Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Star power

It was a bit of a shock to learn on the Internet that a wobbly Earth has put the old Zodiac out of whack, and even added a 13th astrological sign – Ophiuchus (I’m changing my birthday if I end up landing in that one).

USA-SHOOTING/Speaking of star power… President Barack Obama showed his last night at the memorial service for the Arizona shooting victims. He connected. The more somber and emotional his speech, the more the audience reacted with approval.

“It’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” Obama said.

Can Washington actually change the polarized discourse that Obama talked about? Well, next week will be a good test. The House of Representatives will resume debate on legislation to repeal Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul.

The House had intended to act this week on the repeal bill, but the vote was postponed following the Arizona shooting spree. The tragedy led to a national debate on whether political rhetoric has gone too far.

2012 may be an open door for Palin, but first comes 2010

USA/Sarah Palin’s right. It would be absurd for her not to consider a White House bid in 2012, especially while Tea Partiers are chanting, “Run, Sarah, run!”  
   
But first come this November’s elections, which could help build Palin’s credibility if her high-profile public appearances (and repeated attacks on President Barack Obama) actually help conservative candidates get elected to Congress and important state offices around the country. If.

Some political experts say Palin’s weekend keynote speech at the big Tea party in Nashville was her best since the 2008 GOP convention — detailed, focused and high on energy. Lucrative, too, given the $100,000 speaker’s fee, though the on-stage interview seemed a bit scripted, especially the part about what she’d do if she were president. 
       USA-WEATHER/SNOWSTORM
The appearance also kicked off a busy travel schedule to help candidates in this year’s campaign.
   
On Super Bowl Sunday, she was in Texas helping Republican Gov. Rick Perry with his March gubernatorial primary contest against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Polling results show Hutchison trailing the incumbent by 15 percentage points and losing ground to a third candidate, Tea Party activist Debra Medina.

Palin spent much of her time in the Lone Star State assailing Washington, and by implication, Hutchison. She raised a huge cheer by pointing out in non-establishment fashion that Texans might like to secede.     
    
But moving the national political applause needle to the right in 2010 could be much more difficult than rallying friendly audiences or using a talking hand to bash that “charismatic guy with a TelePrompTer.”
   
A state-by-state analysis of Obama’s job approval ratings by Gallup may offer a glimpse of the voter sentiment challenge that Palin and her conservative allies face this year.

The First Draft: US healthcare reform as a tale of two cities

“…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
    
Charles Dickens never met U.S. senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. But he may have inadvertently captured the partisan spirit of the U.S. healthcare reform debate when he published his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with its famous introduction, 150 years ago.
    
Democrat Chuck and Republican Kay made clear on NBC’s Today show how many in their respective parties see the sweeping overhaul legislation that reached the U.S. Senate floor over the weekend. And by the sound of things, Washington could be two different cities. 
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Chuck seemed to present healthcare reform as a vehicle for economic salvation: “The future of the country depends on getting something done or the government will go broke, private businesses will go broke and people will go broke.”  

Or could reform lead in that other direction?    

Here’s Kay: “We are in a jobless situation in our country, an economic crisis. You are going to put taxes and mandates on business that are going to make that situation even worse. One in 10 people in America today do not have a job. Now you’re putting mandates and taxes on every individual who doesn’t have healthcare and every business that we want to ask to hire people. And yet you’re putting taxes and mandates on them that makes this unaffordable. This is a terrible idea at this time.” CONGRESS JUDGES
    
Of course, partisan differences will mean little if Democrats can retain the same 60-vote, Republican-filibuster-proof sense of community that got the bill to the floor in the first place.
    
Chuck seems confident: “We will come together for this reason. The healthcare system is broken in this sense: Medicare will be broke in seven years, private insurance doubles every six years (and) tens of millions will lose it. If we don’t do anything, that is the worst situation. And we have a good bill that cuts costs, reduces the deficit and covers more people.”
    
Either way, it’s bound to be one dickens of a debate. 

Photo credits: Reuters/Chip East (Schumer); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Hutchison)

Republican senators call for ending era of ‘permanent politicians’

Don’t expect the U.S. Congress — packed with old men and women who have been in office for decades — to embrace a proposal to term limit themselves.

Republican senators Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Sam Brownback offered such a measure on Tuesday, saying it would be good to get fresh blood on Capitol Hill. USA/

“Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians,” DeMint said.