Tales from the Trail

The First Draft, Thursday, Jan 8

January 8, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama will use a speech on the economy Thursday to try to build support for a massive stimulus bill aimed at lifting the United States out of a deep recession. 
 
BUSH/Obama is warning Congress that unless it acts quickly and boldly to pass his stimulus plan, with its estimated $775 billion price tag, the country could be mired for years in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
 
The president-elect delivers his remarks at 11 a.m. at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, with less than two weeks to go before his inauguration.
 
The speech comes as some lawmakers and financial experts are beginning to raise doubts about elements of the stimulus plan.
 
The Washington Post quoted lawmakers, tax experts and economists as saying some of the tax cuts in the Obama plan are likely to be too expensive and ineffective.
 
Obama’s choice to lead the administration’s charge on health care reform goes before a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.
 
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is expected to receive a cordial welcome from his ex-colleagues and Democratic leaders on the panel predict a smooth confirmation.
 
President George W. Bush travels to Philadelphia Thursday for an event touting the success of his No Child Left Behind education reform program.
 
The House of Representatives and the Senate hold a joint session to formally count the electoral votes from the November election, in which Obama defeated Republican rival John McCain.
 
The action will formally declare Obama as winner of the U.S. presidential vote.
 
The morning television news shows reported on Obama’s economic speech and new violence in the Middle East, where rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel.
 
The attacks raised concerns about a possible second front in Israel’s two-week war against Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip.
 
U.S. stock futures dropped early Thursday on disappionting December sales by Wal-Mart, pointing to a lower open on Wall Street.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Bush to welcome New Year with sunrise ranch stroll

December 31, 2008

CRAWFORD, Texas – President George W. Bush, in the sunset of his presidency, plans to welcome in the New Year with a sunrise stroll accompanied by wife, Laura, at their Texas ranch. 
 BUSH
“It’s something they’ve always enjoyed doing and look forward to doing tomorrow,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
 
Some New Year’s Eve revelers might struggle at the prospect of waking up at dawn after partying past midnight, but not Bush since he’s an early-to-bed kinda guy.
 
“I think he’s more likely to be an early riser for the first of the New Year rather than to see the old year out,” Johndroe said.
 
Bush will return to Texas for good after handing over the  White House keys to Barack Obama on Jan. 20. He plans to live in Dallas, but was also expected to spend time at the Crawford ranch on weekends and holidays.
 
In his final New Year’s Day presidential message, Bush said 2009 was an “exciting time for our country” as it prepares for a peaceful transfer of power.
 
“As my time in office comes to a close, I thank the American people for trusting me with the honor of serving our great country. It has been a tremendous privilege, and together we have accomplished a great deal,” Bush said.

The First Draft, Wednesday Dec. 31

December 31, 2008

Happy New Year. It was a great political year. But most folks with a 401K retirement account and a mortgage will be glad to bid farewell to 2008 and ring in 2009 with a feeling of optimism that is natural with the start of a new year. 

The First Draft, Tuesday Dec. 30

December 30, 2008

Israel’s military operations in Gaza continue to dominate front pages of major newspapers and morning talk shows. Wall Street is looking for a positive start as oil and gold prices ease back from the price spikes that followed the onset of the Israeli strikes against Hamas.USA-OBAMA/

The First Draft, Monday Dec. 29

December 29, 2008

WASHINGTON – Israeli air attacks in Gaza dominate morning talk shows and front pages of major U.S. newspapers. The attacks pushed up oil prices by more than $3 a barrel to over $40. Gold prices also moved higher. Nevertheless, U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street in what is expected to be a light trading.tanks2

Laura Bush: Shoe-throwing incident sign of ‘freer’ Iraq

December 29, 2008

The video of an agile U.S. President George W. Bush ducking two shoes thrown at him during a news conference in Baghdad has been fodder for jokes on late-night television and a big hit on the Internet.

George W. Bush: Book-reader in chief

December 26, 2008

Just when you get your mind all made up about President George W. Bush, along comes Karl Rove trying to unsettle things.
 USA/
The president is far from being the uncultured book-burner often portrayed by his critics, his former deputy chief of staff wrote in The Wall Street Journal Friday.
 
In fact, Bush is a voracious reader and lover of books, Rove insisted.
 
The president has gone through 40 tomes so far this year. That follows 51 in 2007 and 95 in 2006. Plus the Bible from cover to cover each year.
 
History, fiction, biography. You name it, he’s read it.
 
“Team of Rivals,” the book about Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet that is shaping President-elect Barack Obama’s thinking about his own administration?
 
Bush has been there, done that. Read it back in ’06. Along with a Mao biography, Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower,” eight Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald and “The Stranger” by Albert Camus.
 
