Tales from the Trail

Romney on his work as a Mormon missionary: “We didn’t convert one person”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, where co-host Joe Scarborough asked him about his experience as a Mormon missionary in France in the 1960s. “Talk about your rejections as a missionary knocking on door, after door, after door in a hostile environment,” Scarborough asked.

Romney recalled five months he spent in one French city, where he said near-constant brush-offs built his resilience:

“We knocked on doors from morning until quite late in the evening,” he said. “We didn’t convert one person in five months. So, you understand the rejection, you know that’s a pretty high level of rejection and you get used to it. You say, ‘okay, what do I believe, what’s important to me,’ and you don’t measure yourself and your success by how other people react, but instead by how you’re doing and how you feel about the things you care about.”

Watch the clip below (Romney speaks about his experience as a missionary starting at the 2:00 mark):

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from Environment Forum:

Is Michelle Obama strumming along with Gibson Guitar?

It's not often that a U.S. first lady's gift makes news -- years after the fact -- but Michelle Obama's 2009 present to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has sparked some comment among free trade boosters and guitar pickers. The gift in question: a Gibson Hummingbird guitar.

Gibson Guitar Corp. has been making some news of its own this week, which is why those in Washington with long memories recalled the gift to the music-loving French first lady. Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz was in town to raise awareness about a problem he has with a long-standing U.S. law aimed at curbing illegal trafficking in tropical hardwoods, among other materials. Federal agents raided two of his Tennessee factories and confiscated more than $1 million worth of rosewood, ebony and finished guitars. No charges have been filed but Gibson's chief says he is being investigated for possible violation of the Lacey Act of 1900. Read more about that here.

At a lunch with reporters and others, Juszkiewicz said he favors using sustainably harvested wood for Gibson instruments, and because guitars need such a small amount of tropical hardwoods for their fingerboards -- the wooden top of the guitar's neck -- that's well within the realm of possibility. But he says a 2008 amendment to the act is more protectionist than environmentally friendly. And he says the seizure of the materials his company needs to make the instruments makes it harder for Gibson's hundreds of U.S. employees. The Justice Department has refused to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Obama draws query by signing Patriot Act extension with auto-pen

What’s a president to do when Congress passes a bill just hours before key anti-terrorism surveillance measures are about to expire and he’s 4,000 miles away?  Auto-pen of course.

For the uninitiated, lawmakers and yes, even the president of the United States, have a  machine that has a real pen which goes over a copy of the person’s actual signature. It is typically used for signing proforma letters or souvenir pictures to send constituents or fans.

Well, President Barack Obama has been in Europe for the annual G-8 summit and Congress was racing to pass legislation extending the authorization of key surveillance methods used to try to thwart attacks on the United States, which were due to expire Thursday night at midnight. Congress came through just hours before midnight but Obama was in France.

Just the right tavern to celebrate 200 years of U.S.-French military ties

Not every U.S. ally who visits the Pentagon needs to be treated to a dinner that evokes more than 200 years of peaceful military relations.

France is the rare exception.

So when Defense Minister Alain Juppe traveled to Washington this week for talks with Robert Gates, the U.S. defense secretary found just the right venue: Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, one of the few establishments in the United States that can boast of “fine dining since 1770.”

Its historical guest list includes the likes of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe.

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.

Game Night AND Date Night for President Obama

It was unlikely that President Barack Obama, a big basketball fan, was going to miss the seventh and final game of a hard fought NBA playoff series between his hometown Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.  
 
get_thumbnail2But it happened to fall on one of the regular “date nights” that the U.S. leader had promised First Lady Michelle Obama upon their arrival in Washington in January. 
 
Solution: an early dinner at French restaurant Michel Richard Citronelle in Georgetown. A 14-vehicle Presidential motorcade pulled up outside the swanky restaurant, drawing hundreds of onlookers and blocking traffic as the upscale area’s Saturday night party scene got underway.  
 
The restaurant is one of Washington’s most exclusive eateries. A table was not available on its online booking system until May 29, and that was before the Obamas appearence made headlines and was widely Twittered. After the U.S. leader dined with Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty at Ben’s Chili Bowl in January, the landmark DC institution had queues outside for weeks. 
 
Although Citronelle’s website boasts that Conde Nast Traveler magazine called it “one of the world’s most exciting restaurants,” Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema was not so flattering in an October 2008 review. 
 
“Throughout a recent dinner at what used to be a four-star experience, an unmistakable joylessness courses through the fading underground dining room that bears the name of one of the country’s most esteemed chefs,” Sietsema wrote http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/restaurants/michel-richard-citronelle,795996.html#editorial-review 
 
Nonetheless, Sietsema added in his review that Richard and his staff still put on an impressive show. “I adore Citronelle’s tomato tart, which springs from a pastry base (and cucumber gelee) like a colorful bouquet. And sablefish marinated with sake, miso and mirin before hitting the broiler is about as good as that creature gets.” 
 
Like clockwork, two hours after departing the White House, the Obamas’ 14-vehicle motorcade departed cheering crowds in Georgetown and arrived home apparently in time for the Bulls-Celtics 8 p.m. tip-off. 
 
The President then took the First Lady for a brief stroll across the White House grounds, waving to photographers. Game Night could now begin. 
 
“Click here for more Reuters political coverage”

First Draft: French kiss

Can this be France? What happened to the days when cross-Atlantic gauntlets were thrown down and French fries turned into Freedom fries?

President Barack Obama was welcomed like a rock star in a land notorious for its air-sniffing disdain of almost everything American. NATO/

Although first lady Michelle Obama is almost overshadowing her husband in media coverage about their European jaunt, with many comparisons to Jackie Kennedy who wowed them all overseas.

from MacroScope:

Watch out for the G20 spin

Be careful this week about buying wholeheartedy into any G20-related spin about supposedly savvy, free-spending Britain and America doing more to combat the world economic crisis than supposedly stubborn, overly cautious Germany and France. The actual figures show it is much more complex than that.

A Reuters calculation on discretionary fiscal stumuli and the International Monetary Fund's assessment show that, if anything, Britain is the significant laggard and that German spending almost matches the United States over the next two years. Here are the IMF's numbers (% of GDP):

                                                          2009                     2010

Clinton goes on charm offensive with French

clinton-kouchnerWASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton went on a charm offensive with France’s foreign minister on Thursday, fondly recalling many trips to Paris and heaping praise on the country’s education system as a model for America.
 
Clinton has played up the Transatlantic relationship this week, choosing to meet first with the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France in her second week as new U.S. secretary of state.
 
“I have been to France many times and I always have a good impression. I enjoy visiting in France,” the former first lady and New York senator said at a joint news conference with France’s Bernard Kouchner at the State Department.
 
She recalled meeting Kouchner’s wife “longer ago than Christine or I care to admit” and said she was impressed by the country’s preschool facilities, prompting her to return home to try and get the United States to follow France’s example.
 
“I not only have enjoyed my time in France but I have learned a lot from my visits. I look forward to returning,” she added. “As soon as possible,” gushed Kouchner, beaming at her side.
 
The Bush administration had a prickly relationship with France at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, to the extent that in congressional cafeteria the words “French fries” were changed to “Freedom fries” on menus.
 For more Reuters political news, click here

Photo Credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Clinton, Kouchner speak at the State Department)