Tales from the Trail

No head-butting, judge tells Blagojevich

No head-butting, no fighting, no macho posturing, the judge overseeing former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s upcoming corruption trial said on Wednesday.USA-BLAGOJEVICH/

If the federal courtroom is sounding more like a boxing ring, the disgraced politician suggested as much. On Tuesday Blagojevich called out prosecutor U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, telling reporters “I hope you’re man enough to be there (in court) tomorrow too.”

Blagojevich adopted a calmer tone after Judge James Zagel told both sides he alone would decide which evidence would be heard and that he would “not permit the legal equivalent of head-butting.”

Boxing matches have rules, just like trials, the judge said, noting combatants can retreat to a neutral corner.

“I’m relieved,”  Blagojevich said. “The judge appears to be a very fair man.”

Latest Washington technique? Bipartisanship by sniping?

If bipartisanship is what they’re after … they’ve got a funny way of showing it.

Financial regulation reform is the latest struggle on Capitol Hill between the forces of Democrats and Republicans. And while everyone seems to be calling for bipartisanship, the words they’re using are quite simply snippy.

President Barack Obama had congressional leaders from both parties over to the White House today to chat about his goal of  financial regulatory reform to prevent another markets meltdown. USA/

U.S. Senate Democratic contender bashes Democratic-led Washington

If there was any question that Democrats were in for a tough election year, go no further than Lee Fisher’s campaign flyer that’s been mailed OBAMA-HEALTHCAREout to Ohio voters.

“Washington is Working Against Ohio Families” it warns in large letters superimposed over a picture of dark storm clouds hovering over the U.S. Capitol.  On the flyer’s backside is the declaration: “Washington is broken and has let us down.”

As he tries to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator George Voinovich, Fisher’s campaign seems to be taking on the Democrats who control the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

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.”

No matter how you slice it, Obama’s on a roll

NCAA/What does he do for an encore?

President Barack Obama started the week with a victorious end to the healthcare angst. And ended it with a win on START.

For a president who entered his second year with a Nobel Peace Prize but scrounging for a mega-accomplishment to put in the Democrats’ corner in an election year, this week handed him a pair of major victories.

But there is still plenty of time for things to go awry before November — think Kansas in the NCAA basketball tournament. Or for things to go even better than hoped — think Butler.

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.

What’s next on healthcare reform? — Enroll America

Democrats are still celebrating their historic achievement on healthcare reform, but the looming question is what’s next?

For Republicans and other opponents, it’s a campaign to repeal the law and replace it with something more to their liking.

For healthcare reform advocates and industry groups, including some who opposed the legislation, it’s implementation of the new law and getting people to sign up for coverage. cr_lrg_515_Pollack

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.”