Tales from the Trail

Democrats try turning mosque debate against GOP

Democrats were stunned and somewhat speechless last August when Republicans accused them of proposing “death panels” as part of  their healthcare reform initiative.

This August,  it’s the proposed construction of a Muslim cultural center and mosque near lower Manhattan’s “Ground Zero” that is dominating the end-of-summer doldrums.  Once again,  Democrats are struggling to gain the upper hand in the debate. AFGHANISTAN/

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on Wednesday, saying, “Where a place of worship is located is a local decision.” The Democrat may have been tweaking Republicans from across the U.S. who are railing about the New York City mosque all the while complaining about the long, intrusive arm of the federal government.

Republicans have argued that allowing a mosque within blocks of the site of the Sept. 11 attacks would be an insult to the families of  the thousands killed that day. But Pelosi, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,  is also noting that if Republicans’ hearts were in the right place, they would stop opposing legislation to help emergency responders and others suffering health problems related to the attacks.

Pelosi says it’s fine to look into who would fund the construction of the Islamic center, but that “we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction” of the facility.

One more secret at CIA – next week’s Top Chef winner and loser

The Central Intelligence Agency has one more secret to keep this week — who won the Top Chef challenge in next week’s episode.

The TV cooking competition at the end of  Wednesday’s episode, in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a guest judge and declared herself a “foodie,” previewed the coming week when the competing chefs do their thing at the intelligence agency. A smiling CIA Director Leon Panetta was shown in the snippet tasting an entry at a white-tablecloth table. USA/AFGHANISTAN

Having been to the CIA on occasion while covering intelligence and remembering being required to leave my cellphone and BlackBerry in my car because they weren’t allowed inside, I wondered whether the chefs were able to take their famous cooking knives into the secure facility.

Washington Extra

The Obama administration admitted today that the economy was facing “strong headwinds” and that government finances were on an unsustainable path. Not a great backdrop as we head into November’s elections, as the White House is only too well aware.

OBAMA-ECONOMY/JOBSBut at least the president is trying to set a good example himself. Yesterday we heard how the Obama family was putting its vacations to work for the good of the economy, visiting the Florida Gulf Coast where tourism has been savaged by the oil spill. Now we learn that the First Daughters are getting lessons in managing their money wisely. Not only do Malia and Sasha have their own savings accounts, but they are nearly ready to start earning money babysitting. While those are valuable lessons for a 12 and nine-year-old girl, I am not sure how the $10 an hour they might earn would cover the costs of their driver and armed guard.

Otherwise, today’s highlights include an analysis of the resurgent fortunes of Sarah Palin and her increasingly influential role in the run up to the November mid-terms. And take a look too at our examination of what might be in store when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveils a stripped down energy bill next week.

Don’t tell anyone, but Pelosi upset her criticism of Gibbs leaked

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear she’s upset — “ticked off” — that her private criticism of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs leaked out. OBAMA/

That’s the word from one of Pelosi’s fellow Democrats who attended another closed-door meeting with her on Thursday, two days after her now well-publicized complaints about President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman.

“She said these meetings should be an opportunity for us to speak candidly with each other,” said the Democrat, asking not to be identified by name. “She was ticked off it leaked out.”

Democrats in a dilemma on Bush tax cuts

Conventional political wisdom says that if you are going to cut taxes, do it before an election. But in a congressional election year when record deficits and a $13 trillion national debt are unnerving voters, that wisdom may not hold.

USA/At least that seems to be the case among Democrats who are facing serious voter concerns about deficits, the fragile economy and lack of job creation going into the November elections when Republicans hope to take control of Congress.

President George W. Bush’s tax cuts expire at the end of the year. Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts. Democrats want to extend lower tax rates for middle income earners at least through 2011 and allow tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers to expire.

from Environment Forum:

Washington math: oil spill + climate bill = new environmental polls

OIL-RIG/LEAKWith BP's spilled oil shimmering off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a re-tooled bill to curb climate change expected to be unveiled this week in the U.S. Senate, what could be more appropriate than a bouquet of new environmental polls? Conducted on behalf of groups that want less fossil fuel use, the polls show hefty majorities favoring legislation to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

In the kind of harmonic convergence that sometimes happens inside the Capital Beltway, a new poll released on Monday by the Clean Energy Works campaign showed "overwhelming public support for comprehensive clean energy legislation," with 61 percent of 2010 voters saying they want to limit pollution, invest in clean energy and make energy companies pay for emitting the carbon that contributes to climate change. A healthy majority -- 54 percent -- of respondents said they'd be more likely to re-elect a senator who votes for the bill.

Last Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been pushing for climate change legislation for years, released its own poll numbers. NRDC's pollsters found seven in 10 Americans want to see fast-tracked clean energy legislation in the wake of the BP oil spill, and two-thirds say they want to postpone new offshore drilling until the Gulf oil spill is investigated and new safeguards are put in place.

Happy Birthday Madam Speaker

She gets to have her cake and eat it too…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got a big birthday surprise when House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller carried a luscious looking chocolate birthday cake into the signing ceremony for the final piece of historic healthcare overhaul legislation.pelosilaughing2

The crowd sang happy birthday to the beaming 70-year-old after she signed the last installment of the hard won healthcare reform, the final step before sending it down to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. He is expected to sign it early next week.

“This our gift to the American people,” Pelosi said holding up the newly signed bill.

Does Obama’s healthcare victory point to future legislative strategy?

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When President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law today, was he also endorsing the preferred White House strategy for legislation to come?

After months of political wrangling and face-reddening rhetoric all around, Obama’s sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system became reality without a single Republican voting for it.

Democrats say that’s because the Republicans want to render Obama’s presidency a failure. They point to a recently published account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategic game plan to deny Democrats any support on big legislation.

O’bama? President digs deep to find Irish roots

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In Washington, everybody seems to claim ties to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, even politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is famously Italian-American. Pelosi, with self-deprecating humor, told the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill that her ties are through grandchildren of Irish-American descent.

But many politicians’ ties are much less tenuous. After waves of Irish immigration to the United States, some 36 million Americans report some Irish ancestry. Nine of the past 10 U.S. presidents have been at least partly of Irish descent, according to the Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies. The only exception? Gerald Ford. NOT the man who would appear the least likely to have Irish forebears, President Barack Obama.

Obama has to look way, way back on his mother’s side of the family to locate his Irish roots, but they are there.

Massa waning as news fodder but may rise again to plague Democrats

AUTOS/BAILOUT

Eric Massa may soon vanish from the 24-7 news cycle. But the martyred Democrat, who says he fell from grace beneath the naked power of Satan’s spawn, could reappear some day soon as a burr under the saddles of his former congressional colleagues.

Republicans would like Massa to do for them what Mark Foley did for Democrats four years ago: provide a scourge with which to flail the other guy in a mid-term election year.

Foley, a Republican, resigned from Congress in September 2006 amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit emails and instant messages to male congressional pages. As such, he was among the denizens of that swamp of Republican corruption that Nancy Pelosi vowed to drain just before Democrats took control of Congress and gave her the speaker’s gavel.