Tales from the Trail

The First Draft, Friday, Dec. 19

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.”

Meanwhile, Bush attended the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

“I suspected there would be a good-size crowd,” he said, “once the word got out about my hanging.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Bush at unveiling of his portrait at National Portrait Gallery); Reuters/Lou Dematteis (Felt at his home in 2005)

California, Here She Comes

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

It’s no secret that the Secretary of State plans to go back to California. But will she miss life in the U.S. capital?

“No,” Rice said, laughing, in a CNN interview.

She has been a top adviser to President George W. Bush for eight years — first as national security adviser before moving to the State Department in 2005.

Bush stirs political pot for possible Jeb Senate run

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.

In an interview with the blog RealClearPolitics published this week, President Bush was asked if Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, would be part of comeback by Republicans in 2010 after a drubbing in the last two congressional elections.

“He would be an awesome U.S. senator,” Bush replied. The seat up in 2010 is being vacated by Republican Sen. Mel Martinez who decided earlier this month not to run for another term.

The First Draft: Wednesday, Dec 17

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/

With those selections, Obama moves closer to filling the last of the Cabinet posts in his administration, with nominees for transportation, labor and U.S. Trade Representative still to be named. 

It is a rapid pace for the next president, who has moved faster than his recent predecessors in making Cabinet selections. He hoped to have most of them out of the way before he heads to Hawaii on vacation at the end of the week. 

from Environment Forum:

Obama is just the facts on environment

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.

"We understand the facts demand bold action," he said.

In case listeners didn't get the point that the new administration thinks it's different from that of outgoing President Bush, Veep-to-be Joe Biden gave it a try.

"There is no doubt about the challenges in front of us, but there is no putting our heads in the sand, either, as in my view we have done for some time. Particularly when it comes to science -- welcome doctor," he said, looking at Energy Department Chief-to-be Dr. Steven Chu.

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 15

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.
.SAUDI/

Most analysts and observers are expecting White House action soon to help the carmakers after the Senate’s failure last week to approve a $14 billion bailout that could avert catastrophic failures and millions of job losses in a recession-wracked economy.

But White House spokesman Dana Perino said there was no timetable for a decision.

Bush looks forward to being a quiet sports spectator again

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.

BASEBALL/In an interview with a Washington Post sports writer, the former baseball team owner said the financial meltdown would likely cascade down to major league sports, noting that they tend to thrive on regular attendees.

“If you’re unable to get the American family to come to your park more than once a year, you’re going to have a difficult time when it comes to your attendance. Of course this will exacerbate the problem,” Bush said according to the Post.

The double life of Robert Gates

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.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Pool (Gates shakes hands with U.S. Air Force officials at a base in Kyrgyzstan on Dec. 11)

Bushes buy a house in tony Dallas neighborhood

WASHINGTON – Moving day is less than seven weeks away for President George W. and Laura Bush and they have finally settled on a house in the upscale Dallas, Texas neighborhood of Preston Hollow.

The neighborhood is about a 2-hour, 20-minute drive from their 1,600-acre (648-hectare) ranch in Crawford, Texas (according to Google Maps) which they also plan to keep.

“The President and Mrs. Bush do not have occupancy of the home, and therefore, no additional details will be provided,” said Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for the first lady. She declined to say whether the Bushes plan to take advantage of a drop in mortgage rates to buy the new digs.

The First Draft: Thursday, Nov. 4

They’re back, and this time they didn’t take the corporate jet. CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler will try again to wrangle billions of dollars in bailout money from Congress. This time, they drove from Detroit and they can explain they would do with the money. But they’ve also upped their request from $25 billion to $34 billion.
    
Testimony in front of the Senate Banking Committee begins at 10 a.m.
    
The Labor Department will issue its weekly jobless claims report, and it’s not expected to be pretty. The numbers come out at 8:30 a.m. Futures markets point to a lower opening for U.S. stocks after drugmaker Merck offered a disappointing 2009 profit outlook.
    
Some of the government’s top financial officials speak today. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke talks about housing at 11:15, while Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair speaks at a consumer conference at 8:30 a.m.

President-elect Barack Obama has no public events today.
 

Remember George W. Bush? Yes, he’s still president. He lights the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House at 5 p.m.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Auto company CEOs testify in Congress)
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (National Christmas tree arrives at the White House)