Tales from the Trail

Obama swipes at “just say no crowd”

President Barack Obama in Detroit demonstrated what is sure to become a familiar theme in the run up to the November elections — Democrats painting Republicans with variations on the ”Party of No.”

OBAMA/Obama patted his policies on the back for keeping automobile jobs and plants open in Michigan — a state hard hit by the recession — and struck out at Republicans for standing in the way of progress.

In defending his handling of the auto industry crisis, Obama said some of the automobile jobs and plants would not have held on if it weren’t for the controversial government bailouts.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re beginning to see some of these tough decisions pay off.  We are moving forward,” he said. “If some folks had their way, none of this would have been happening.  Just want to point that out, right?  I mean … this plant and your jobs might not exist.”

“There were leaders of the “Just Say No” crowd in Washington. They were saying, oh, standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure,” Obama said.

Looking under the hood of “Cadillac” usage in healthcare debate

For car buffs, “Cadillac” and healthcare are probably not a natural mix, even in the context of financing.

For healthcare debaters, “Cadillac” has come to describe high-end insurance plans that either need to be taxed or left alone depending on the viewpoint. GERMANY/

Well, according to several (online) dictionaries, the word Cadillac used in this manner is actually slang.

Obama admits security “screw up,” but some wonder who’ll pay

President Barack Obama may have hoped to limit the political fallout from last month’s attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by admitting there was a “screw up.” Will firings follow? Some think Obama’s unusually sharp rhetoric raises the odds that heads will roll.

One such observer is U.S. Rep. Peter King, an influential New York Republican.
SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA
“If the situation is as bad as the president says it was, as far as so many dots not being connected, so many obvious mistakes being made … I would think once the president set that stage, that to show that he’s serious, someone will have to go now,” King told ABC’s Good Morning America.

But the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee says he can’t tell which official should pay because the Obama administration hasn’t let Congress know who did (or didn’t) do what, when.

Bomb plot thrusts Obama into political storm

President Barack Obama is weathering a political storm over last month’s suspected al Qaeda plot to bomb a Detroit-bound plane, particularly from Republicans who say he dropped the ball on security while pursuing healthcare and climate reforms. But how much substance there is behind the allegations may depend on who’s talking.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told NBC’s Today show that he believes Obama just woke up to the gravity of the al Qaeda threat. SECURITY-AIRLINE/OBAMA

“A lot of us have been concerned over the last year that the president did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn’t use the word anymore. He hesitates to say that there is a war on terror,” DeMint said.

No sequel to ‘cash for clunkers’ but…

While the $3 billion “Cash for Clunkers” blockbuster is over, Congress is not finished with Detroit. AUTOS/

No one is talking about a “Return of Clunker” or “Son of Clunker” sequel, but it still looks as if car companies will renew their part in the congressional agenda even as another humongous production — healthcare — threatens to swallow the Capitol whole.

A priority for Democrats everywhere is to push the benefits of economic stimulus and pound the podium on job creation. Thursday, the focus is on the future of manufacturing in the economically hard-hit Midwest — a battleground in any election scenario.

The First Draft: Friday, Nov. 5

Detroit CEOs drive their hybrid cars over to the House of Representatives for another serving of humble pie this morning. But it’s still not clear if they’ll get the $34 billion bailout they’re looking for, as several senators remained skeptical after yesterday’s testimony on that side of the Capitol. 
     
Testimony before the House Financial Services Committee begins at 9:30 a.m. 

     
The last outstanding Senate race may finally reach a resolution today, as Minnesota could complete its recount in the contest between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. 

But any resolution will be preliminary: there are still about 6,000 ballots that have been challenged and will need further review.

The First Draft: Thursday, Nov. 4

They’re back, and this time they didn’t take the corporate jet. CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler will try again to wrangle billions of dollars in bailout money from Congress. This time, they drove from Detroit and they can explain they would do with the money. But they’ve also upped their request from $25 billion to $34 billion.
    
Testimony in front of the Senate Banking Committee begins at 10 a.m.
    
The Labor Department will issue its weekly jobless claims report, and it’s not expected to be pretty. The numbers come out at 8:30 a.m. Futures markets point to a lower opening for U.S. stocks after drugmaker Merck offered a disappointing 2009 profit outlook.
    
