Tales from the Trail

White House responds to naked House Democrat’s satanic tale

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Eric Massa was a little-known freshmen House Democrat only a month ago. Now he’s a political media sensation and a darling of Talk Radio/TV commentators capable of provoking the White House on healthcare reform.

Why the metamorphosis? Massa abruptly resigned from Congress, revealed he had an angry run-in with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel while the two were naked in a congressional gym shower, and now claims he was pushed out of office by the White House to keep him from voting against healthcare reform.

Oh, and he’s come to the conclusion that Emanuel is a “son of the devil’s spawn.”

The bit about healthcare reform has Republicans hopping with joy, because it coincides with President Barack Obama’s final push for Congress to enact his proposed overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.

Massa has had a number of explanations about why he’s leaving Congress. He said last week that he would not seek U,Sre-election because of his health. Later, he said he would leave office this week to avoid an ethics probe into a sexual harassment allegation by a male staffer.

Massa public resignation letter: scar tissue, ethics complaint, car rides

USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSICongressman Eric Massa (you would be forgiven for asking who?) posted on his web site one of the more “interesting” public resignation letters seen from a government official in some time.

The first-term Democrat from upstate New York starts by talking about a CAT scan that may or may not show scar tissue. In the next breath of his “open letter,” Massa mentions an ethics complaint in which a male staff member had felt “uncomfortable” due to statements made by the congressman.

Massa readily agrees that the ethics issue is “my fault and mine alone” because after 24 years in the Navy he did use language in his home and inner office that “might make a Chief Petty Officer feel uncomfortable.” (Defies the imagination because we have it on good authority that there is no language that would make most Navy Chief Petty Officers uncomfortable).

Will presidential weight carry healthcare through?

President Barack Obama spoke. Republicans talked back.

USA HEALTHCARE/OBAMA SPEECHNo sign that anyone shifted positions after the president’s remarks today in the East Room at the White House with lots of white hospital coats in the audience.

In fact, it appears that the two sides — Obama and the Republicans — hardened their resolve, setting the stage for a political tug-of-war that’s only going to turn more fierce as the November elections near.

Obama wants it, Republicans oppose it. But it’s the congressional Democrats left trying to push through Congress an issue that has created discord within their own ranks. Democrats in the Senate differ from their colleagues in the House on what the legislation should look like — and not all Democrats support it.

Hillary says Congressional gridlock challenges U.S. world stature

USA/The partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Congress during much of the Obama administration may have far-reaching implications for America’s stature in the world, according to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton said U.S. partners overseas have been confused about the Senate’s inability to approve President Barack Obama’s appointments to top diplomatic jobs, including assistant secretary of state positions and ambassadorships.

“It became harder and harder to explain to countries, particularly countries of significance, why we had nobody in position for them to interact with,” Clinton told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Obama budget plan for fiscal year 2011.

White House healthcare summit plans take shape

BUSH/President Barack Obama’s bipartisan healthcare summit is taking on the trappings of a diplomatic visit, complete with a gilt-edged setting at Blair House, the federal style mansion where foreign heads of state stay when they’re in Washington.

Little seems to have been left to chance: they’ve decided on the shape of the table — a hollow square — and a buffet lunch, with name cards in front of each participant. There’s some concern about an echo in the room. The nearly full-day gathering will be televised. And just as foreign officials get to inspect a venue before visiting dignitaries show up, there will be a walk-through beforehand by staff of the congressional leadership.

There’s good reason for this attention to detail. The summit is central to Obama’s last-ditch attempt to pass sweeping healthcare legislation. Obama’s plan to engage Republicans on healthcare in a high-profile negotating session was inspired by his widely praised exchange with his Republican critics in Baltimore in January. The White House hopes the summit will boost the healthcare effort by showing voters that Obama is committed to bipartisanship. Many observers believe the ultimate strategy may be to use a parliamentary maneuver to push through the bill without any Republican votes.

