Tales from the Trail

You can take it to the bank: Unbowed Maxine says she won’t cut a deal

She broke no rules, she has no regrets, and she won’t cut a deal with the U.S. House of Representatives ethics committee. That was the message a defiant Democratic lawmaker Maxine Waters had for the media on Friday.

The 10-term California representative brought her trademark feistiness to a lengthy news conference in the bowels of the U.S. Capitol. Her chief of staff Mikael Moore (who also happens to be her grandson) went through the ethics charges against her, and her defense against them in mind-numbing detail.

BLACKS/BERNANKE“I won’t go behind closed doors. I won’t cut a deal. I will continue to talk about the fact that I have not violated anything,” Waters declared at the news conference in the Capitol Visitors’ Center, which is below ground. She flayed the ethics committee for having not yet set a hearing in her case.

The House ethics panel accused Waters of three counts of breaking House rules earlier this month for allegedly assisting a bank in which her husband was a stockholder get help from the federal government.

The case comes on the heels of 13 charges by the ethics panel against Representative Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, adding to the woes of President Obama’s party in Congress as it struggles to maintain its majority in mid-term elections this fall.

McCain says he was misled, but not everyone agrees

BOSNIA/

John McCain says he was misled by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson into supporting the Wall Street bailout.

“We were all misled,” the Arizona Republican told NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend.

Misled in what way?

With the economy showing every sign of burning to the ground, McCain says Paulson told Congress the Bush administration wanted to buy up toxic mortgages blamed for the conflagration. But he turned around and gave the money directly to Wall Street.

The First Draft: Friday, Dec 12

BUSH/Gulp.
    
Senate brinksmanship kills a proposed $14 billion bailout for Detroit’s struggling “Big Three” automakers, so eyes turn back to the White House. 
    
The Senate is due back in session at 10 a.m. Eastern for what could be a quick round of final recriminations.
    
Analysts say the most immediate hope for help for GMC, Chrysler and Ford is now the Bush administration, which could possibly decide to use financial bailout funding to help the massive car manufacturers — if there’s any money left.
    
Bush, who had resisted this idea in the past, is headed to Texas A&M University where he is due to deliver a commencement address. The White House said this morning it was willing to consider steps to avoid an auto apocalypse.
    
There’s finger pointing in every direction — the UAW union, recalcitrant Republicans, overreaching Democrats, and the lame-duck White House — but nobody seems sure what happens next for companies which say they are responsible for one out of 10 U.S. jobs.
    
Stock futures were down, indicating that benchmark U.S. indexes could open down about 3 percent or more amid a worldwide sell-off. 
    
Meanwhile, whatever attention is left is fixed firmly on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is still in office three days after being charged with corruption in connection with allegations that he sought to “sell” the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama.
    
Lots of people seem to want the man out — Obama described himself as “appalled” — but there’s no word on whether Blagojevich  intends to resign. Obama, who has sought to distance himself from the Democratic governor, has no public events scheduled today.

Click here for more Reuters political news. 

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (Bush on South Lawn)

The First Draft: Tuesday, Nov. 25

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will announce a new program to increase the availability of student loans, credit cards, auto loans and other forms of consumer credit, according to the Wall Street Journal. It will cost between $25 billion and $100 billion, using the $700 billion already allocated through the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Paulson speaks at 10 a.m. EST.

President-elect Obama holds another press conference today. Yesterday, he said he’d push for a massive increase in government spending to jolt the country out of a recession; today he’s expected to talk about what cuts he’ll make in the federal budget when he takes office on Jan. 20. 
    
He’ll speak at noon EST.

Other than that, things look pretty quiet as many begin their Thanksgiving holiday early.

What’s Next For Paulson, A Soup Line?

Not likely. But Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson might want to dust off his resume because if the Academy of Management is right, he’s probably not going to be getting many fat offers to serve on corporate boards after leaving government in January.With Democrats in control of both Congress and the White House starting Jan. 20, high-ranking Republicans in the outgoing Bush administration will be less marketable for boardrooms positions, according to the association.”If a party is shut out of both congressional houses plus the executive branch, as Republicans will be, its members’ chance of joining the board of a large corporation is about 30 percent less than it would otherwise be,” said Richard Lester of Texas A&M University, who carried out a study for the Academy of Management.Helping Paulson and several of his White House colleagues, though, is that Cabinet members are the most likely among retiring governmental officials to be recruited to serve on corporate boards.”They were more than twice as likely as former senators, and more than five times as likely as former representatives, to be appointed corporate directors during the 16 years covered by the research — 1988 through 2003,” according to the association.Not to pick on Paulson — there are more than a dozen Cabinet members — but he has become one of the highest-profile, most controversial of Bush’s aides for the way he has been handling the $700 billion financial industry bailout.But Paulson’s a survivor. This former Nixon administration official left government the first time around in 1973 (like a lot of his colleagues) and quickly worked his way up the ladder at investment firm Goldman Sachs, finally serving as chairman and CEO when he got his Treasury job.Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing  (U.S Treasury Secretary Paulson with President Bush outside Treasury Building in Washington)