Some of the government’s top financial officials speak today. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke talks about housing at 11:15, while Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair speaks at a consumer conference at 8:30 a.m.

President-elect Barack Obama has no public events today.
 

Remember George W. Bush? Yes, he’s still president. He lights the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House at 5 p.m.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Auto company CEOs testify in Congress)
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (National Christmas tree arrives at the White House)

The First Draft: Wednesday, Dec. 3

President-elect Barack Obama will continue to fill out his Team of Rivals when he names New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary at a press conference scheduled for 11:40 a.m. EST For those of you keeping score at home, that means at least three members of his administration will be former Democratic presidential candidates – Richardson, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and Secretary of State pick Hillary Clinton. 
     
We can’t wait to see what he has in mind for Dennis Kucinich. 
     
On the Hill, lawmakers will continue to weigh U.S. automakers’ restructuring proposals ahead of hearings later this week. The heads of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, chastened from their skeptical reception last month, are driving from Detroit this time — and they’re confident they’ll get here in good shape. 
     
“Our cars don’t have car trouble,” GM president Fritz Henderson said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 

Chrysler officials hold a rally at a dealership in suburban New Carollton, Maryland, to build support for the bailout at 11:30 a.m. 
     
Bigwigs from Honda and Toyota are in town, too. But they’re not here to beg for cash — they’re talking about electric cars and other sustainable technologies at the Convention Center. 
      
Just how bad is this recession? We’ll know more at 2 p.m., when the Fed Releases its “Beige Book,” an antecdotal survey of economic conditions nationwide. 
    
Wall Street doesn’t need more gloomy evidence. Stocks are expected to open lower after Research in Motion, the folks who make the Blackberry, slashed their outlook and mining giant Freeport-McMoRan suspended its divident payments and slashed copper output.

REUTERS/Richard Clement (Richardson and Obama at campaign rally)

REUTERS/Fred Prouser (GM logo at LA auto show)

Shocker: Fat cat CEOs fly on private jets!

Congress is taking a hard look at Detroit’s autos these days. But what about Detroit’s jets?

When the chief executives of Ford and General Motors flew in to Washington yesterday to ask Congress for a $25 billion lifeline, they didn’t fly coach.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner arrived on his company’s cushy Gulfstream IV, ABC News reported. Ford CEO Alan Mulally flew in on a private company jet as well.

The First Draft: Tuesday, Nov. 18

Chief executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, along with the head of the United Autoworkers union, will testify to Congress today about the need for a bailout of their struggling companies.

“It’s going to be really neat to be able to explain and talk about the progress we’ve made,” Ford CEO Alan Mullaly said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
    
But Mullaly and his fellow auto-industry bigwigs could be in for a bumpy ride. Detroit’s clout on Capitol Hill has diminished in recent years as automakers have closed plants across the country and lobbied heavily against increases in fuel efficiency, the New York Times reports. Cushy union contracts and multimillion-dollar paychecks for executives probably won’t help win over public support, either.
    
Testimony in front of the Senate Banking Committee begins at 3 p.m. EST.
    
Speaking of bailouts, what’s happening to that $700 billion earmarked for the financial services industry? Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify in front of the House Financial Services Committee at 10 a.m.
    
And it’s reckoning time for Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman. The 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee could lose control of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee as payback for supporting Republican John McCain in the presidential race when Senate Democrats hold leadership elections.
    
President-elect Barack Obama holds no public events today as he continues to assemble his administration from Chicago.
    
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will name baseball slugger Ken Griffey Jr. as a “public diplomacy envoy” who will travel the world to help improve the U.S. image abroad. Junior’s been hobbled by injuries over the past decade, but he’s been untainted by the steroids scandal that has snared more productive stars like Barry Bonds.
    
Stocks are expected to open lower on fears that the economic slump is worsening. The National Association of Realtors releases home-sale data at 10 a.m., and the Labor Department should provide a snapshot of inflation when it releases the Producer Price Index at 8:30 a.m.
    
And if you want to see Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rub elbows with professional wrestler Bret Hart, head on over to the National Press Club’s book fair at 5:30 p.m.