Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 1

With the images of death and destruction in Mumbai last week fresh in everyone’s minds, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is set on Monday to name his national security team
 
At a 10:40 EST (1540 GMT) news conference in Chicago, Obama is expected to name former rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state and nominate Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in that role. In addition he is expected to name Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, Eric Holder as attorney general and adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations.
    
After a series of three straight news conferences last week focused on the ailing U.S. economy, Obama will switch gears today as he will likely face questions about India and Pakistan and his proposed policies toward the two nuclear-armed nations.     
    
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to India on Wednesday. She has been in contact with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in recent days to ease tensions between the states.

    
Indian investigators said the militants who attacked Mumbai underwent months of commando training in Pakistan, raising tensions between the neighboring nations as recriminations mounted in India. 

In an interview with the Financial Times , Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to India not to punish his country for the Mumbai attacks, saying militants have the power to precipitate a war in the region.
    
In economic news back home, stocks appeared set to fall after poor manufacturing figures from China and a raft of economic data expected in the U.S. this week.

Though retailers reported a solid start to holiday shopping with consumers spending more on bargains over the Thanksgiving weekend, overall holiday sales are likely to be worse than thought.

The Big Three U.S. automakers will try a second time this week to pursuade Congress to give them $25 billion to rescue their struggling industry. The Financial Times reported that GM, which owns Saab, and Volvo-owner Ford had approached Sweden’s government for financial help.

The First Draft: Thursday, Nov. 20

Major indexes dropped  to their lowest level since 2003 yesterday and U.S. stock futures are pointing to another plunge today as investors worry about the fate of U.S. carmakers and the spectre of a prolonged economic downturn.
    
Just how bad is it? Well, here’s another sign of the impending apocalypse: the Labor Department reported at 8:30 a.m. EST that jobless claims are at their highest level in 16 years.   

After two days of petitioning Congress, Detroit automakers headed home without the $25 billion check they were angling for. Congressional leaders say a deal is doubtful until next January as they prepare to adjourn for the year.
    
President-elect Barack Obama remains in Chicago, piecing together a new administration that could include Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. His peeps are a little miffed by the leaks out of the Clinton camp, which they tell the New York Times are designed to force them to give her the post. Is this a sign that Obama’s formal rival might “go rogue” if she ends up working for him?
    
Happy Joe Biden’s birthday, everyone! The vice president-elect turns 66 today. 
    
And it’s not even Thanksgiving, but the Christmas Wars are starting up already. Two conservative Christian groups plan to set up a Christmas scene on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court as they talk about their plans to promote the display of nativity scenes across the country on private and public property.

Photo: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke (costumed angels in Berlin)

The First Draft: Monday, Nov. 17

The Senate returns to debate a bailout for struggling automakers and consider additional stimulus money to prop up the struggling economy.
    
Democrats hope to pass both measures in their brief “lame duck” session, but they face opposition from Republicans in the chamber as well as President George W. Bush, who reiterated on Monday morning that any Detroit aid should come from the $700 billion already appropriated to prop up the economy.
    
In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama will meet at noon EST with John McCain, his recent rival for the White House.  “It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality,” Obama’s transition team said on Monday. 
    
Obama and McCain will be joined by their two favorite wingmen — future White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, respectively.
    
McCain might put in a good word for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is reported to be on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State. McCain and Clinton downed vodka shots together on a trip to Estonia a few years back.
    
 Back in the Senate, the Finance Committee will cross-examine the man who has been nominated to oversee the $700 billion bailout program. Neil Barofsky, the assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York who has been nominated to be Special Inspector General of the Treasury Department’s Troubled Assets Relief Program, testifies at 2 p.m.
    
The House is not in session, but new members elected two weeks ago are in town for an orientation session and a class photo. House Democratic leaders say they will quickly pass any bailout packages that clear the Senate.
    
U.S. stocks are expected to open lower as investors continue to fear a deep and lengthy global recession. According to one group of economists, we’re already there: real GDP is expected to fall 2.6 percent in the final quarter of this year and 1.3 percent in the first three months of 2009, according to a survey of 50 professional forecasters conducted by the National Association of Business Economists.

