Tales from the Trail

The waste not, want not, method of crisis handling

So, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton created a stir last week by telling Europeans “never waste a good crisis” … which apparently reached the ears of everyone but the White House.

“I did not see Secretary Clinton’s comments,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

EU-USA/But he went on to describe the “mindset” of the Obama administration as “for far too long, many of the problems that we understand undermine our potential long-term economic growth, whether it’s dealing with our health care crisis, whether it’s our increasing dependence on foreign oil despite president after president after president discussing the dangers.”

And he went on some more: “Unless or until we meet those challenges and take those steps, we’re sort of muddling around the edges, that we have to take some concrete, bold action to deal with the many challenges that we face, that our economy is not likely to grow in the long term unless or until we deal with it. ”

Talk about muddled.

All of that was in response to the question: “During the transition, the chief of staff said you never want to let a crisis go to waste.  The secretary of state said that on the road last week.  As a governing philosophy, what does that mean?”

The First Draft: jobs jobs jobs

Guess what? There’s more bad news about the economy today.

Numbers out today show the unemployment rate has risen to its highest rate in 25 years as companies buckled under the strain of a recession that is showing no signs of ending. ECONOMY-JOBFAIR/

Want to hear more? The head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, testifies to Congress about the employment picture at 9:30.

In the Obama administration’s first public overture to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has invited Iran to a conference on Afghanistan planned for this month. Traveling in Brussels, Clinton also said the problems of climate change and the economy should be tackled simultaneously.

So is Clinton advising Obama on healthcare? White House won’t say

President Barack Obama turned his chief rival in the 2008 Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, into his secretary of state, but is he tapping her for advice on healthcare reform too?
 
Not clear. Clinton, who spearheaded a failed attempt to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system in the 1990s while her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, will be in Europe on Thursday, when Obama holds a “summit” on healthcare reform.
 
So has the White House consulted with the former first lady about the issue? OBAMA/
 
“You know, I don’t know if they have had wide-ranging conversations specifically with Secretary Clinton,” spokesman Robert Gibbs told a White House briefing.
 
“There are still a number of people around that were part of that effort that can be consulted,” he said.
 
Clinton’s failed efforts in the 90s were widely blamed for hurting her husband’s adminstration, with critics citing the secrecy of the process as one of its downfalls.
 
Thursday’s summit is meant to set a process in motion to reduce healthcare costs and extend insurance benefits to millions of Americans who are not covered.
 
Gibbs hinted that the White House would not repeat the former first lady’s mistakes.
 
“I think even those involved in previous efforts would acknowledge misgivings that they had about the way the process worked,” he said. “Tomorrow’s effort is intended to bring about a process that people can be assured is open.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lemarque (Obama and Clinton at the State Deptarment on January 22)

The First Draft: Downtown Gordon Brown

That Gordon Brown, he won’t leave town. The British Prime Minister speaks to Congress at 11 a.m., where he is expected to urge lawmakers to steer clear of protectionism. OBAMA-BRITAIN/

There’s lots more happening on Capitol Hill today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee at 10:00 considers a “truth commission” that would examine the Bush administration.

At 2:30, the IRS testifies to the Senate Investigations subcommittee about its effort to force Swiss bank UBS to disclose the names of its well-heeled clients who may be hiding assets to avoid paying taxes.

The First Draft: chilly winds and hot air

There’s a cold wind blowing in Washington on Tuesday morning, one day after a late-winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on the region. DC residents anticipate a thaw when our national leaders provide their daily dose of hot air. WEATHER-USA/SNOW

President Obama meets U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the White House at 11:30. They are expected to discuss their efforts to revive the global economy.

After that, Obama meets with Boy Scouts at 3 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies to Congress about the economy starting at 10:00, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies about Obama’s budget proposal at 12:30. Markets are continuing to swoon after yesterday’s plunge; will their testimony spark a rally?

The First Draft: another day, another $30 billion

It’s not yet 9:00 on a Monday morning, and the federal government has already dumped another $30 billion into the tottering financial system. The money goes to insurer American International Group Inc., which just announced a fourth-quarter loss of $61.7 billion — the largest quarterly loss in corporate history. WEATHER/

For those keeping score at home, U.S. taxpayers have now pumped $180 billion into AIG.

Some good news: consumer spending and incomes rose in January, buoyed by salary increases for government employees.

The First Draft: More pain ahead

Guess what? The economy is still in terrible shape.MARKETS-STOCKS/

The Dow Jones Industrial average plunged to its lowest level in six years yesterday, and all signs point to another lousy day on Wall Street today.

U.S. stock index futures are falling in early morning trading as worries about the fate of major banks mount. Shares of Citigroup were down 6.4 percent and Bank of America was down 8 percent in trading on the Frankfurt exchange.

President Obama has had a busy week. After signing the stimulus bill, unveiling his mortgage rescue plan and visiting Canada, he’ll talk up the stimulus at 10:30 a.m. today.

The First Draft: A Beauty Way to Go

Good day you hosers!

President Barack Obama takes off to the Great White North today on his first foreign jaunt as president. Trade will top the agenda in Ottawa as Obama seeks to ease concerns about protectionism. He’ll also discuss the war in Afghanistan and clean energy technology with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian Parlaiment, but the one-day trip leaves little time to get into details. Too bad, eh?CANADA-MOUNTIES/

Obama’s foreclosure plan should start showing results as soon as next month, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Shelia Bair said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Poland, seeking help from allies for the war in Afghanistan. The United States is sending an additional 17,000 troops, but has now lost its last remaining air base in Central Asia after a “Yankee Go Home” vote was approved by Kyrgyzstan.

from FaithWorld:

If Hillary goes to Jakarta, can Barack be far behind?

Is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Jakarta a hint that President Barack Obama will pick Indonesia as the first Muslim country he visits in his drive to improve U.S. relations with the Islamic world? There were lots of other suggestions when he first mentioned this back in December, including Egypt (the New York Times pick) and Morocco (judging by what might have been a write-in campaign on our comments page).

My tip at the time was either Indonesia or Turkey. In recent weeks, Turkey's star has probably faded as its relations with Israel soured recently. Those strains came after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan angrily accused Israeli President Shimon Peres of "knowing very well how to kill" in Gaza during a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos and then stormed off the stage. (Photo: Hillary Clinton with Jakarta schoolgirls, 18 Feb 2009/Supri)

Clinton said all the right things today, like telling the country where Obama spent four years as a boy that it was proof that modernity and Islam can coexist. "As I travel around the world over the next years, I will be saying to people: if you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can co-exist, go to Indonesia," she said at a dinner with civil society activists. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda reciprocated by telling her Indonesia shared the United States' joy at Obama's election and she should tell the U.S. president "we cannot wait too long" for a visit.

The First Draft: Ghost Town

On the day that the government gives itself $787 billion to hand out, turns out there’s nobody in Washington to print it up and hand it out.

After a long Presidents’ Day weekend, President Barack Obama will load the 1,000-page stimulus bill onto Air Force One today and fly it to Denver to sign it into law.USA-STIMULUS/

Congress has adjourned for the week after passing the bill on Friday, so lawmakers are likely back home taking credit for — or distancing themselves from — the record-setting spending package.