Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: urgent care

President Obama takes on healthcare reform at a 1:00 p.m. White House forum today, hoping to design an overhaul of a costly and inefficient system he believes is threatening the economy. About 120 participants from industry and government will gather to discuss potential fixes to the $2.5 trillion system. JAPAN

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Brussels, said it was time for NATO to make a new start with Russia after formal ties were suspended when Moscow sent troops into Georgia last summer.

The House is expected to approve a bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to slash mortgage payments for homeowners as a last resort.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies for a second day on the budget at 10:00.

Actor Brad Pitt is in town to tout post-Katrina rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the lucky lady who gets the photo-op at 3:30.

Obama mourns loss of Richardson beard

When Barack Obama unveiled a newly shorn Bill Richardson as his Commerce Secretary pick on Wednesday, Obama praised the man but pointedly criticized his grooming decisions.

“We’re deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard,” the president-elect said.

“I think it was a mistake for him to get rid of it. I thought that whole Western, rugged look was really working for him.” Obama said of the New Mexico governor.

Bob Barr: the man, the mustache

Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr has crashed the Republican convention.

Barr, a former Republican congressman now running for president on the Libertarian ticket, was spotted inside the Xcel Center on Wednesday morning, near the talk-radio jocks on “Radio Row.”barr.jpg

What was he doing here? How did he get in? What did he think of Sarah Palin?

Barr said it wasn’t a good time for questions.

“I have to visit the men’s room,” he told Reuters.

Some analysts believe Barr could serve as a spoiler candidate by pulling votes from Republican John McCain in states like Georgia.