Tales from the Trail

Congress gets ready for lame duck, and it’s not even Thanksgiving

Congress returns next week for that peculiar order of business known as a lame-duck session. It’s a post-election gathering where lawmakers who lost re-election get to take any final votes, while newcomers who won in the Nov. 2 midterms have to sit it out.

The hot item to watch will be whether extending the Bush-era tax cuts will fly, but don’t expect any Peking duck, as legislation on China’s currency is unlikely to be on the menu. (Hey, it’s Friday).

All the duck talk got us to revisit the origin of the phrase “lame duck.”

It’s British! And it wasn’t even about politics.

NORTHERN IRELAND/The phrase originated in the London Stock Market, referring to investors who couldn’t pay their debts. The following are some citations at The Phrase Finder.

– In Horace Walpole’s Letters to Sir Horace Mann, 1761, there is: “Do you know what a Bull, and a Bear, and a Lame Duck are?”

Did GOP victory boost economic optimism?

USA-TAX/It’s not exactly a tsunami of euphoria. But Republican victories in the midterm elections may have helped goose economic optimism, at least among …well… Republicans.

A new Gallup survey finds that Republicans grew more optimistic during the first week of November, as Tea Party candidates led a GOP charge that captured the House and narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Republicans grew 13 points rosier on the Gallup Economic Confidence Index, compared with October, and that change appeared strong enough to drive an increase in optimism across the board.

Christine O’Donnell is not going away

Christine O’Donnell may have lost her Senate race. But she’s not exiting the spotlight. In fact, she’s sounding a bit like Sarah Palin.RTXU581_Comp-150x150

The Tea Party darling of Delaware cheerfully tells NBC’s Today show that she’s pursuing a book deal. She likes being involved in documentaries. And she’s going to fight tooth and nail against whatever Democrats try to pull during the upcoming lameduck session in Congress (how isn’t quite clear).

“We created a platform and we’ve been able to get a lot of issues out there. And I’d like to continue to do that at least for the short term.”

No politics or punditry for George W. Bush

When George W. Bush says he’s done with politics — believe it.

bush1Not even the queen of daytime TV could draw the former Republican president into commenting on the current political scene when Bush sat down with her to discuss his new book.

He makes it clear he has moved on from politics and that punditry is not his thing.

“I’m through with politics. It’s hard for people to believe. I already said that. I am through. I enjoyed it,” Bush says in excerpts of an upcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey released Thursday.

Christine O’Donnell’s parting words: “Let’s Party!”

It was probably one of the most upbeat political concession speeches.

Tea Party favorite and Republican Christine O’Donnell, who lost the Delaware Senate race, began her concession speech by declaring victory and ended it with a very uplifting “Let’s Party!”

There was no sign of wear-and-tear from a campaign in which she felt a need to declare ”I’m not a witch” in an ad, and was called a “nut job” by Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain.

Democrat Christopher Coons won the Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. Although O’Donnell lost, other Tea Party favorites like Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida won their Senate races. USA-ELECTIONS/DELAWARE-SENATE

Washington Extra – T minus 4

There’s something about the number four.

It’s FOUR days to the midterm elections which still leaves plenty of room for last-minute commotion.

For example, in the Florida (yes, Florida) three-way Senate race, former President Bill Clinton ended up having to issue this statement today: “I didn’t ask Kendrick to leave the race, nor did Kendrick say that he would.”

BASEBALL/Comedian Jon Stewart caps off his weeklong visit to Washington, which included the interview with President Barack Obama on “The Daily Show,” with his Rally4Sanity (there’s that FOUR) on Saturday.

Washington Extra – Analyze This

A confusing labyrinth. That is how the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) described the American development effort in Afghanistan, in a damning report on how $17.7 billion in aid and reconstruction money was doled out to 7,000 contractors between 2007 and 2009 with little or no coordination.kabul

With all the criticism that surrounds the Afghan government and the tactics employed by the U.S. military, the major shortcomings in the West’s development effort in Afghanistan sometimes seem to get too little attention. The U.S. Special Representative to the region Richard Holbrooke once said he had “never seen anything remotely resembling the mess” he inherited in terms of the development effort, while former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani once described the aid effort to me as “dysfunctional and lacking accountability.” It is a view shared by many experts, who see it as a major reason why the West has failed to win more Afghan hearts and minds, and why things are now not going as well as President Barack Obama would have hoped.

Incredibly, SIGAR had tried to analyze contracting in Afghanistan for the years 2002-7, but found much of the data the government agencies had compiled prior to 2007 was “too poor to be analyzed.”

When politics feels like a bad flight

ALITALIA

He sounded like someone bombarded by too many election ads.

“I call it the perfect storm of bad manners,” Steven Slater told CNN’s Larry King. “I was angry at all of it.”

The former JetBlue flight attendant, who famously quit his job by jumping down an emergency chute, beer in hand, was talking about his life in the U.S. airline industry — not politics.

But his words could just as easily have described what some people think about the tone of the 2010 midterm election campaign – like audience members who booed Republican California gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman for refusing to stop TV ads attacking her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown. 
    
USA/This election year, negative ads can be mild compared with campaign events on the ground.
    
Last week, Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller’s private security guard handcuffed a journalist for asking questions the candidate didn’t want to answer. This week, video footage from Kentucky shows a woman protester from MoveOn.org being dragged to the ground and stepped on by supporters of Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul. 
    
Among voters, the anger appears aimed mainly at Democrats, who the Cook Political Report’s pre-election House outlook now predicts will lose 48 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible.
    
Republican officials are already preparing for an invasion of fresh new GOP House members, some of them Tea Party candidates who say they want nothing to do with business as usual in Washington. USA-POLITICS

Washington Extra – Swallows and Democrats

In the words of Aristotle: “one swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”

Nevertheless, Democrats might not be feeling quite so down in the dumps today, as evidence comes in that in early voting (allowed at election offices and satellite locations in 32 states) the Democrats are off to a stronger-than-expected start. It is impossible to tell how people actually voted, but Democrats do appear to be showing up in greater numbers in some key states than some had feared. But things are still not going as well for them as in 2008.

The “enthusiasm gap” is expected to be one of the Democrats’ biggest handicaps in the midterms, this early evidence, and rallies next weekend by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, notwithstanding.

O’Donnell credits prayer for campaign boost

USA/

Republicans may be abandoning Christine O’Donnell’s U.S. Senate campaign. But she still has friends in high places — really high places.

In fact, the Delaware Tea Party favorite is crediting divine intervention for the successes that her campaign has had.

“The day that we saw a spike in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me, that morning for this campaign,” she tells the Christian Broadcasting Network, a cable TV channel founded by televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson.