Tales from the Trail

Pelosi dances away from resolution to salute ‘King of Pop’

Call it political stage fright.

Or perhaps fear of igniting a political firestorm over Michael Jackson, the fallen “King of Pop.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she saw no need to vote on a resolution honoring the musical icon, who had been dogged by unproven allegations of child sexual abuse and acquitted of such charges in 2005.

“Michael Jackson was a great, great performer,” Pelosi told her weekly news conference. CHINA

“What I have said to my colleagues over the years … is that there is opportunity on the floor of the House to express their sympathy or their praise any time that they wish.”

But, she called unnecessary a resolution saluting Jackson as a  “global humanitarian” in the fight against AIDS and hunger, and ”an accomplished contributor” to the arts and entertainment.

Congressman blasts media over Michael Jackson coverage

It’s one thing for fans gathering in Los Angeles to go ga-ga over the late “King of Pop,” but the  extensive media coverage of  Michael Jackson and his death has one Washington insider screaming “ENOUGH ALREADY.”

Well, not exactly in those words. But Rep. Pete King expressed outrage at the coverage and blasted the media in a video posted on YouTube over the Independence Day holiday weekend by the congressman’s campaign staff.

King, a New York Republican, took issue with coverage he says glosses over the controversy in Jackson’s life.  And he filled in the blanks with some commentary of his own, among other things calling  Jackson “a pervert” and “a pedophile.”  On Monday, King explained that he was merely  expressing what he believes a lot of  people really feel.

The First Draft: missiles, jobs and a soldier captured

USA-SUMMIT/PROTESTAs sometimes happens in Washington, much of the news reverberating around town this morning started someplace else.

From the other side of the world, reports that North Korea has test-fired short-range missiles, including two surface-to-ship missiles, from its east coast. From Afghanistan, the Pentagon confirmed a U.S. soldier has been captured, and Taliban insurgents have claimed responsibility. What is not known now is why and how.

There is some domestic news on this getaway morning — the official U.S. Independence Day holiday starts tomorrow, one day ahead of July Fourth celebrations — and it brings some gloom to the picture: U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs in June, more than analysts expected. That brings the U.S. unemployment rate to 9.5 percent, the highest since 1983.

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: Sovereignty Day

IRAQWashington is a town of euphemisms, where “mistakes were made” but nobody takes responsibility, where lawmakers routinely refer to each other as “my good friend” before questioning their buddies’ sanity or moral character.

The Washingtonian art of the euphemism apparently has been learned in Baghdad, where to mark today’s departure of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared National Sovereignty Day and celebrated with a military parade.

As U.S. combat units get out of Iraq’s urban areas and move into rural bases, Pentagon leaders will be speaking, though not in Washington. Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses a NATO change-of-command ceremony in Stuttgart while Army General Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq, briefs reporters via video link.

The First Draft: Recess!

USA/There’s a real school’s-out feeling around Washington today. Congress left town last week after the House voted for bill to curb climate change, and most lawmakers won’t be back until after the July 4 holiday weekend. The Supreme Court issues its last rulings of the term, with a full sheaf of decisions expected — but then the justices will be gone for the summer.

President Barack Obama’s hosting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at the White House, with a joint appearance in the afternoon. In addition to a full plate of U.S.-Colombian issues, the two leaders could address last weekend’s military coup in Honduras. Obama has already called for peaceful resolution of “tensions and disputes” but he may have more to say.

Later in the day, Obama celebrates the accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans at a White House reception. This community has criticized the president for what they see as foot-dragging on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and says states need not recognize gay marriages performed in another state — and the U.S. military’s Don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.