisanship can fall victim to insincerity and showmanship as each side tries to “win the news cycle instead of solving problems.”
“A lot of times coming out of these meetings, both sides claim they want to work together, but try to paint the opponent as unyielding and unwilling to cooperate,” he said.
The hurdles in convening Tuesday’s two-hour meeting underscore the challenges.
Obama had initially proposed a meeting on Nov. 18 that would have included a working dinner, but that fell through when Republicans cited scheduling conflicts.
Both sides called Tuesday morning’s session productive but they remained far apart on issues like taxes, though they agreed to put the debate over the Bush-era tax cuts on a fast track. A working group that will include Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House budget director Jack Lew along with key lawmakers will convene to try to strike a deal. 

The First Draft: Drag out that vacation a bit

For some Americans — including the president – there’s just one last week of summer before work and school get back into full swing. 

OBAMA/President Barack Obama found out that as president, sometimes a vacation isn’t always a break from work. So he decided to extend his time off a bit by going to Camp David next week after returning from Martha’s Vineyard.

While on the Vineyard Obama interrupted his family holiday a couple of times. First, to announce his renomination of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve and then to speak after his friend, Senator Edward Kennedy, died of cancer.

Obama family heads for first trip to presidential retreat

In another first for the new First Family, President Barack Obama and his brood left the White House on Saturday for a helicopter trip to Camp David, the presidential retreat outside Washington.

Dressed casually and looking relaxed, Obama left the executive mansion with his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, mother-in-law Marian Robinson and an unidentified friend of the girls.

They boarded the awaiting helicopter and took off over the White House grounds. Spectators gathered outside the gates to watch.

‘Restless soul’ Obama feeling cooped up at White House

He’s lived in the place for less than three weeks, but U.S. President Barack Obama is already feeling the constraints of the White House.
USA-OBAMA/After announcing a busy travel schedule for the president next week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked if Obama was feeling cooped up at the executive mansion.
“It’s safe to say,” Gibbs said.
“Look, you know, some of you have covered him and some of you haven’t, but he’s a bit of a restless soul.  His idea of a crazy day is to take a long walk.”
Asked where Obama liked to walk, Gibbs said “in solitude and isolation.”
The president may get a little solitude and isolation on Saturday. He’s headed to the Camp David presidential retreat with his family.
After that he hits the road to push Congress to pass an economic stimulus package. He’s in Indiana on Monday, Florida on Tuesday and Illinois on Thursday.
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama walks to Marine One at White House Thursday evening)

Bush out of sight, but keeping eye on election

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush, who has stayed out of the public eye in the final days before the election to choose his successor, knows his popularity has suffered, but the White House insists he will have no problem looking in the mirror when he returns to Texas.

Bush spent the weekend at Camp David and has no public events on Monday or Tuesday. He last spoke with his preferred successor Republican John McCain on Sept. 25, the day of a White House meeting on the financial bailout.

McCain has actively campaigned to distance himself from the unpopular 43rd U.S. president, rarely appearing with Bush since capturing the Republican presidential nomination in March.

Marine One treasures for Bush

QUANTICO, Va., Oct 30 (Reuters) – Aside from the treasured memories, President George W. Bush will probably take back to Texas a souvenir or two from his years in the White House.

And as president he gets more than just T-shirts and mugs.

On Thursday, the Marines and sailors who take care of Marine One presented Bush with a little piece of the presidential helicopter to take home.

Any helicopter that carries the president is called Marine One and only a handful of senior aides get a lift in it. When Bush goes out of town, he takes the helicopter from the White House South Lawn to Andrews Air Force Base where his plane, Air Force One, is waiting.

Bush to spend last campaign weekend at Camp David

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush, who said in March he would find ample time to campaign for Republican White House contender John McCain, is going to spend the last weekend of the 2008 race at, well, Camp David.

Bush has record low job approval ratings due to the prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the sour economy. He will leave Friday for the U.S. presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland and will remain secluded until Sunday, according to his public schedule released late Tuesday evening.

“The president is pretty focused on the activities that we have here, especially getting this economy back in order,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “As we’ve said for a while, the president was going to be focusing on this.”