Tales from the Trail

Obama says Washington vitriol is still a solvable problem

President Barack Obama thinks Washington’s political climate of vitriolic partisanship could start to wane over the next few years. Republicans just have to calm down, and Democrats have to stop playing the same silly political games as their opponents.

“A party that’s out of power, often times in those first few years of being out of power and reacting very negatively, their base ends up being very agitated. And it may take the next election or the next presidential election before things settle down,” the president told NBC’s Today show.

One problem is the media, and not just the mainstream media with its 24/7 news cycle but the cable-TV and radio talk shows, the Internet and the blogosphere — “all of which tend to try to feed the most extreme sides of any issue instead of trying to narrow differences and solve problems.”

Obama, who was once called a liar by a Republican lawmaker during a joint session of Congress, didn’t say which way he thinks the next elections would have to go to calm the savage partisan breast. But he didn’t seem to be predicting GOP victories.

“If we can demonstrate, as an administration, that regardless of whatever the day-to-day news cycle is saying, that we’re staying focused on the big picture and helping families, and the results are good, then I think that will show that it’s possible to be principled and stick to your convictions and not worry about the polls and ultimately be rewarded politically,” he said.

Who wins on U.S. healthcare reform? Washington’s lobbyists, for starters

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While pundits try to figure out whether Republicans or Democrats will benefit most from healthcare reform come November’s congressional elections, what seems mighty clear already is that Washington’s lobbyists are undisputed winners in the epic debate.

The watchdog Center for Public Integrity says lobbyists were paid at least $1.2 billion to work on health issues including healthcare reform in 2009. That giant chunk of change sent an army of more than 4,500 lobbyists scrambling up the slopes of Capitol Hill toward the ramparts of the House and Senate, where 535 elected public officials either braced for the onslaught or hurried out the welcome mat.

It’s possible that a filibuster-proof majority busied themselves with the latter. Lawmakers were, after all, outnumbered by more than 8 to 1.

Happy Birthday Madam Speaker

She gets to have her cake and eat it too…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a big birthday surprise when House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller carried a luscious looking chocolate birthday cake into the signing ceremony for the final piece of historic healthcare overhaul legislation.pelosilaughing2

The crowd sang happy birthday to the beaming 70-year-old after she signed the last installment of the hard won healthcare reform, the final step before sending it down to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. He is expected to sign it early next week.

“This our gift to the American people,” Pelosi said holding up the newly signed bill.

Frum Obamacare to Waterloo: Where do Republicans find themselves?

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Have Republicans really met their Waterloo? George W. Bush’s former speech writer David Frum thinks so. And he may have a point, though making it in public has proved costly.

Only six months ago, Republican opposition to healthcare reform was whacking away gleefully at President Barack Obama’s approval ratings. An army of conservative Tea Party activists were flooding Washington’s National Mall in a show of force against the Obama legislative agenda. And Republican nice guy Scott Brown was on his merry way to a Senate upset in bluest of blue Massachusetts.

Now healthcare reform is law and newly energized Democrats are moving to counter those evils of Wall Street that voters love to hate. The grass-roots army has brought Republicans one or two liabilities. And Obama’s job approval rating shows signs of firming up.

House Democrat wants GOP apology for threats and violence

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House Democrat Barney Frank says Republican leaders should apologize for threats and vandalism against Democrats who’ve had the temerity to back President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda.

Why? The Massachusetts Democrat says Republicans have actually been cheering on the bad behavior. And, he adds, recent Republican condemnations have not gone far enough.

“I’m glad that my Republican leadership colleagues now have decided to denounce it. But they’ve been very late to do that. Over the weekend, they were much more egging on this kind of behavior than denouncing it,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.  ”I think there ought to be some apologies.”

Is McCain taking his toys and going home?

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Is Republican Senator John McCain bringing playground  logic to Washington’s bitter partisan divide?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs seems to think so.

McCain, defeated by President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, vowed that Republicans furious after passage of Obama’s historic healthcare overhaul, will not work with Obama’s Democrats this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain told an Arizona radio program, criticizing the way Democrats steered the healthcare bill through Congress. “They have poisoned the well in what they have done and how they have done it.”

Palin using her star power against selected House Democrats

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Sarah Palin really has the 2010 congressional elections in her cross hairs now.

As President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law, the potential 2012 Republican White House wannabe was out on Facebook with her own campaign to unseat 20 House Democrats who voted for the legislation. The page identifies targeted congressional districts via a map of the United States dotted by white and red cross hairs.

“We’re going to fire them and send them back to the private sector, which has been shrinking thanks to their destructive government-growing policies,” she says in a rallying note to supporters that also seeks donations for her political action committee, SarahPAC.

Palin’s aim is to go after House Democrats who voted for Obamacare and represent districts that she and John McCain carried in the 2008 presidential race.  USA-HEALTHCARE

When seen from Capitol Hill, Jerusalem looks a bit different

ISRAEL-USA/What’s the U.S. policy toward Israel? It may depend on which branch of government you ask.

On Capitol Hill, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a warm reception during his Washington visit this week. Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, says Congress is on “a different page” than the Obama administration over Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the overall U.S. relationship with Israel.

Netanyahu got a less obviously effusive welcome from the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met him at a hotel on Monday and his White House meeting with the president on Tuesday took place behind closed doors, without photographers present.

Does Obama’s healthcare victory point to future legislative strategy?

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When President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law today, was he also endorsing the preferred White House strategy for legislation to come?

After months of political wrangling and face-reddening rhetoric all around, Obama’s sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system became reality without a single Republican voting for it.

Democrats say that’s because the Republicans want to render Obama’s presidency a failure. They point to a recently published account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategic game plan to deny Democrats any support on big legislation.

Racial overtones at healthcare protest

John Lewis

The protests against healthcare reform took an ugly turn on Saturday. Black congressmen told reporters that demonstrators called them the N-word and one representative said he was spat upon.

“This is not the first time the congressman has been called the N-word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans,” said a statement from the office of Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver.

“That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting.”