Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – summer reading

While President Barack Obama went book shopping on Martha’s Vineyard and bought a novel about a family from the Midwest –“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen — Vice President Joe Biden was out in the Midwest talking the talk in St. Louis. OBAMA/

VPOTUS assured Democratic Party leaders that they would retain control of Congress in November because Republicans were out of touch.  ”They are going to look at what the Republican Party is really offering — more of the past, but on steroids,” Biden said.

That brings us to the State Department press corps ALMOST asking George Mitchell about baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, but refraining and sticking to the news at hand – a fresh attempt to jumpstart Middle East peace talks with a meeting in Washington next month.

Oh, and finally, it’s Friday!

Here are our top stories from today…

U .S. seeks to relaunch direct Mideast peace talks

The United States and other big powers asked Israel and the Palestinians to restart direct talks on Sept. 2, aiming for a deal in one year to create a Palestinian state and bring peace to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were invited to meet with President Barack Obama before formally resuming direct negotiations.

For the full story by Andrew Quinn and Douglas Hamilton, click here.

Biden says voters won’t like Republican alternative

Vice President Joseph Biden assured Democratic Party leaders they would retain control of Congress in November elections with the unwitting help of Republicans, who he said had lost touch with Americans. At a meeting of the Democratic National Committee, Biden said voters would begin to focus on the election in the next few weeks and would not like the rehash of failed Bush administration policies pushed by Republicans.

Washington Extra

It was two years in the making, runs to 2,300 pages, took three Republicans to pass it, and 11 pens to sign it into law. President Barack Obama put the seal on a drastic overhaul of the rules governing Wall Street and the banking industry today, using a separate pen for each letter of his name. FINANCIAL-REGULATION/OBAMA

Behind him, Joe Biden chatted throughout the signing ceremony, often with his back to the camera, so we just have to assume the vice president thinks this particular legislative victory is also a “big … deal”.

Influential business groups lined up with Republicans to criticize the new law for the 533 new regulations they say it imposes, while Obama’s one-time friend, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, was not even invited to the signing ceremony. No sign of a rapprochement in the relationship between the presidency and Big Finance, as Obama used the occasion to take another swipe at “unscrupulous” lenders and the “abuse and excess” that lay behind the financial crisis.

“Blumenthal mistake” – the birth of a catchphrase?

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Joe Biden may have coined a new one.

Will ”Blumenthal mistake” – to claim service in the Vietnam War, while having served stateside in the National Guard – end up in some future dictionary of American political slang?

The U.S. vice president hosted a poolside barbecue on Tuesday night for wounded troops at his home at the U.S. Naval Observatory. During his remarks, Biden alluded to the experiences of troops coming home from Vietnam and joked: “I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here. Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.”

Later on, he added,  “I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think,” an acknowledgment of his own reputation for making verbal gaffes.

Biden’s F-bomb lesson: microphones are mighty sensitive

What were the lessons learned for Vice President Joe Biden on dropping the F-bomb on national television?

Number one: microphones are waaaayyyy more sensitive than you realize.

Number two: the boss has a keen sense of humor.

Number three: it’s still embarrassing. USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

Biden amid the giddiness of the passage of healthcare reform in March whispered into President Barack Obama’s ear “this is a big f—ing deal.” It was picked up by the microphone and became an online video sensation.

So when Biden was teased about it on ABC’s “The View,” he looked quite sheepish.

Healthcare bill signing: exuberance, exclamations, expletives

With all the giddiness over the signing of the hard-fought healthcare reform bill into law, Vice President Joe Biden might be forgiven for dropping the F-bomb in the ear of the President of the United States … on open mike.

Fox News caught it and now it’s on YouTube for all to hear.

You have to listen closely.

Right after Biden introduces President Barack Obama at the White House East Room bill signing event, when they’re shaking hands, Biden turns and whispers in Obama’s ear: “This is a big f—ing deal.” (Just to be clear, there’s a u, c, and k missing from the quote).

Slight laughter from Obama before saying “thank you everybody” and beginning his remarks to the Democrats gathered before him.

Bill Clinton to headline Gridiron Club dinner, Obama away

Former President Bill Clinton will be the main speaker at the March 20 Gridiron Club dinner where journalists wear costumes and perform musical skits in a roast of the movers and shakers in Washington, and political leaders respond with speeches that poke fun right back. USA/

President Barack Obama will not attend for a second straight year. He will be on an overseas trip, and last year he went to Camp David.

While he spoke at the white-tie dinner of the oldest journalistic organization in Washington, D.C. when he was a senator, Obama last year became the first U.S. president not to attend in his first year of office since Grover Cleveland.

Beyond the talk show fireworks, Cheney supported some Obama decisions

Former Vice President Dick Cheney swapped barbs with Vice President Joe Biden on the morning talk shows Sunday.

Beyond the fireworks, however, there were interesting things they didn’t argue about.

Cheney endorsed President Barack Obama’s approach in Afghanistan.

He backed an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that limits the ability of homosexuals to serve in the military.

Democrats can’t escape questions about Sarah Palin

Democrats can’t go anywhere these days without being asked about Sarah Palin, and some of them are not overwhelmed.

“Look, she is interesting,” Senator John Kerry told CNN’s “Larry King Live” program Wednesday.

“She represents some of the transformation of American politics into entertainment,”  he said.

State-of-the-Union Bingo!

LEISURE PLAYBOY JAZZYes, of course, President Obama’s State of the Union address is a serious occasion, full of solemn portents for the nation and the world. But even Washington wonks have to have a little fun. Strangely enough, they’re likely to have fun this year by playing SOTU bingo.

For the uninitiated, SOTU bingo involves modified bingo cards, usually filled in with various words or phrases the president is likely to utter. It’s pretty easy to figure out which bingo-card-makers are friendly to Obama and which are foes. Some simply want to push a cause and hope Obama brings it up when he talks to Congress on Wednesday night.

The Center for Global Development offers a sober-sided set of bingo cards, with terms like “G-20,” “security,” “foreign aid” and “globalization” on its grid. “Will President Obama mention global development during his first official State of the Union address? Will he discuss girls’ health, immigration, or the environment?” the group asked on its Web site, urging folks to tally up whether Obama mentions any of these as they fill in their cards.

Laughter, emotion and presidents at funeral of Biden’s mother

When it comes to showing support, bringing an entourage of people on a huge famous plane to the funeral of your friend’s mother says a lot. USA/

That’s what President Barack Obama did for his pal and vice president, Joe Biden, on Tuesday. Biden’s mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden, died on Friday at the family’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. She was 92.

The president, along with first lady Michelle Obama and a large cadre of Obama’s senior White House staff and Cabinet members, flew on Air Force One to attend her funeral in Delaware.