Ron Paul: The Once and Future Conservative Favorite

USA-POLITICS/PAULRep. Ron Paul today seems to be little more than a voice crying in the wilderness of Republican politics. But the Texas libertarian and 2008 presidential candidate may have a lease on the future of the Republican Party’s conservative wing, at the age of 74.

Paul, the big winner in the presidential straw poll at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference, ascribes his victory to young people who don’t like the way the Republican establishment is handling things.

“Right now, I think there is a disconnect with the people, especially with the next generation,” he told MSNBC.  ”They feel like the burden is being dumped on their shoulders and I think that’s what the vote represented, a lot of young people saying they don’t like what’s happening.”

Has U.S. “missed the boat” on long-range renewable energy planning?

OBAMA/There was President Barack Obama, working a friendly crowd in Henderson, Nevada, not far from Las Vegas. And then a sympathetic comment from a French businessman who wants to see U.S. regulation of climate-warming greenhouse emissions seemed to get the president all wound up.

After noting that the weather has been particularly wild lately — five feet of snow in Washington DC, rain at the Vancouver Olympics — Obama said the best way to “unleash” dynamism in the energy market is to set fuel efficiency standards, notably for cars.

“If you’ve got a fuel-efficiency standard in place that says your car needs to get 20 miles a gallon or 30 miles a gallon, suddenly all these engineers are thinking, well, how do we do that?  And all these companies start coming up with new technologies that make your cars more fuel-efficient.  Ultimately, you end up seeing jobs and businesses thriving in response to the regulation that’s been put there,” Obama told the town hall meeting.

Congress bracing for anti-incumbent anger among voters

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By the look of things, the American public just might vote Congress out of office this November – Republican and Democrat alike.

But Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine sounds downright stoic, even as he admits that his own party could lose more than 28 House seats and four Senate seats.

Kaine says Democrats must accept voter anger as a fact of life in an economy that is recovering only slowly from the worst recession since the 1930s.

Bipartisanship: can words be put into action in election year?

The president wants it. The public wants it.

But when it comes to bipartisanship, words are easier than action — especially in an election year. OBAMA/

President Barack Obama, who met with congressional leaders from both parties on Tuesday, called for bipartisan solutions to some of  the weighty issues of the day: job creation and deficit reduction.

“As I said in my State of the Union, part of what we’d like to see is the ability of Congress to move forward in a more bipartisan fashion on some of the key challenges that the country is facing right now,” Obama said before the meeting.

2012 may be an open door for Palin, but first comes 2010

USA/Sarah Palin’s right. It would be absurd for her not to consider a White House bid in 2012, especially while Tea Partiers are chanting, “Run, Sarah, run!”  
   
But first come this November’s elections, which could help build Palin’s credibility if her high-profile public appearances (and repeated attacks on President Barack Obama) actually help conservative candidates get elected to Congress and important state offices around the country. If.

Some political experts say Palin’s weekend keynote speech at the big Tea party in Nashville was her best since the 2008 GOP convention — detailed, focused and high on energy. Lucrative, too, given the $100,000 speaker’s fee, though the on-stage interview seemed a bit scripted, especially the part about what she’d do if she were president. 
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The appearance also kicked off a busy travel schedule to help candidates in this year’s campaign.
   
On Super Bowl Sunday, she was in Texas helping Republican Gov. Rick Perry with his March gubernatorial primary contest against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Polling results show Hutchison trailing the incumbent by 15 percentage points and losing ground to a third candidate, Tea Party activist Debra Medina.

Palin spent much of her time in the Lone Star State assailing Washington, and by implication, Hutchison. She raised a huge cheer by pointing out in non-establishment fashion that Texans might like to secede.     
    
But moving the national political applause needle to the right in 2010 could be much more difficult than rallying friendly audiences or using a talking hand to bash that “charismatic guy with a TelePrompTer.”
   
A state-by-state analysis of Obama’s job approval ratings by Gallup may offer a glimpse of the voter sentiment challenge that Palin and her conservative allies face this year.