Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Modern pursuits

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he’s using modern technology like a BlackBerry and Kindle, when he didn’t even have a cellphone at the White House.

“I’m not totally modern. I still write long-hand and don’t use a computer for that kind of thing,” Cheney said in an NBC interview. “My grandchildren still laugh at me,” he said, and his 3-year-old grandson showed him how to play the Angry Birds game on an iPad. USA-CHINA/

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, while sticking to their well-trod positions on healthcare, did refrain from aiming big slingshots at opponents. (Angry Birds fans, that’s for you).

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived to a red carpet welcome at Andrews Air Force Base where Vice President Joe Biden greeted him. Full pomp and circumstance will be on display tomorrow at the White House, symbolizing the importance that the United States places on ties with China.

But there will be plenty of squawking in the background over China’s currency and human rights.

Dick Cheney: The Thin Man

I almost didn’t recognize him.

Watching Dick Cheney, one of the most recognizable political figures of the decade, on television speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, I did a double-take.

USA-BUSH/LIBRARYHe is about 30 pounds lighter, after being in the hospital for five weeks this summer for a procedure to improve his heart function, according to someone close to him.

The former vice president  and president appear to have moved beyond the end-of-term friction over Bush’s decision not to pardon Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Cheney was upset that Bush didn’t pardon Libby — president’s memoir

USA-SECURITY/CHENEYGeorge W. Bush’s memoir, “Decision Points,” is full of newsy tidbits, and there’s a lot of material about his relationship with his vice president, Dick Cheney, whom Bush considered dumping from the 2004 ticket.

In the book, which hits bookstore shelves on Tuesday, Bush describes how upset Cheney was at him for his refusal to give a full pardon to Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the senior Cheney aide who got caught up in the Valerie Plame scandal and who in 2007 was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Bush commuted the sentence, but refused entreaties to give Libby a full pardon.

Bush writes that in the closing days of his time in the White House in early 2009, Cheney pressed his case that Libby should be pardoned, and was angry when Bush refused.

Bush memoir includes some unexpected moments

Who would have thought former President George W. Bush would publicly admit that he had actually thought of dumping Dick Cheney as his veep?

But that’s just what he does in his memoir “Decision Points,” according to my colleague Steve Holland who obtained a copy of the book which is coming out next Tuesday. PEOPLE WEST

And the worst moment of his presidency? When charges of racism were flung at him over Hurricane Katrina.

No. 43 slips under the radar in DC

Ole 43, otherwise known as former President George W. Bush, was in Washington today to address hundreds of people who worked for him over the years.

USA-BUSH/The whole thing was closed press and so we don’t have a complete read-out of the proceedings but suffice to say that Bush steered clear of the current volatile political climate in Washington.

This has been a consistent position of Bush. While he might chafe privately at some of the blame tossed his way by President Barack Obama, he doesn’t talk about it publicly. Having seen how tough the job is being president, he reckons Obama doesn’t need one more critic telling him how to do it.

Beyond the talk show fireworks, Cheney supported some Obama decisions

Former Vice President Dick Cheney swapped barbs with Vice President Joe Biden on the morning talk shows Sunday.

Beyond the fireworks, however, there were interesting things they didn’t argue about.

Cheney endorsed President Barack Obama’s approach in Afghanistan.

He backed an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that limits the ability of homosexuals to serve in the military.

The First Draft: White House takes a lonely road to openness on Crasher-gate

President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, feels the White House doesn’t need Congress to help it maintain openness on the Crasher-gate scandal. That’s why it’s chosen to eschew the limelight of a Capitol Hill hearing today. USA/

“We think we’ve really answered the questions fully,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America, while making the TV rounds to defend a White House decision not to send its social secretary to explain how a Virginia couple got into last week’s state dinner without an invitation.

“Having a full review up on the (White House) Web site, where everyone in the country — anyone who goes on our Web site — can read it, is the definition of transparency.”

Darth Vader, as played by Robert Gibbs

OBAMA/We saw a lot of photos over the weekend of President Obama and his wife, Michelle “Catwoman” Obama, handing out Halloween treats at the White House on Saturday night.

But we didn’t see one of the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who had dressed up as Darth Vader to join in the festivities.

So check out the photo. He is without his glasses, so he probably couldn’t see a thing. We imagine it would be tempting for him to bring the light saber to his daily news briefing and zap offending questioners.

Halloween: Washington political fright night costume ideas

It’s Halloween this weekend. In Washington that can turn into political fright night.

So we thought we’d scare up some costume ideas to help those who are stumped.

USA/One idea came from a comment on our Obama: “Skinny but tough” blog post from afuller who writes “Best new Halloween Idea: Socialist Mop!!!” We’re thinking red body outfit and crazy wild hair.

Performers angry their music used in Guantanamo interrogations

Interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay liked to blast rock ‘n’ roll music at inmates to try to induce them to talk.

Now some of the folks that made that rock ‘n’ roll music are blasting back.

Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, Rosanne Cash, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Pearl Jam and other musicians have joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo.
GUANTANAMO/
The newly formed campaign, led by retired Lieutenant General Robert Gard and retired Brigadier General John Johns among others, is increasing pressure on the Obama administration to move ahead with the president’s pledge to close the prison.