He went through “Khrushchev’s Cold War,” “Rogue Regime” and “The Shia Revival” in ’07. That plus his daughter Jenna’s book “Ana’s Story.” And many others.
 
This year there’s been U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs,” Hugh Thomas’ “Spanish Civil War” and James McPherson’s “Tried by war: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief.”
 
“There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one,” Rove wrote.
 USA/
“Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic,” he said.
 
If the reading part wasn’t shock enough for Bush naysayers, Rove has more.
 
“Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them and is intellectually engaged by them,” he wrote.
 
How, you may ask, would Rove know so much about Bush’s reading habits?
 
It seems they have been engaged in friendly competition to see who could read the greatest number of books each year. 

The First Draft, Friday, Dec. 26

December 26, 2008

President George W. Bush heads to his Texas ranch for a holiday break Friday.
 
President-elect Barack Obama is already on vacation in Hawaii, where he paid a USA-OBAMA/visit to Marines on Christmas Day.
 
Congress is in recess until after Jan. 1.
 
With the politicians away from Washington, the morning TV shows focused on other news, including the ailing economy’s performance during the holiday shopping season.
 
Retail sales, minus gasoline, were down 2 percent from the previous year in November and 4 percent in the Dec. 1-Dec. 24 period, MasterCard Advisor’s SpendingPulse reported.
 
Some retailers generate up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday period, which typically runs from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.
 
Retailer hopes are now pinned on the post-Christmas sales, which began Friday. USA/

To salute or not to salute, that’s Obama’s question

December 24, 2008

Barack Obama went to a gym at a military base in Hawaii the other day and did something positively Reaganesque — he returned a Marine’s salute.
 
In so doing, he wandered directly into the middle of a thorny debate: Should U.S. presidents return military salutes or not?
 USA-OBAMA/
Longstanding tradition requires members of the military to salute the president. The practice of presidents returning that salute is more recent — Ronald Reagan started it in 1981.
 
Reagan’s decision raised eyebrows at the time. Dwight Eisenhower, a former five-star general, did not return military salutes while president. Nor had other presidents.
 
John Kline, then Reagan’s military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.
 
Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.
 
Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute — or any sign of respect he wished — to anyone he wished, Kline wrote, adding he was glad for the change.
 
Every president since Reagan has followed that practice, even those with no military experience. President Bill Clinton’s saluting skills were roundly criticized after he took office, but the consensus was he eventually got better.
 
The debate over saluting has persisted, with some arguing against it for protocol reasons, others saying it represents an increasing militarization of the civilian presidency.
 
“The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform,” author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The New York Times in 2003.
USA/ 
“But there is more to this than a decline in military manners,” he added. “There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president’s military role.”
 
Garry Wills, the author and Northwestern University professor, echoed those remarks in the Times in 2007.
 
“The glorification of the president as a war leader is registered in numerous and substantial executive aggrandizements; but it is symbolized in other ways that, while small in themselves, dispose the citizenry to accept those aggrandizements,” he wrote.
 
“We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of Marines.”
 
What do you think? Is returning a salute a common courtesy? Or should Obama reconsider the practice?
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

The First Draft, Wednesday, Dec. 24

December 24, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama’s pecs were gone from the news Wednesday, replaced by Chicago shenanigans.
 BUSH/
Newspapers and television covered the Obama team’s report detailing its contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
 
Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat Obama vacated after his November election victory.
 
The report cleared Obama and his aides of any misconduct. But it revealed for the first time that the president-elect sat for an interview last week with the U.S. prosecutor investigating Blagojevich. So did two of his aides.
 
President George W. Bush’s holiday pardons also made the newspapers.
 
Among those receiving pardons was Charlie Winters, who was imprisoned for 18 months breaking a weapons embargo against Israel by ferrying bombers to the new state in 1948, The New York Times reported.
 
Winters, an Irish protestant from Boston, is viewed as a hero in Israel. He died in 1984 at the age of 71.
 
Not on the pardons list: I. Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of lying and obstructing justice during an investigation into who leaked the name of an undercover CIA operative.
 
Bush previously commuted Libby’s sentence.
 
Data out Wednesday showed new jobless claims jumped by 30,000 last week to a 26-year peak. Consumer spending posted a fifth monthly drop. Stock futures were little changed, pointing to a flat opening on Wall Street.
 
It’s Christmas Eve. Obama continued his holiday in Hawaii and Bush was at Camp David. Congress was in recess.
 
Not everyone was on holiday though. The folks at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, were hard at work with their traditional Christmas Eve task – keeping an eye on Santa Claus.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.