Tales from the Trail

Bobby Jindal to the Republican Party’s Rescue

bobbyjindal

Republicans have chosen Louisiana’s young governor, Bobby Jindal, to deliver a high-profile national address that will follow on the heels of President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Address to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 24.

The choice of Jindal,  37 years old and of Indian heritage, points to a search for new leaders for the Republican Party, which is still reeling from the loss of its majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate to Democrats and the White House to Obama.

Jindal – who proved his mettle as an able administrator and communicator after Hurricane Gustav tore across Louisiana in September – has been tapped as a rising star in the Republican Party.
A darling to conservatives like talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who has dubbed him as “the next Ronald Reagan,” Jindal will have a chance to polish his credentials before a national television audience later this month.

“Here in Louisiana, we have first-hand experience with reforming government and cutting taxes to stimulate our economy in uncertain times,” Jindal said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is a terrific opportunity to talk about our great state to the nation.”

Too bad many in Louisiana won’t be listening. Feb. 24 is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the big party in these parts, especially in New Orleans, before the start of Lent.
 Photo Credit: Reuters/Jeff Haynes (JIndal shakes hands with a then President-elect Obama)

Obama and Hannity – beer-drinking buddies?

ELKHART, Ind. – President Barack Obama and conservative commentator Sean Hannity are hardly political allies, but Obama on Monday briefly entertained the thought they could at least share a beer.

 At least, Obama seemed to like the beer part.

OBAMA/STIMULUSHannity, a talk show host who is one of Obama’s harshest critics, offered recently to buy the president a beer after Obama said “hardcore” Hannity fans would not want to share a brew with him.

 At a town hall meeting in Indiana where Obama was selling his stimulus package, a woman who identified herself as Tara questioned why some of Obama’s cabinet appointments could not handle their own taxes.

from Ask...:

Withdraw or stand their ground?

Tom Daschle doesn’t want to be a distraction. Nancy Killefer doesn’t want to be a distraction. Timothy Geithner has already been a distraction.

What these three high-profile nominees to President Obama’s White House have in common, besides not wanting to be distractions, is that they apparently don’t know how to do their taxes. Daschle, the former senator and Obama’s choice for health secretary, and Killefer, a former assistant Treasury secretary and nominee to oversee the government’s budget, have withdrawn their nominations because of tax indiscretions. Geithner has been confirmed but his path to the top of Treasury was also marred by tax troubles that some fear may come back to haunt him.

Besides begging the question why do smart people not know how to do their taxes, it also throws a shadow over Obama’s quest to have a fast, smooth transition to power.

First Draft: double vision

WASHINGTON – Don’t rub your eyes. Despite the early hour, you weren’t seeing things when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs somehow managed to be in two places at once.

He showed up on ABC and NBC morning television shows at the same time to talk about how President Barack Obama has no hard feelings toward Republicans who refused to vote for the economic stimulus, and in fact had them over to the White House last night for a cocktail party among other guests.OBAMA

It was a neat trick, Gibbs being questioned on different channels by different TV personalities about the same issue at the same time.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama’s South Asian envoy and the Kashmir conundrum

Earlier this month, I wrote that the brief given to a South Asian envoy by President Barack Obama could prove to be the first test of the success of Indian diplomacy after the Mumbai attacks. At issue was whether the envoy would be asked to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan or whether the brief would be extended to India, reflecting comments made by Obama during his election campaign that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would ease tensions across the region.

That question has been resolved - publicly at least -- with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. No mention of India or Kashmir.

India has long resisted overt outside interference in Kashmir and argued - with great vehemence since the Mumbai attacks - that tensions in South Asia were caused by Pakistan's support for, or tolerance of, Islamist militants rather than the Kashmir dispute.  For India, a public reference to Kashmir following Mumbai would amount to endorsing what it calls cross-border terrorism.

Michael J. Fox hopeful on Obama’s commitment to stem cell research

At an inauguration event at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C., actor Michael J. Fox spoke with Reuters reporter John McCrank about his hopes for the Obama administration.

Fox, afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, expects a very productive “four-to-eight years”, saying Obama “is a fan of science and intellectual curiosity” and is committed to moving forward with research.

For more Reuters political news, please click here.

Rhyming reverend gets last word at Obama inaugural

WASHINGTON – Rev. Joseph Lowery was back on stage with a president, but on Tuesday the civil-rights pioneer used his wry rhymes to welcome the U.S. leader, not skewer him as he did three years ago.  OBAMA

Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the benediction at Barack Obama’s inauguration as first black U.S. president.

Lowery prayed for healing from a era of “greed and corruption,” and asked, in verse, for divine help toward a new beginning of racial harmony:

from Environment Forum:

Will Obama see the forest for the trees?

A Chinese campaigner has urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to prove his green credentials, asking him to offset the emissions generated by his inauguration by funding a forest in China.

A carbon fund named "Obama, future" could invest in increased forest coverage in another country and Obama himself could plant a tree there, Lin Hui said in an open letter, published on www.ditan360.com. Lin hopes that country will be China.

Lin's appeal is based on estimates by conservative U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Liberty, that people travelling to attend Tuesday's inauguration would generate 220,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

from Commodity Corner:

Obamamania missing in farm country

obama1Many U.S. farmers don't have confidence in President-elect Barack Obama, with many fearing the new administration will not be receptive to the needs of American farmers and ranchers.

A Reuters straw poll of more than 800 farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in San Antonio found 72 percent of the respondents did not believe Obama would have the best interest of the farmer in mind.

Instead of helping U.S. sectors that produce goods for the country, such as farmers, several mentioned Obama would focus on programs that work to even out income and help those that are seeking something from the government.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama and his South Asian envoy

There's much talk about President-elect Barack Obama possibly appointing Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to South Asia. The New York Times says it's likely; while the Washington Independent says it may be a bit premature to expect final decisions, even before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

But more interesting perhaps than the name itself will be the brief given to any special envoy for South Asia. Would the focus be on Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or on Pakistan and India? Or all three? The Times of India said India might be removed from the envoy's beat to assuage Indian sensitivities about Kashmir, which it sees as a bilateral issue to be resolved with Pakistan, and which has long resisted any outside mediation. This, the paper said, was an evolution in thinking compared to statements made by Obama during his election campaign about Kashmir.

Before last year's Mumbai attacks, Obama had suggested that the United States should help India and Pakistan to make peace over Kashmir as part of a regional strategy to stabilise Afghanistan. In this he was supported by a raft of U.S. analysts who argued that Pakistan would never fully turn against Islamist militants threatening the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan as long as it felt it might need them to counter burgeoning Indian influence in the region. Obama's suggestion raised hackles in India, and broke with a tradition established by the Bush administration which had tended to be -- publicly at least -- hands-off about the Kashmir dispute.