Tales from the Trail

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.

“But in the last few days, he seems to have come around to the idea that there are people in Yemen and other places who are intent on hurting Americans,” the lawmaker added.

A completely different picture comes from Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who chronicled Republican George W. Bush’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

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.”

Obama nominates Bush spokeswoman to broadcast board

She represented President George W. Bush before the world’s media and now is a commentator for Fox News. And she’s been quite a vocal critic of the current White House. USA/

But he nominated her anyway.

President Barack Obama nominated his predecessor’s press secretary, Dana Perino, to the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors.

We asked Perino about it, and she told us that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell put her name forward for the position.

Obama admits to mistakes, but no big ones

Barack Obama says he probably makes one mistake a day, but doesn’t think he has made any fundamental ones in almost 10 months as president of the United States.

obamartrsToward the end of his first term, his predecessor George W. Bush famously said in answer to a question that he could not think of any mistakes he had made — a comment which long dogged him as the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 led to chaos in Iraq.

When Obama was asked the same question on Monday, he was quicker on his feet.

“Oh, we make at least one mistake a day,” he said with a smile.

“But I will say this, I don’t think we’ve made big mistakes,” he told Reuters in an interview in the Oval Office. “I don’t think we’ve made fundamental mistakes.”

The First Draft: Jobs (not), Jobs (not), Jobs (not)

The October employment report is in and it’s a shocker.

The unemployment rate jumped to 10.2 percent, the highest since April 1983 when it was also 10.2 pct. If you don’t want to do the math, that was 26 years ago. It was worse than expectations for 9.9 percent. TEXAS-SHOOTING/SOLDIER

This is not good news for President Barack Obama who is struggling to pull the economy out of the worst recession since the Depression.

The employment numbers were also worse than expected with October payrolls falling 190,000, a bigger drop than the 175,000 decline expected.

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” He was talking about education in the United States.

But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government’s attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.

“We never promised Afghans a perfect democracy,” “Afghans have lower expectations in terms of security,” “we have to recognise Afghanistan will always remain a poor, conservative land with a low-level insurgency,” “our goal in Afghanistan is simply to prevent al Qaeda using its territory to attack us.” AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION/KARZAI

Obama tells critics to “grab a mop”

President Barack Obama fired back on Tuesday at conservative critics who say he has not accomplished enough in his first nine months in office.

He told them they should “grab a mop” to help him clean up the mess he inherited from Republican President George W. Bush. obama1

Many Republican critics say the continued sluggishness in the economy and the rise in the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent were a sign that Obama policies on the economy were not effective.

The First Draft: What was the Nobel committee thinking?

OBAMA/Even before sunrise in Washington, tongues were wagging over the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s choice of President Barack Obama to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. And the big question — aside from whether a first-term president in his ninth month in office has done enough to deserve the award — was, what was the committee thinking?

We know what they say they were thinking. Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “When we have a person whose ideals are so close to the ideals of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, we wanted to give whatever support we could to continued action in these fields.”

But if you read the official announcement, it sure sounds like it translates to: Obama isn’t George W. Bush.

Where former Attorney General Gonzales is now….

Alberto Gonzales was probably one of the most controversial U.S. attorneys general in history and left in a swirl of controversy about fired federal prosecutors and his role in authorizing harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.After keeping a relatively a low profile since resigning in the summer of 2007, he has now begun his stint as a visiting professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he will teach a course entitled “Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch” that will encompass crafting legislation and shepherding a Supreme Court nominee through the SenateUSA/ He sat down with Texas Lawyer for one of the most wide-ranging interviews he has given since leaving office in which he offers insights into many of the controversies.On the issue of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush Justice Department — which are in the spotlight now as the new Obama administration is examining whether they broke the law — Gonzales said it was natural that such guidance is revised over time.”What the lawyers tried to do (during the Bush years) was to define, to give boundaries to what the statute allowed,” Gonzales said. “When I was in the administration I encouraged lawyers to continually look at our legal position and to get comfortable if we were in fact on solid ground. And if people wanted to continue to revise, I think that was the appropriate role for lawyers.”As White House counsel, Gonzales made a controversial visit to the hospital bed of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to push for approval of a secret surveillance program. Gonzales said he would discuss the incident in greater detail in his forthcoming book but that he went at President George W. Bush’s behest.”The reason we went to General Ashcroft is because he is the one who had been approving this program and these activities for a number of years. And he had been the Senate-confirmed attorney general, and as far as the president was concerned, that’s the person he wanted us to talk to,” Gonzales said.However, at the time, the deputy attorney general, James Comey, was in charge (and he was also confirmed by the U.S. Senate) while Ashcroft recovered from surgery.Gonzales in the interview also again strenuously defended his role in the firing of several federal prosecutors and said he had been cleared of wrongdoing by the inspector general.One final interesting tidbit from the interview is a rather stark contrast between Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney over who is chief U.S. law enforcement officer.In a Fox News interview on Sunday, while discussing the Obama administration’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to examine whether there was any wrongdoing in the harsh interrogations, Cheney said the president is the chief law enforcement officer in the administration. But Gonzales said the attorney general holds that title and must fulfill that obligation.The Justice Department’s website offers the historical support for Gonzales’ position, here.Click here for more Reuters political coverage.- Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Bush daughter to be TV reporter

Teacher, author and now television correspondent.

Not a bad resume for a former first daughter .

Former President George W. Bush’s daughter Jenna Hager, a Baltimore teacher, is joining NBC’s “Today” crew as a correspondent, the show’s executive producer Jim Bell told AP on Sunday.

Hager, 27, will work out of NBC’s Washington bureau, but she won’t be covering politics. Nor does she intend to talk about her eight years under public scrutiny known mostly as one of the Bush Twins.

“I hope to focus on what I’m passionate about because I think I’d do the best job on them — education, urban education, women and children’s issues and literacy,” Hager said.