No matter what, one White House hopeful will return to the Senate

WASHINGTON – When all is said and done with the 2008 presidential election, one of the contenders will be returning to the U.S. Senate,  a harsh reality after coming so close to the White House.

For the first time in 48 years a senator will capture the White House, either Republican Sen. John McCain or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, while the other will go back to being one of 100 in the deliberative body.

But over 48 years, it has happened many times, most recently in 2004 when Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry lost to George W. Bush.

Clinton says unlikely to mount another White House bid

WASHINGTON – Democrat Hillary Clinton lost a tough battle for her party’s presidential nomination this year and says she is unlikely to make another run for it.

rtr21qb1.jpgIn an interview with Fox News aired on Tuesday, she was first asked to rate on a scale of one to 10 whether she would become the next majority leader in the Senate, which she put at the bottom of the scale.

“Oh, probably zero,” she said. “I’m not seeking any other position than to be the best senator from New York that I can be.”

Clinton: Not just any woman will do for the White House

palin-vertical.jpghillary-vertical.jpgCracked. Shattered. Whatever. Forget the glass ceiling, policy trumps gender in the race for the White House as far as Hillary Clinton is concerned.

“Of course it’s exciting to have a woman on the ticket,” Clinton said in a CNN interview when asked about the vice presidential candidacy of Republican Sarah Palin.

“But that in and of itself is not enough reason … and really no one will shatter that ceiling until we have a woman serving as president or vice president,” she said in the interview broadcast on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton: Happy to stump for Obama-Biden

rtr21rk6.jpgWASHINGTON – Given the rise of Sarah Palin’s political star, is Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama regretting his decision not to choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate?

Palin, the Republican vice presidential running mate to White House hopeful John McCain, thinks so and even Obama’s running mate wondered whether Clinton would have been a better choice instead of Joe Biden. But what about Clinton herself?

“We have a great Democratic vice-presidential candidate,” Clinton said when asked about Palin’s comment in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that will air on Tuesday.

Obama, Bill Clinton discuss 9/11, campaign, world affairs

obamaclinton.jpgNEW YORK – Barack Obama  and Bill Clinton talked over lunch on Thursday about the economy and world affairs in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and what the former president can do to help the Democratic nominee defeat Republican John McCain in the Nov. 4 election.

In a joint statement, the two men said they had a “great conversation” during their meeting, which came on the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“They discussed the campaign briefly but mostly talked about how the world has changed since September 11, 2001,” the statement said. “They also spoke about what the next president can do to help make the economy work for all Americans, as it did under President Clinton, and ensure safety and prosperity far beyond the coming the election.”

McCain’s VP pick Palin draws boos when mentioning Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON, Pa. – So maybe saying nice things about Hillary Clinton at a Republican rally isn’t such a good idea.
 
John McCain’s new vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, acknowledged the New York senator on Saturday when reflecting on her new found role as a national candidate.
 
The reaction from a large chunk of the audience: boos.
 
“I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections, and I can’t begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro back in 1984 and of course, Senator Hillary Clinton,” Palin said.
    
palin2.jpgBoo. Boo. Boo.
    
So much for trying to win over disaffected Clinton supporters. They, apparently, are not turning up to McCain-Palin rallies.
    
But no matter. The Alaska governor breezed on with a nod to her own historic bid, in Clinton’s wake.
    
“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America,” she said. “But thankfully, as it turns out, the women of America aren’t finished yet, and the voters will shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”
    
The McCain campaign has made a concerted effort to win over Clinton backers who were upset at her loss in the Democratic primary to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
    
Palin’s presence on the ticket puts the mother of five in line to make history as the first female U.S. vice president if she and McCain beat Obama and his running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, in the Nov. 4 election.

Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (Palin campaigns in Washington)

McCain picks Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, for veep

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful John McCain picked social conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

rtr21tet.jpgPalin, not particularly well-known nationally, was previously a small-town mayor who beat the Alaska incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the state’s Republican primary in 2006 and went on to win in the general election.

The 44-year-old one-term governor is an opponent of abortion rights, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and a fiscal conservative — not to mention an avid sportswoman and a beauty pageant winner.