Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: searching for peace

President Barack Obama meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House around 11 a.m. in the long-running quest for Middle East peace that has bedeviled American presidents for decades.

Mubarak is already out with his talking points, saying in media interviews that Arab states would recognize and normalize ties with Israel only after an overall Middle East peace deal is achieved, and not before. USA/

Obama then turns to Clinton vs. Clinton. He meets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 1:30 p.m. about her Africa trip, and then moves on to a meeting with Bill Clinton, the former president and current husband to the secretary of state, about his trip to North Korea.

The Obama-Clinton meeting on Africa is in the Oval Office, while the Obama-Clinton meeting on North Korea is in the Situation Room — it may be a draw in signaling which one is more important.

And speaking of searching for peace, Jenny Sanford (wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who told the world about his longing for his Argentine mistress) talks to Vogue about dealing with the after-effects of the affair.

The First Draft: Is Al Franken “Stuart Smalley”?

USA-SENATE/Plenty of current and former U.S. senators had memorable professions before they got to Washington: country fiddler (Robert Byrd of West Virginia), astronaut (John Glenn of Ohio), jewelry-maker (Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado). But none were dogged by a satirical persona, as is already happening to newly-confirmed Democratic Senator-elect Al Franken of Minnesota.

Franken, formerly a comedian and writer for “Saturday Night Live,” created the character Stuart Smalley, a cardigan-wearing self-help guru, often pictured gazing lovingly into a mirror and intoning, “I’m going to do a terrific show today! And I’m gonna help people! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”

Stuart showed up in many Web headlines noting Franken’s victory in the Minnesota senate race over Republican Norm Coleman, especially those with a conservative bent.

The First Draft: Haley’s comet

USA/South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford hurt many people when he spent the last weekend “crying in Argentina,” as he put it at a press conference yesterday.

There’s his family, of course, and his Republican Party, where he had emerged as a rising star.

But there is opportunity in every crisis, as Rahm Emanuel likes to say, and one man stands to benefit from Sanford’s downfall: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Governor Sanford’s walk in the woods

When Governor Mark Sanford walks out of the woods tomorrow, he’s sure for a big surprise.

The governor of South Carolina went hiking on the Appalachian Trail last Thursday to clear his head after a tough legislative session, according to his aides. Nothing odd in that – politicians need time off as much as anyone. Trouble is, when Sanford left he didn’t tell his aides where he was going. He didn’t tell the state’s lieutenant governor either. Or his wife.

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His disappearance sparked speculation about his whereabouts, although Fox News reported he did call to check in two days into the trip. Tomorrow he is due to emerge from the trail and return to work and he will doubtless face many questions. For a possible presidential candidate in 2012, the distraction could prove awkward.

New York, California want rejected stimulus dough

Watch out Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, New York and California would love those dollars you turn down from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
 
A few governors, namely Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, have all said that they may turn down some of the stimulus money for their states, particularly aid aimed at bolstering unemployment benefit programs.
 
“We can’t pay for the benefits already in the program, but to get the stimulus money, we’ve got to increase the program’s size and scale,” Sanford said on “Fox News Sunday”.
 
That has some other states hard hit by the deepening recession calling for the money to be sent their way, especially New York where Wall Street has been laying off workers by the thousands.MARKETS-STOCKS/
 
“If any governor — Democrat or Republican — leaves stimulus money on the table, then we respectfully request that funds be distributed to New York,” the state’s two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, said in a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday.
 
Another New York lawmaker, Representative Anthony Weiner, plans to offer legislation that would redirect rejected stimulus funds to other states. 
 
“If some governors decide to reject the money, 45 other states should be able to use it to create thousands of jobs. We have plenty of projects across the country that will put people to work and help achieve long term economic growth and stability,” Weiner said in a statement.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Segar (Wall Street in New York City.)

Stimulus cash not so bad after all, some find

Last week, Republicans were nearly united in their opposition to the massive $787 billion stimulus bill. But now that it’s been signed into law, many are changing their tune.

Nine Republican House members from Florida, who all voted against the stimulus bill, are now asking the government to send money to their state quickly, Politico reports.     USA/

North Carolina Representative Heath Shuler, who also voted against the bill, has also told his constituents he’s going to fight for federal dollars.

Inside the Tent: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford feels pretty good about John McCain‘s chances in his state.

“If we gotta worry about South Carolina, go ahead and fold up the tent — the whole match is over,” he tells Inside the Tent contributor John Steward. “No worries in South Carolina, and if they come, we got real problems.”

Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Steward is not a Reuters employee and any opinions expressed are his own.