The First Draft: Tuesday, Nov. 18

Chief executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, along with the head of the United Autoworkers union, will testify to Congress today about the need for a bailout of their struggling companies.

“It’s going to be really neat to be able to explain and talk about the progress we’ve made,” Ford CEO Alan Mullaly said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
    
But Mullaly and his fellow auto-industry bigwigs could be in for a bumpy ride. Detroit’s clout on Capitol Hill has diminished in recent years as automakers have closed plants across the country and lobbied heavily against increases in fuel efficiency, the New York Times reports. Cushy union contracts and multimillion-dollar paychecks for executives probably won’t help win over public support, either.
    
Testimony in front of the Senate Banking Committee begins at 3 p.m. EST.
    
Speaking of bailouts, what’s happening to that $700 billion earmarked for the financial services industry? Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify in front of the House Financial Services Committee at 10 a.m.
    
And it’s reckoning time for Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman. The 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee could lose control of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee as payback for supporting Republican John McCain in the presidential race when Senate Democrats hold leadership elections.
    
President-elect Barack Obama holds no public events today as he continues to assemble his administration from Chicago.
    
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will name baseball slugger Ken Griffey Jr. as a “public diplomacy envoy” who will travel the world to help improve the U.S. image abroad. Junior’s been hobbled by injuries over the past decade, but he’s been untainted by the steroids scandal that has snared more productive stars like Barry Bonds.
    
Stocks are expected to open lower on fears that the economic slump is worsening. The National Association of Realtors releases home-sale data at 10 a.m., and the Labor Department should provide a snapshot of inflation when it releases the Producer Price Index at 8:30 a.m.
    
And if you want to see Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rub elbows with professional wrestler Bret Hart, head on over to the National Press Club’s book fair at 5:30 p.m.

Musing with McCain: ‘If I were dictator…’

WASHINGTON – Sometimes it’s hard to tell when John McCain is joking.
 
Take his interview Tuesday with journalists at The Des Moines Register.
 
The Republican presidential candidate acknowledged the financial bailout measure before Congress was not perfect, but he said it was unacceptable to do nothing and admonished lawmakers for failing to pass a rescue plan.
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Then, without cracking a smile or missing a beat, he added this little nugget: “I’m not saying this is the perfect answer. If I were dictator, which I always aspire to be, I would write it … a little bit differently.”
 
With the Treasury secretary likely to have a huge amount of power under any bailout scheme, McCain was asked what sort of person he was looking for to fill that job. He said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had been doing admirably.
 
“I think a person along Paulson’s lines,” McCain said. Given the fragility of Wall Street, he added, any candidate “probably has to have a sound grounding in the financial markets and that aspect of America’s economy.”
 
The Arizona senator said if elected he would recruit the brightest and the best for his Cabinet, Democrat or Republican, in government or in business.
 
“I’ll go out and ask them to serve the country for a dollar a year,” he said.
 
He mused aloud about who might be enticed into government service: billionaire Iowa businessman Warren Buffett, eBay founder Meg Whitman, or Fed-Ex chief Fred Smith.
 

McCain strongly objected when a questioner suggested his running mate, Sarah Palin, was not as experienced as others he named as potential government servants.
 
“She’s been a mayor. She’s been an overseer of billions — I don’t know how many billions of dollars of natural resources. She’s been a member of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She’s been a governor,” McCain said.
 
He express skepticism when told many people, including now some conservative Republicans, questioned her level of experience.
 
“Really? I haven’t detected that,” he said.
 
“Now, if there’s a Georgetown cocktail party person who quote calls himself a conservative and doesn’t like her, good luck, good luck, fine,” McCain added.
 
“I think that the American people have overwhelmingly shown their approval. Are there people who will be detractors of her? That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s what politics is all about.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks at Truman Presidential Library  in Independence, Missouri, on Wednesday)