Tales from the Trail

Bill Clinton emerges as leading U.S. political favorite — poll

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CLINTON/Nearly a decade after his presidency ended in scandal and disgrace, Bill Clinton has emerged as the most popular figure in the U.S. political firmament, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.   Except he’s not running for office.

Fifty-five percent of the 1,000 adults who responded to the survey reported having positive feelings about the Arkansas Democrat, vs. only 23 percent who harbored negative feelings. (When he left office in early 2001, his ratings were 34 percent positive and 52 percent negative.)RACING/

The poll, which has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error, comes at a time when many voters are angry about the country’s economic straits, including high unemployement and an exploding fiscal deficit. Clinton’s two-term presidency was marked not only by impeachment and the Monica Lewinsky scandal but also by buoyant growth and a balanced budget.

How did other political figures rate?

Only President Barack Obama had a favorable rating clearly ahead of the negative number, at 47 percent to 41 percent.USA/

Former Republican vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin rated 30 percent to 48 percent. The most visible of potential GOP presidential candidates also elicited the strongest feelings, both positive and negative. 

from Summit Notebook:

Rumors of our demise exaggerated, Van Hollen says

SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/VAN HOLLENRepresentative Chris Van Hollen likes to paraphrase Mark Twain when talking about the Democratic chances in the November mid-term election.

"News of the Democratic demise is greatly exaggerated," the man in charge of the House Democrats' election effort told the Reuters Washington Summit. "I think the pundits have been wrong before and they'll be wrong again. Democrats will retain a majority in the Congress. I'm very confident of that."

Of course it's Van Hollen's job to be confident or at least project an image of confidence six weeks ahead of the election where Republicans and the conservative Tea Party movement are trying to convince Americans to vote Democrats out of office and take back Republican control of the Congress.

from Summit Notebook:

Shift in power on the horizon in Washington?

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Republicans stand poised to gain substantial influence in Congress, putting at stake billions of dollars in investment as a shift among power brokers throws legislative initiatives old and new into doubt. Reuters Washington Summit will bring together an influential line-up of insiders just weeks before Americans cast their votes, promising a must-read stream of exclusive news on the outlook for Congress and President Barack Obama's agenda. Editors and correspondents from the Reuters Washington bureau are sitting down with senior lawmakers, including GOP heavyweights in line for leadership, and regulators whose implementation of Wall Street and healthcare reform could be complicated by a change in control on Capitol Hill.

The Summit will generate exclusive stories, investable insights, online videos and blog postings, which will be immediately available only to Thomson Reuters clients during the Summit. Key interviews will air live exclusively on Reuters Insider - a new multimedia platform delivering relevant news, analysis and trade ideas presented through a personalized video experience. Visit http://etv.thomsonreuters.com/

Washington Extra – Goldilocks Geithner

Not too hot, not too cold, just right.geithner18

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner performed a delicate balancing act on the Hill today. On the one hand, Geithner had to tell an increasingly angry Congress that he was serious about trying to persuade China to revalue its currency, the yuan. On the other, he wanted to head off the kind of unilateral action from Congress that could provoke a trade war, and endanger the administration’s efforts to engage Beijing on a whole slew of issues.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer raged that “China’s currency manipulation is like a boot to the throat of our recovery,” and accused Geithner of being the only person in the room who did not believe China was manipulating its currency.

“I share your frustration,” was the first part of Geithner’s message to Congress, acknowledging that the pace of the yuan’s appreciation had been too slow. But leave the response to us was the other, unspoken part of the message today. The administration would use the upcoming G20 summit in Seoul in November to try to mobilize other world powers to pressure China for trade and currency reforms, Geithner vowed, adding officials were looking at all the tools at their disposal to “encourage” the Chinese to move more quickly.

A new wind blowing through Senate on climate change?

For anyone mulling the chances the U.S. Congress will pass a climate change bill next year, it might be worth having a look at Republican candidates who could end up serving in the Senate starting in 2011.

That’s exactly what the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund has done and if you’re an environmentalist, it’s notWEATHER ERNESTO a pretty landscape. 

“Nearly all (Senate Republican candidates) dispute the scientific consensus that the United States must act to fight global warming pollution,” the group writes in a posting.  

You take that back, Mr. President!

Republicans are lining up to throw punches at President Barack Obama.

The Democratic president has been trading verbal barbs with House Republican Leader John Boehner over economic and fiscal policy. Obama on Wednesday took several swipes at Boehner and charged that it was the Republicans who took the country into deficit when they were running things in Washington. USA-STIMULUS/

Boehner retorted that Obama should freeze all tax rates and cut “federal spending to where it was before all the bailouts, government takeovers, and ‘stimulus’ spending sprees.” Boehner is in line to become House Speaker if Republicans seize control of Congress in November elections.

Other Republicans also jumped in the fray. Boehner’s House Republican lieutenants Eric Cantor and Mike Pence issued statements backing Boehner, saying non-security spending should be cut to 2008 levels. 

Washington Extra – pain relief

Just a few quick thoughts ahead of the Labor Day weekend. President Barack Obama plans to unveil a package of measures to stimulate hiring and the economy next week, although we are assured this will absolutely not be a second stimulus. I guess that means it won’t have a major price tag attached, in terms of its effect on the deficit. But you also have to wonder how much effect it will have on the economy, even if Obama manages to get any of it through Congress. BAYER

Some relief, then, that this week’s economic numbers have not been as grim as many had feared. The private sector is not dead and buried, if today’s payrolls report is anything to go by. But don’t expect growth or hiring to pick up nearly fast enough to save the Democrats from pain in November.

Finally, take a look at our special report on the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to crack down on increasingly aggressive marketing tactics by drug companies. Critics accuse Big Pharma of pushing medicines on people which they often do not need, without fully disclosing the risks. Sadly, even the FDA admits it is outgunned, and lacks the resources to keep pace.

Of diplomacy and baseball…

Timing is everything in diplomacy and baseball.

After months of prickly talks aimed at coaxing Israelis and Palestinians into direct peace talks, U.S. envoy George Mitchell finally had news to share.
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But when the U.S. mediator par excellence took the stage for questions Friday at the State Department, reporters tossed him one out of left field.

“As tempted as I am to ask you about Roger Clemens…,” his first questioner began, to chortles from reporters and State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Mitchell, of course, between peacemaking stints in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, took a stab back in 2007 at resolving the conflict between Congress and Major League Baseball over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. lawmakers wonder, where did our love go? with Turkey

It almost sounded as if U.S. lawmakers felt jilted by Washington’s long-time NATO ally Turkey.

“How do we get Turkey back?” demanded Representative Gary Ackerman at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing exploring “Turkey’s New Foreign Policy Direction.”

“Why is Turkish public opinion … perhaps one of the most anti-American of any of the countries of the world?” asked the committee’s chairman, Representative Howard Berman.

Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Obama approval at 48 pct, disapproval at 48 pct

Americans are evenly split over whether President Barack Obama is doing a good job or a bad job — and few are on the fence.

A Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll found that Obama’s approval and disapproval ratings are each at 48 percent.

In the July 22-25 poll of 1,075 adults, Obama’s approval rating is in line with other polls that show his popularity below 50 percent.