Tales from the Trail

Sen. Martinez won’t seek re-election in battleground of Florida

Posted by Michael Peltier and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON — Republican Mel Martinez of Florida — a Cuban immigrant who says he lived “The American Dream” — is calling it quits as a member of the U.S. Senate.

Having narrowly won a first term in 2004 and facing an anticipated tough re-election in 2010, Martinez announced on Tuesday he will not run for a second term.

“The inescapable truth, for me, is that the call to public service is strong — but the call to home, family and lifelong friends is even stronger,” Martinez said in a statement that he read at a news conference in Orlando, Florida, and was also released in Washington.

Martinez made his declaration almost a month after the Nov. 4 elections that saw Democrats expand their majorities in Senate and House of Representatives, largely because of the unpopularity of outgoing Republican President George W. Bush and the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression.

Martinez is the second U.S. senator up for re-election in 2010 who has announced he will not seek another term. The other is Sam Brownback of Kansas, who’s also a Republican. Both plan to complete their six-year terms before leaving.

Bush: sometimes to save a free market requires doing the opposite

WASHINGTON – Just as you must break a few eggs to make an omelet, President George W. Bush admitted on Monday that saving the free market system required taking non-free market action.

The MBA president has repeatedly said that the actions taken by his administration to shore up floundering financial firms would not have been the first choice for a free-market thinker like himself, but he had no choice in trying to save the U.S. economy.

On Monday, at a global health forum, there was no question that the president saw the irony in the U.S. government intervening in the private sector to prop up the financial system in the name of keeping free markets afloat.

Bush contemplates how he’d like to be remembered

President George W. Bush, nearing the end of his final term in office, says he most wants to be remembered as someone who came to Washington and didn’t lose his values.
 
Someone who didn’t sell his soul to the political process.
 
Somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace.
 
So he told his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, in an interview for StoryCorps, the national oral history initiative. An excerpt of the interview aired on National Public Radio on Thanksgiving Day and the White House released excerpts on Friday. The entire interview will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process,” Bush said in the interview. “I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values.  And I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice those values.”
 
“I’d like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor,” the president added.
 
He mentions his HIV/AIDS and malaria initiatives in Africa, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit as two programs he is proud of.
 
Asked about his “No Child Left Behind” education law, Bush called it one of the “significant achievements of my administration.”
 
“We said loud and clear to educators, parents, and children that we expect the best for every child, that we believe every child can learn, and that in return for federal money we expect there to be an accountability system in place to determine whether every child is learning to read, write and add and subtract,” Bush said.

Bush hands over power to President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.
 
As he heads into the final weeks of his presidency, Bush’s job approval ratings remain low. Only about 26 percent approve of his performance, while some 70 percent disapprove.
 
Bush’s decision to take the United States to war in Iraq is widely unpopular. A Quinnipiac University poll in early November found that 58 percent disagreed with decision.

The First Draft: Wednesday, Nov. 26

The economic crisis clearly has some folks feeling a little Grinch-like as the holiday season approaches.
 
President-elect Barack Obama, for one.
 
He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that bankers should forego their bonuses this year.
 
“That’s an example of taking responsibility,” he said.
 
Not only that, daughters Malia and Sasha are going to have to make their beds and do other chores when they move into the White House.
 
“They have to learn these things,” Michelle Obama said.
 
Harsh.
 
The networks also report Barbara Bush, the 83-year-old former first lady, spent the night in the hospital after suffering from stomach pains.
 
The hospital stay was precautionary, officials say. Bush, the mother of President George W. Bush, is expected to be released sometime Wednesday.
 
President Bush will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House before heading off to Camp David for the holiday.
 
Upstaging the president and the turkey, Obama will make an economic announcment at 10:45 a.m.
 
He will name former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to chair a panel to advise him on measures to stabilize financial markets and maneuver the country out of a recession, aides say.
 
Obama also is reportedly close to asking Roberts Gates to stay on as defense secretary. Many of Gates’ deputies would be replaced under the deal, The Washington Post said.
 
Newspapers mainly led with the government’s plan for $800 billion in new lending programs to ease the lending crisis and make it easier for consumers to get loans for homes, cars and education.
 
Despite new moves by Washington, China and Europe to stimulate the economy, markets overseas were struggling Wednesday and U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower opening on Wall Street.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama and Volcker at a Florida event Oct. 21)


The First Draft

President Bush tends to ceremonial duties Wednesday while the White House ramps up preparations for the G20 summit this weekend. The G20, which groups industrialized and rapidly developing economies, will be discussing moves to tackle the global financial crisis.

The House Financial Services Committee is looking into the mortgage crisis. It has a hearing on whether banks and other lenders are doing enough help people in jeopardy of losing their houses by changing the terms of mortgages.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether a religious group must be allowed to put its monument in a city park near a similar Ten Commandments display.

Bush aircraft carrier landing redux

NEW YORK – President George W. Bush in 2003 landed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on a Navy jet where he delivered a speech saying major combat operations in Iraq had ended with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, which later caused his administration headaches as the war dragged on.

On Tuesday, Bush landed on another aircraft carrier but this time was on much safer political ground. He landed on the Intrepid, a carrier that has been transformed into a museum which Bush helped re-dedicate as part of his last Veteran’s Day speech as commander-in-chief.

“Not only do we honor those who have worn the uniform, those who are wearing the uniform, we honor their families, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts,” Bush said. ”We have a moral obligation to support our families, and we have a moral obligation to support our veterans. It has been my privilege to work with members of the United States Congress to nearly double the funding for those who have worn the uniform.”

Details for Obama White House tour on Monday emerge

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush and wife Laura will greet their successors Barack and Michelle Obama at the South Portico of the White House at 2 p.m. EST on Monday before giving them a tour of their new home.

They will tour the White House and Bush and the president-elect will stroll over to the Oval Office along the Colonnade between the White House residence and the West Wing. Their wives will have their own private meeting in the White House Residence.

“We are gratified by the invitation. I’m sure that, in addition to taking a tour of the White House, there’s going to be a substantive conversation between myself and the president,” Obama said during his first news conference as president-elect.

Barney bites reporter

WASHINGTON – Word of warning to President-Elect Barack Obama, you probably don’t want to pet First Dog Barney when you visit the White House on Monday.

President George W. Bush’s Scottish Terrier was not feeling too friendly on Thursday when a reporter tried to say hello and pet him on the White House driveway.

Barney snarled and chomped down on Reuters Television correspondent Jon Decker’s index finger, causing some minor bleeding. White House medical staff attended to Decker’s injury and he will require a tetanus shot.

Celebration at the White House — an election and birthday

WASHINGTON – It is a celebratory night at the White House this election night, and not just because President George W. Bush learns who will be his successor — it is his wife Laura’s birthday.

The first couple hosted a private dinner with friends and senior staff in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House and Bush gave his wife earrings to celebrate her 62nd birthday, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The president gave a toast at the start of the dinner thanking everyone for their work and friendship, Perino said. He concluded by saying: “And may God bless whoever wins tonight.”

No matter what, one White House hopeful will return to the Senate

WASHINGTON – When all is said and done with the 2008 presidential election, one of the contenders will be returning to the U.S. Senate,  a harsh reality after coming so close to the White House.

For the first time in 48 years a senator will capture the White House, either Republican Sen. John McCain or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, while the other will go back to being one of 100 in the deliberative body.

But over 48 years, it has happened many times, most recently in 2004 when Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry lost to George W. Bush.