Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Obama has left the building

obama1A very non-lame Lame Duck is just about done and President Barack Obama is off to his Christmas vacation in Hawaii. Aloha, Mr. President, and congratulations on December. Let’s take a moment to recap.

The Senate approved START today. It’s a big deal for U.S.-Russian relations and sends a clear message to Moscow: Work with us, not against us. The president killed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. It was a priority for Obama who promised on the campaign trail to end the ban on gays openly serving in the military. Democrats caved on taxes and approved Obama’s compromise with Republicans — giving the president a chance to take credit, whether it was an optical win or something more substantial notwithstanding.

Now, some of my colleagues in the media biz think all of this adds up to a Comeback Kid moment for Obama. They see this as a great showing for a man who had the cards stacked against him after Democrats’ November drubbing. It’s not a completely off-base analysis, but it is a bit too dramatic for Extra.

Instead, we’ll just go with what the president himself had to say: “If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we are not doomed to endless gridlock. We’ve shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together.”

With that, Reuters Washington Extra will close out 2010. Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. Happy long weekend to those of you who do not. And Happy New Year to us all. Talk with you again in 2011.

A Senate Christmas tale

(UPDATES with new Reid comments).

Christmas bells are ringing. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t seem to be listening. Much to the chagrin of staffers and more than a few senators, Reid is threatening to keep the Senate in session until Christmas Eve and beyond to finish all the legislative work that Congress failed to complete before the November elections.USA/

That amounts to just about a whole year’s worth of lawmaking. Congress never got around to passing any of the 12 spending bills that fund the government. So the Senate is expected to take up a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill after senators voted to extend Bush-era tax cuts by two years and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for a year.

Reid earlier this week said “…we are going to complete our work, no matter how long it takes, in this Congress.”

Another poll comes out in favor of gays in the military

As Congress mulls “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a new poll finds support for repealing it.

A CNN poll showed that 78 percent, or nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe people who are openly gay should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. MILITARY-GAYS/

The results of the survey of 1,023 adults, conducted May 21-23, were similar to earlier polls — 81 percent in Dec. 19-21, 2008 and 79 percent in May 4-6, 2007.

Hecklers halt Obama remarks

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A persistent band of hecklers knocked President Barack Obama off message Monday night as he spoke at a fundraiser for the Democratic party and California Senator Barbara Boxer in Los Angeles. Obama was interrupted just after he launched into remarks praising Boxer as a senator who cares about the environment and is passionate about fighting for Californians.

Some folks in the audience apparently wanted to talk about something else as a group of protesters demanding the immediate repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” kept heckling him. ” What about don’t ask, don’t tell?” one protester shouted. “We are going to do that,” Obama said at one point in response to the heckling, an apparent reference to his intention to repeal the policy restricting gays from serving in the military.

Obama tried to talk over the protesters. Then he invited them on stage. Supporters chanting “yes we can” tried to drown them out. Heckled again, a visibly irritated Obama said: “Can I just say, once  again, Barbara and I are supportive of repealing don’t ask don’t tell so I don’t know why you’re hollering.”