Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: White House takes a lonely road to openness on Crasher-gate

December 3, 2009

President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, feels the White House doesn’t need Congress to help it maintain openness on the Crasher-gate scandal. That’s why it’s chosen to eschew the limelight of a Capitol Hill hearing today. USA/

from Maggie Fox:

Stimulus package does provide some jobs

December 2, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 25 years into the AIDS pandemic, scientists finally have a vaccine that protects some people -- but instead of celebrating, they are going back to the drawing board.

The First Draft: Afghanistan inspires Freudian slips about that other battlefield – Iraq

December 2, 2009

President Barack Obama may have invoked Vietnam to banish that ugly specter of defeat from his shiny new Afghan strategy. But a day later, Iraq seems to be the wartime nightmare dogging two congressional veterans of the Bush wars.

The First Draft: Talk shows help drive Palin’s popularity

November 30, 2009

If Sarah Palin were elected president of the United States, would conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck wind up in her cabinet?

The First Draft: Poll shows growing U.S. support for Afghan troop increase

November 25, 2009

If President Barack Obama opts to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan next week, the decision could be underscored by something a bit unusual for his policies: growing U.S. public support. 
 OBAMA   
Polling data have shown for a while now that most Americans don’t favor many of Obama’s policy positions, despite his enduring personal popularity.
    
A USA Today/Gallup poll depicts Obama battling headwinds on a number of fronts: Americans oppose the closing of Gitmo by more than a 2-to-1 margin; those against healthcare reform edge out those in favor by 5 percentage points; and most don’t want accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried in civilian court in New York City.
    
Afghanistan is no cakewalk, either. Public opinion is divided over the question of more troops and 55 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the war up to now — a reversal of his 56 percent approval rating four months ago. CANADA/
    
But the polling data, compiled Nov. 20-22, might also suggest a silver lining for the president as he nears an announcement that could send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
    
Less than half of Americans — 47 percent — favor a troop increase. But that’s up from 42 percent in a Nov. 5-8 survey.
    
Plus, the opposition is down: 39 percent of Americans now want the president to reduce the U.S. military footprint, vs. 44 percent earlier.
    
What hasn’t changed for Obama is that Republicans, not fellow Democrats, are his best buddies when it comes to increasing troops. Seventy-two percent of Republicans back a bigger U.S. force in Afghanistan, while 57 percent of Democrats say it’s time to start pulling out. USA-ELECTION/    

The First Draft: Is the US healthcare debate making Americans feel better?

November 24, 2009

The healthcare reform debate brewing in the U.S. Senate may cause dyspepsia for some special interests.
    
But the mere prospect of reform could be making the American public feel better already — about health coverage, at least. That’s according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonpartisan philanthropic organization devoted to health and healthcare issues.
    
The foundation’s consumer confidence index for healthcare climbed to a new high of 104.4 points in October, as the debate gathered pace in the Senate and House of Representatives.
    
Why? There was a big jump in people’s confidence about future access to care and coverage. Fewer worried about losing their insurance and concerns about future affordability dropped, too.
    
“During a month when there was considerable momentum around health reform, including the passage of a reform bill by the Senate Finance Committee, the American public appears to be more confident about the future,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO, Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said.
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“Americans of every ideology know that our health care system needs to be fixed and want some type of reform,” she added.
    
That last remark — “some type of reform” — could prove prophetic.
    
Republicans seem to think reform is a terrible idea and appear to be in lock-step opposition to it.
    
That leaves it to Democrats and allied independents to forge a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority to push legislation through. Despite sharp differences within their already frayed coalition, Democratic leaders appear to be betting that the whole bunch, in the end, will opt for “some type of reform” rather than returning home empty handed for the holidays.

The First Draft: US healthcare reform as a tale of two cities

November 23, 2009

“…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
    
Charles Dickens never met U.S. senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. But he may have inadvertently captured the partisan spirit of the U.S. healthcare reform debate when he published his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with its famous introduction, 150 years ago.
    
Democrat Chuck and Republican Kay made clear on NBC’s Today show how many in their respective parties see the sweeping overhaul legislation that reached the U.S. Senate floor over the weekend. And by the sound of things, Washington could be two different cities. 
     USA-NAACP/
Chuck seemed to present healthcare reform as a vehicle for economic salvation: “The future of the country depends on getting something done or the government will go broke, private businesses will go broke and people will go broke.”  

The First Draft: Palin for President?

November 16, 2009

Is she running for president? Seeking a coffee summit with Hillary Clinton? Or just selling her book?

Healthcare reform may leave some legal migrants to U.S. in limbo

October 14, 2009

Immigration, particularly what to do with millions of illegal immigrants living in the shadows, has long been a divisive issue in the United States — so it comes as little surprise that undocumented migrants are excluded from benefits under President Barack Obama’s signature drive to overhaul healthcare.
 
But legislation to reform the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system to cut costs, extend coverage and regulate insurers could also exclude more than a million legal permanent residents living, working and paying taxes in this country of immigrants from core benefits, according to a study published this month.
 
The report by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute said 4.2 million lawful permanent residents in the United States are uninsured. More than 1 million of them could be excluded from Medicaid coverage or insurance subsidies outlined in the bill — five versions of which are currently on Capitol Hill — if Congress does not remove a five-year waiting period for eligibility.
 
Congress is set to debate the legislation in coming weeks, and the prospects for the overhaul are far from certain. But if legal residents are denied eligibility for Medicaid and insurance subidies, yet are nevertheless subjected to mandates requiring them to buy health insurance coverage, the study concluded, many of them would face a “significant burden.”
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“Leaving large numbers of legal immigrants out of healthcare reform would defeat the core goal of the legislation, which is to extend coverage to the nation’s 46 million uninsured,” said MPI Senior Vice President Michael Fix, who co-authored the report.
 
The study also concluded that implementing verification systems to ensure that 12 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States do not receive benefits could prove expensive and may also discriminate against Americans.
 
“Document checks would be especially costly, and would have the biggest impact on U.S. citizens who cannot produce birth certificates or other forms of ID, leading to lost or delayed coverage,” said Marc Rosenblum, a co-author of the MPI study.
 
The measures denying undocumented immigrants benefits are likely to be welcomed by most Americans — one telephone survey in June found 80 percent of U.S. voters opposed providing government healthcare coverage to undocumented migrants. But activists say a bill that left many legal permanent residents in limbo would likely discourage some skilled migrants from seeking to move to the United States.
   
Aman Kapoor, the founder and president of advocacy group Immigration Voice said many high-skilled immigrants including engineers and software specialists were already wary about moving to the United States because of red tape and delays in processing applications for permanent residency.
 
“This will ring the alarm bells again around the world for the high-skilled community,” Kapoor said, adding that skilled foreign workers were “already considering other destinations like India, China and Brazil because the hassle of settling here has increased dramatically.”

from Global News Journal:

Does Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

October 9, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Obama had been awarded the prize for his calls to reduce the world's stockpiles of nuclear weapons and work towards restarting the stalled Middle East peace process.