Tales from the Trail

The First Draft, Tuesday, Dec. 23

December 23, 2008

Tuesday’s political news is all about pecs, abs and and a painful shoulder.
 
A photographer caught President-elect Barack Obama sunning in his swimsuit on a Hawaii beach. 
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The images drew an admiring “Fit for Office” headline from the New York Post as well as approving nods from the morning TV talk shows. 
 
The painful shoulder belonged to President George W. Bush. It got an MRI scan and a cortisone shot at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Monday as Bush paid a visit to wounded soldiers.
 
Obama’s transition team is due to release a report detailing the contacts between his staff and the office of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
 
The governor has been charged with trying to benefit personally by selling off the Senate seat that Obama vacated in November after winning the presidential election. Blagojevich has the power to appoint a replacement to finish Obama’s term.
 
ABC News said the report found that Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, discussed the seat with the governor’s office but did not do or say anything wrong.
 
Obama’s staff finished the report last week but its release was held up at the request of the U.S. attorney investigating Blagojevich.
 
The president-elect also will attend a private memorial service Tuesday for his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died just before the election. Obama lived with his grandmother and grandfather in Hawaii throughout his teenage years.
USA/ 
Hillary Clinton has written off $13.1 million in loans to her failed campaign for president, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
 
The New York Times also reported that the former first lady and New York senator, who was selected by Obama to serve as secretary of state, is moving to widen the role of the State Department.
 
She is seeking to build a more powerful State Department with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and a larger role in dealing with global economic issues, the Times reported.
 
The U.S. economy shrank at an annual pace of 0.5 percent, new government figures showed Tuesday. Consumer spending shrank by 3.8 percent, the sharpest drop since 1980.
 
Stock futures were little changed, suggesting a relatively flat open on Wall Street.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

The First Draft, Monday, Dec. 22

December 22, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama may release a report Monday detailing the contacts between his staff and scandal-tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. 
 
ABC News says Obama is expected to release the report sometime Monday. The Washington Post says it is due out Monday or Tuesday. 
USA-OBAMA/ 
Blagojevich has been charged with trying to sell the Senate seat that was vacated by Obama after his election to the presidency in November. 
 
The governor has power to appoint someone to serve out the remaining years of the term. 
 
Obama’s staff finished the report last week but its release was held up at the request of the U.S. attorney who is investigating Blagojevich.
 
ABC said Sunday the report found that Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel spoke once with Blagojevich and four times with Blagojevich’s chief of staff, John Harris. ABC said the report cleared Emanuel of doing anything or saying anything wrong.
 
The fiery Continental Airlines accident in Denver, with a dramatic escape by passengers and crew, dominated the morning TV news. The icy U.S. weather ran a close second.
 
Temperatures weren’t a problem for the president-elect, who is relaxing in Hawaii for the holidays.
 
President George W. Bush has a holiday-related schedule Monday. He visits a project for the needy in Washington and later meets with wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. 
 USA-BLAGOJEVICH/
Caroline Kennedy’s bid to become a senator was back in the news on morning TV. Kennedy is trying to win appointment to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, who is becoming Obama’s secretary of state.
 
New York Gov. David Paterson is considering a number of names, including the daughter of assassinated President John F. Kennedy. 
 
New York’s Republicans objected mightily to her consideration, with Rep. Peter King questioning her lack of political experience.
 
Stock futures were little changed Monday in what was expected to be a light trading week ahead of the Christmas holiday.
 
For more Reuters political coverage, click here.

The First Draft, Friday, Dec. 19

December 19, 2008

President George W. Bush threw a lifeline to the U.S. auto industry Friday.
 
USA-BUSH/The president announced a $17.4 billion government loan program for two ailing U.S. carmakers and gave them until March 31 to prove they can become viable.
 
“There’s too great a risk that bankruptcy now would lead to a disorderly liquidation of American auto companies,” Bush said in an address from the White House.
 
“My economic advisers believe that such a collapse would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry.”
 
The U.S. stock markets opened higher on the news. Some of Bush’s fellow Republicans in Congress, who helped kill a recent bailout effort there, expressed frustration.
 
Rep. Tom Price of Georgia said it was “deeply disappointing that the administration has chosen to use taxpayer dollars to delay the inevitable need to fundamentally restructure these companies.”
 
The Bush announcement came as President-elect Barack Obama was getting ready for his fifth news conference in as many days.
 
The Democratic president-elect is expected to announce his picks for labor secretary, transportion secretary and U.S. trade representative at the 2:15 p.m. EST conference.
 
Retiring Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood, a Republican, is being tapped as the transportation secretary. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a partner at a Houston law firm, is the trade representative, and California Rep. Hilda Solis is the labor secretary choice.
 
Morning television focused on the severe weather across parts of the country and the death of Mark Felt, the former FBI official who was the mysterious “Deep Throat” source for Washington Post reporters during the Watergate investigation.
 LIFE DEEPTHROAT
Felt, the No. 2 official at the FBI at the time, provided guidance to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they pieced together the scandal that ultimatedly prompted the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
 
Felt, who was 95, kept his role in the story a secret for 30 years, finally making his part known in a 2005 Vanity Fair article written by his family lawyer. The New York Times called him “the most famous anonymous source in American history.”

California, Here She Comes

December 18, 2008

Don’t look for Condoleezza Rice to get all sentimental about waving goodbye to Washington after the Bush administration leaves office on Jan. 20.

Bush stirs political pot for possible Jeb Senate run

December 17, 2008

WASHINGTON – The Bush dynasty in Washington may not be over just yet.

BUSH NAVYEven as President George W. Bush is packing his bags to head to Texas after eight years in the White House, he is stirring up a little political curiosity about his “little” brother Jeb possibly running for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida.

The First Draft: Wednesday, Dec 17

December 17, 2008

USA-POLITICS/DEMOCRATS

President-elect Barack Obama is almost done with his first chore.

Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, holds a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday to announce he has picked former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to head the agriculture department and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary.USA-POLITICS/

from Environment Forum:

Obama is just the facts on environment

December 16, 2008

Was that a dig at outgoing President George W. Bush? President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new environmental team and insisted his administration would focus on "the facts" as it put together policy.

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 15

December 15, 2008

For Detroit’s struggling automakers, the wait continues.

There will be no word on the fate of the struggling industry’s financial bailout at least until President George W. Bush is safely home later on Monday after ducking shoes in Iraq and visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the White House says.
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Bush looks forward to being a quiet sports spectator again

December 11, 2008

WASHINGTON – In between packing up to move back to Texas and trying to save the U.S. automotive industry, President George W. Bush squeezed in 40 minutes to talk extensively about one of his greatest loves — sports.

The double life of Robert Gates

December 11, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is leading a double life these days.
 
Maybe that’s not so tough for a former spymaster but it does make for some awkward moments.
 AFGHAN-USA/GATES
As the only member of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet asked to stay on under Barack Obama, Gates has to juggle working for the current White House and preparing for the next administration with the president-elect’s transition team.
 
“There’s only one commander-in-chief at a time and so I’m not forgetting at all, for a second, who is the president until noon on Jan. 20,” the former CIA director stressed to reporters on board his plane as he flew to Afghanistan this week.
 
But Gates admitted his dual role did “create some occasional awkwardnesses.”
 
Sometimes, he recounted, he has to say: “I would love to come to this meeting at the White House but I actually have a meeting with the transition.”
 
Gates made clear he had never missed a meeting with Bush.
 
But he added: “Let’s just say that if I’m faced with a choice between attending a principals’ meeting on an issue that I think is not particularly hot and meeting with the transition folks, I’ll opt for the latter.”