Tales from the Trail

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.

China was still clearly on the president’s mind two days after treating President Hu Jintao to a top-of-the-line White House welcome. In Schenectady today, Obama repeatedly mentioned the importance of selling American goods to China, and other countries.

“We want an economy that’s fueled by what we invent and what we build. We’re going back to Thomas Edison’s principles. We’re going to build stuff and invent stuff,” he said.

Washington Extra – Braving the weather

President Barack Obama quipped that Chinese President Hu Jintao was brave for going to his hometown at this time of year. But what about the visit to Capitol Hill today?

Between the warm reception at the White House and the chilly weather in Chicago, Hu met lawmakers who were quite cool in their welcome. They brought up China’s currency, human rights, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner who wasn’t allowed to attend the ceremony, Tibet, the economy and trade. USA-CHINA/

“The U.S. and China do not share values and principles as some have claimed in recent days,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.

Panda diplomacy: the remix

USAThe latest chapter in the long story of panda diplomacy was written at Washington’s National Zoo, where the Chinese government agreed to lengthen the “loan” of popular panda pair Mei Xiang and Tian Tian for another five years. Actually, the loan is conditioned on whether they produce a new heir or heiress to the cuteness of panda-dom in the next two years;  one or both could be exchanged for more fecund substitutes.

They have a good track record: Washington native Tai Shan, born in 2005, headed back to China last year.

This was a big enough deal for President Barack Obama to mention it at an elaborate state dinner at the White House for Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Partisan politics at the state dinner party

streisandReuters’ Wendell Marsh was there as the guests arrived for President Obama’s state dinner honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The evening might have been filled with glamour, but it did take place in Washington, so it was naturally marked by a few comments on partisan politics.

Democratic U.S. Senator John Kerry told members of the media that it was time to tone down recent heated political rhetoric. “You can’t come here with a scorched earth policy and expect to do the nation’s business and serve our greater interest.”

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.

Washington Extra – Modern pursuits

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he’s using modern technology like a BlackBerry and Kindle, when he didn’t even have a cellphone at the White House.

“I’m not totally modern. I still write long-hand and don’t use a computer for that kind of thing,” Cheney said in an NBC interview. “My grandchildren still laugh at me,” he said, and his 3-year-old grandson showed him how to play the Angry Birds game on an iPad. USA-CHINA/

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, while sticking to their well-trod positions on healthcare, did refrain from aiming big slingshots at opponents. (Angry Birds fans, that’s for you).

Guess who’s not coming to dinner with Hu

Usually politicians flock to a high-profile event like moths to a flame.

But we’re learning that isn’t quite the style of the new Speaker of the House.

OBAMA-CHINA/The White House is rolling out the red carpet for China’s President Hu Jintao with one of the most formal of all events — the State Dinner.

This will be only the third hosted by President Barack Obama during the two years of his presidency — the previous ones were for the leaders of India and Mexico.

Washington Extra – Happy Thanksgiving

dinnerHappy Thanksgiving! Washington Extra will return on Monday.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

U.S. vows unified response to North Korea, eyes restraint

The U.S. urged restraint following a North Korean artillery attack on South Korea and vowed to forge a “measured and unified” response with major powers including China.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Andrew Quinn, read here.

N.Korea pulls U.S. back to a “land of lousy options”

North Korea‘s artillery attack on South Korea poses the second test in three days of Washington’s vow that it will not reward what it deems bad behavior with diplomatic gestures, and underscores that options are limited without serious help from China.

For more of this analysis by Paul Eckert, read here.

Bernanke’s plea for fiscal help goes unanswered

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s unusually blunt plea for fiscal help will probably go unanswered, leaving the economy too limp to put people back to work any time soon. Bernanke has warned that the country is on an economic trajectory that will leave millions unemployed or underemployed for many years, and he said there were limits to what the central bank alone could do to help.

Is deficit debate a new political dawn?

RTR2GF2D_Comp1-150x150RTR2GF2D_Comp-150x150Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles think it may be a new day in American politics, one where politicans who hike taxes and alter Social Security stay in office.

Simpson, a former Republican senator, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he sees evidence of change whenever he strolls through an airport: “I can tell you, we used to get lots of signals. I get more thumbs up now than other digits.”

The pair, co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, have proposed cutting the U.S. budget deficit by reducing defense spending, eliminating tax breaks, hiking the gasoline tax and altering Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Trump sees China from the White House

RTR2EFAB_Comp-150x150Billionaire developer Donald Trump might like to be president. And if he were, he’d bring a hard view of China to the White House.

“I’d tax China,” he tells ABC News in an interview. “They laugh at us. They feel we’re fools. You know, they’re getting away with absolute murder. The products we used to make in this country, they’re making them in China. We’re rebuilding China.”

Trump, who set up an exploratory presidential committee in 1999, said he’ll decide on a 2012 White House run by June.