Tales from the Trail

Healthcare: learning to backpedal

The training wheels are off for the Obama administration, which has passed the six-month mark in office. But officials are just now learning the Washington sport of backpedaling.

It started over the weekend when President Barack Obama and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared to soften the stance that a public insurance option would be required in any healthcare reform plan.

That led to an outcry from liberal Democrats, most notably House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the public option was the best option.

USA/Now the White House says it never changed its tune. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says reports of the administration backing away from the public option were an “overreaction” to Sebelius comments and that the administration’s message has been “boringly consistent.”

How fast can one backpedal on the backpedal?

That is the danger of floating a trial balloon to gauge response — if it bursts then you have to adopt a slightly surprised demeanor and act like everyone got the wrong idea. MEXICO-BALLOONS/

House Democrats bash health care opponents’ tactics

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit back at protesters vocally disrupting healthcare reform meetings around the country, calling them “un-American” – and with that word ignited the ire of opposition Republicans.

Pelosi and Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote in USA Today that there was an “ugly campaign” to misrepresent the healthcare overhaul legislation being written in Congress and stop public debate, which they said is “at the heart of our democracy.”

Opponents have shouted down lawmakers at town meetings held to explain the healthcare ideas, calling the proposed government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers “socialism” – a fighting word in American politics.  “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American,” the Democrats wrote.

The First Draft: health care heat wave

USA/The temperature’s heading toward 100 in Washington, and things are getting hotter in the debate over health care too, even with Congress out of town for the traditional August recess and President Barack Obama in Mexico for the so-called Three Amigos summit.

Taking aim at the orchestrated — or not — attacks on congressional supporters of the Obama health care plan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer struck back in an opinion piece in USAToday: “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.”

The two top House Democrats aren’t commenting in a vacuum. Obama’s Saturday radio and Web address focused on the “outlandish” tactics of some opponents of health care reform.

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

Someone at the CIA lied and Congress is not happy

Someone lied about something at the CIA, that much is clear.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee are not happy about it, that is also clear.

But the actual offense and who committed it was apparently discussed behind closed doors and cannot be revealed publicly which has led to a cryptic dance in statements from members of Congress and the CIA.

It’s worth mentioning that the CIA actually makes a living telling lies overseas to secure secrets for U.S. national security purposes. But the spy agency prides itself on telling truth to power at home.

A race to the bottom – Cheney versus Pelosi


Former Vice President Dick Cheney has won rave reviews from conservatives and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gotten grief from from the liberal wing of her party — but the two are in one heck of a race for the lowest approval rating among Americans.

A new Gallup poll shows that Pelosi, embroiled in a controversy about what the CIA did or did not tell her about enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects, at the moment holds the crown for the lowest favorable rating – 34 percent.

Cheney, who has tried to find every opportunity to blast the Obama administration over its national security policies and efforts to repudiate the Bush White House on that and other issues, is marginally better off at 37 percent.

Who’s not for funding U.S. troops?

Usually congressional debates over funding U.S. troops are fights where lawmakers try to best each other praising them and throwing as much money as possible at them for fear of appearing less patriotic than someone else.

But Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives are girding for an all-out brawl over a roughly $95 billion bill to fund the troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq — but not because of that money but rather because of provisions to shore up the International Monetary Fund.

While most in Washington know what the IMF is, many Americans do not. It provides loans to governments around the world trying to weather financial crises and get their economies back on track.

CIA’s Panetta swings back

CIA Director Leon Panetta is no stranger to Washington political drama, and he showed on Friday that he wasn’t going to watch from the sidelines while Congress threw stones at his spy agency.

No names were used, but Panetta left no doubt he was responding to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s USA/charge that the CIA misled Congress about interrogation tactics such as waterboarding that were used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a publicly released note to CIA employees headlined “Turning Down the Volume,”   Panetta said the political debate on interrogation “reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.”

First Draft: It’s Take-Your-Kids-To-The-White-House Day!

MASTERCARD/AMERICANEXPRESSJust as the cherry tree blossoms pass their peak and not long after the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, there’s another hallowed Washington spring tradition: Take Your Child To Work Day. That’s when Type A parents with Type A jobs bring their kids to the office to give them some idea of what Mom and Dad do for a living — and that includes people who work at the White House, the State Department and on Capitol Hill.

First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the under-age crowd at the White House, with an event in the East Room at mid-morning. Her husband, President Barack Obama, is expected to be otherwise engaged then, and later is set to meet with credit card company executives, and it might not be suitable for children: presidential aides have labeled some of the companies’ practices “abusive.”

At the State Department, Secretary Hillary Clinton welcomes the kids at an event that, in keeping with discreet diplomacy, is closed to the press. Children and their working parents are also expected to visit Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is an enthusiastic supporter of the event.

Brad Pitt tries out role as lobbyist

brad1Hollywood star Brad Pitt made the rounds in Washington on Thursday keeping a low profile while calling on some some high-profile people to promote sustainable housing.******Pitt dropped by the White House for a private meeting with President Barack Obama but the White House said there was “no read-out” on the visit.******Pitt also went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip James Clyburn. He joined them for that time-honored Washington tradition: a media availability behind a bank of microphones.******Pitt thanked Pelosi for taking time to talk to him about the post-hurricane rebuilding effort going on in New Orleans, where his “Make it Right” foundation is constructing sustainable houses for low-income residents in the city’s Lower 9th Ward.***    ***Pelosi hailed Pitt as a role model. Clyburn thanked Brad for his help …  and for giving him bragging rights.******”I did not realize when the speaker asked me to chair the Katrina- Rita Task Force that it would lead to my getting in a position to make my grandchildren so envious of me because this effort brought the two of us, Brad Pitt and myself, together,” the South Carolina Democrat said.  ***   ***For the record, Pitt was flying solo on the Hill.  Angelina Jolie was making her own low-key appearance in town shooting a scene for a movie in a blond wig.