Tales from the Trail

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington’s scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances — energy vampires, he called them.

“Garlic doesn’t work against these vampires,” Chu wrote. “But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet.” Then he linked to the Energy Department’s “energy star” page .

Perhaps it’s a profile-raising approach?

Chu’s got nearly 15,000 Facebook followers but he’s near the bottom of a recent accounting in Politico about which cabinet secretaries can claim the highest media profile. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tops the list, based on how often her name showed up in major newspapers, network evening television news shows, the White House blog and its Flickr feed in the last year. Only Gary Locke, Hilda Solis, Shaun Donovan and Eric Shinseki ranked lower than Chu (you can see which departments they lead by clicking on the link in this paragraph).

But how did Chu come up with the zombie angle? Turns out that my alert colleague Tom Doggett, who reports on energy issues, saw the zombified version of Chu online last week and passed it along to Energy Department spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller. To soften the blow, Tom urged her to tell Chu not to take it personally: “I hear (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar looks much worse.” She wrote back: “Your email inspired a Facebook posting … The Secretary loved the zombie website. Be sure to check out his Facebook page.”

Darth Vader, as played by Robert Gibbs

OBAMA/We saw a lot of photos over the weekend of President Obama and his wife, Michelle “Catwoman” Obama, handing out Halloween treats at the White House on Saturday night.

But we didn’t see one of the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who had dressed up as Darth Vader to join in the festivities.

So check out the photo. He is without his glasses, so he probably couldn’t see a thing. We imagine it would be tempting for him to bring the light saber to his daily news briefing and zap offending questioners.

Obamas turn White House into Halloween central

The White House glowed pumpkin orange on Saturday when the Obama family turned 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into Halloween central, complete with a giant stuffed spider dangling from a web above its front door.

OBAMA/More than 2,000 local area children and their families were invited for the traditional trick-or-treat event.  

The Obamas spent about 30 minutes handing out cellophane bagfulls of boxed red, white and blue M&M’s. The boxes bore the presidential seal. Also tucked in was a home-baked orange-glazed cookie and, in a nod to Michelle Obama’s efforts to promote healthy food, dried apricots and cranberries.

The First Draft: Gripes and Goblins

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton griping about Pakistan while in Pakistan. PAKISTAN USA/

She says it was “hard to believe” that no one in Pakistan’s government knew where al Qaeda leaders were hiding. She talked about her tough talk in a series of morning television interviews, and said on CNN “trust is a two-way street.”

Top military brass coming over to the White House this afternoon. President Barack Obama meets with the military Joint Chiefs of Staff on Afghanistan and Pakistan this afternoon in the Situation Room (so you know it’s important).

Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are also down to attend the meeting where they are all expected to go over recommendations on troop strength and strategy.

Halloween: Washington political fright night costume ideas

It’s Halloween this weekend. In Washington that can turn into political fright night.

So we thought we’d scare up some costume ideas to help those who are stumped.

USA/One idea came from a comment on our Obama: “Skinny but tough” blog post from afuller who writes “Best new Halloween Idea: Socialist Mop!!!” We’re thinking red body outfit and crazy wild hair.

Jill Biden ‘rats’ out husband in Halloween joke

KETTERING, Ohio, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden got publicly “ratted” by his Halloween prankster wife Jill at a rally in Ohio on Friday.

After introducing her husband of three decades to supporters in this suburb of Dayton, the community college teacher slipped a toy black rat onto the podium.

“Some things never change,” laughed Biden when he saw it. “I probably should never let the press know this but Jill walked back up here a moment ago and you know what she did, she put a little rat on the podium. Everything is Halloween with this lady. Happy Halloween.”

Biden pokes Halloween fun at McCain

SUNRISE, Florida – With two days until Halloween, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden has offered Republican presidential hopeful John McCain some costume suggestions.

As the Nov. 4 election looms, the Delaware senator poked fun at McCain’s promise that his policies differ from Republican President George W. Bush.

“I know Halloween is just around the corner. Folks, John McCain, dressed as an agent of change, that costume doesn’t fit,” Biden said as he warmed up the crowd for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in Sunrise, Florida, late on Wednesday.

Predictor of who will win Nov. 4, or just scary Halloween masks?

WASHINGTON – As Halloween approaches, the quadrennial exercise has begun to determine whether the presidential candidate mask that sells the best will predict the actual winner on Nov. 4.

The Web site buycostumes.com says it has accurately predicted the outcome of the last two presidential elections based on which mask sold the best, and so far 2008 sales are roughly in line with current opinion polls.

Its initial tally is trending towards Democratic hopeful Barack Obama versus rival John McCain, 54 percent to 46 percent. Of course the Web site encouraged shoppers to buy as many masks as they like, and so the scientific nature is in question. The masks go for 99 cents.