Tales from the Trail

Maybe we should just call it “Katrina-slick-gate”

USA-RIG/LEAK

Is “Katrina” the “gate” of the 2000s?

The 1972 Watergate break-in spawned an army of “gates,” as the expression “whatever-gate” became shorthand for any political scandal. The subsequent decades saw “Travelgate,”  “Irangate,” “Nannygate, ”Whitewatergate” and a host of other major and minor political improprieties.

Almost 40 years later, “Katrina” has become popular political shorthand representing the slow response to a disaster, a nod toward the aftermath of  the devastating 2005 hurricane in New Orleans by then-President George W. Bush. The perception that the Republican president cared too little about the people of New Orleans to respond quickly to a hurricane that killed some 1,800 Americans was devastating to his public image, and hurt his party in the 2008 election that brought Democratic President Barack Obama to power.

Pundits have been waiting for ”Obama’s Katrina” almost since he took office in 2009.

This week, the White House is facing critics who say that a massive BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico deserves the title. The White House dismissed the thought, and denied it was slow to respond to the spill, which took place after an explosion on a drilling platform that left 11 workers missing and presumed dead.

Earlier this year, there was speculation that Haiti’s devastating earthquake — which killed up to 300,000 people and destroyed much of the infrastructure in the hemisphere’s poorest country — would be his Katrina. In fact, Obama was praised for his quick and significant response.

Bristol Palin says she got calls after Mom’s e-mail hacked

By Robby O’Daniel

A Tennessee college student on trial for hacking into Sarah Palin’s e-mail account and posting it on the Web during the 2008 presidential campaign heard from Palin’s daughter, Bristol, who testified she was flooded with phone calls as a result.

One call  to the then-17-year-old’s cell phone came in the middle of the night at the family home in Wasilla, Alaska, from “a bunch of boys” who claimed to be outside the house and wanted to be let in.

“That was scary because we lived in the middle of nowhere,” Bristol Palin told the jury at the trial of  David Kernell, the 22-year-old son of a Democratic state legislator. Kernell faces several years in prison if convicted of fraud, identity theft and other charges.

Palin serves up plenty of red meat at Boston Tea Party

Conservative darling Sarah Palin had no trouble stirring up Tea Partiers at a rally in Boston, not far from the site where colonists staged the original Tea Party revolt centuries ago.

USA/The problems in the United States are “nothing a good old fashioned election can’t fix,” she told the crowd of several thousand on the Boston Common. “The first test will be at the ballot box in November.”

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate, who wore a red leather jacket, brought plenty of red meat rhetoric to the anti-tax Tea Party.

U.S. Senate Democratic contender bashes Democratic-led Washington

If there was any question that Democrats were in for a tough election year, go no further than Lee Fisher’s campaign flyer that’s been mailed OBAMA-HEALTHCAREout to Ohio voters.

“Washington is Working Against Ohio Families” it warns in large letters superimposed over a picture of dark storm clouds hovering over the U.S. Capitol.  On the flyer’s backside is the declaration: “Washington is broken and has let us down.”

As he tries to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator George Voinovich, Fisher’s campaign seems to be taking on the Democrats who control the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

It’s official – Obama is the first African-American president

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President Barack Obama has done his civic duty and filled out his Census form, and in doing so confirmed that he is, indeed, the first African-American U.S. president.

Obama checked African-American on the form when he filled it out, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. And he did it without giving it a great deal of thought.

“I think he just checked it,” Gibbs told reporters during a briefing in his office at the White House on Friday.

Obama says Washington vitriol is still a solvable problem

President Barack Obama thinks Washington’s political climate of vitriolic partisanship could start to wane over the next few years. Republicans just have to calm down, and Democrats have to stop playing the same silly political games as their opponents.

“A party that’s out of power, often times in those first few years of being out of power and reacting very negatively, their base ends up being very agitated. And it may take the next election or the next presidential election before things settle down,” the president told NBC’s Today show.

One problem is the media, and not just the mainstream media with its 24/7 news cycle but the cable-TV and radio talk shows, the Internet and the blogosphere — “all of which tend to try to feed the most extreme sides of any issue instead of trying to narrow differences and solve problems.”

Who wins on U.S. healthcare reform? Washington’s lobbyists, for starters

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While pundits try to figure out whether Republicans or Democrats will benefit most from healthcare reform come November’s congressional elections, what seems mighty clear already is that Washington’s lobbyists are undisputed winners in the epic debate.

The watchdog Center for Public Integrity says lobbyists were paid at least $1.2 billion to work on health issues including healthcare reform in 2009. That giant chunk of change sent an army of more than 4,500 lobbyists scrambling up the slopes of Capitol Hill toward the ramparts of the House and Senate, where 535 elected public officials either braced for the onslaught or hurried out the welcome mat.

It’s possible that a filibuster-proof majority busied themselves with the latter. Lawmakers were, after all, outnumbered by more than 8 to 1.

Maddow to Brown: Wrong, “I’m not running”

Political commentator Rachel Maddow is used to having her say. This time she used a full-page ad in The Boston Globe.

The popular liberal TV host came out swinging on Friday against the new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, who has suggested in a fund-raising letter that Maddow will run against him in 2012. SENATE/BROWN

“I’m not running against Scott Brown … It’s just not true. Honestly. I swear. No, really,” Maddow said in the ad.

Frum Obamacare to Waterloo: Where do Republicans find themselves?

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Have Republicans really met their Waterloo? George W. Bush’s former speech writer David Frum thinks so. And he may have a point, though making it in public has proved costly.

Only six months ago, Republican opposition to healthcare reform was whacking away gleefully at President Barack Obama’s approval ratings. An army of conservative Tea Party activists were flooding Washington’s National Mall in a show of force against the Obama legislative agenda. And Republican nice guy Scott Brown was on his merry way to a Senate upset in bluest of blue Massachusetts.

Now healthcare reform is law and newly energized Democrats are moving to counter those evils of Wall Street that voters love to hate. The grass-roots army has brought Republicans one or two liabilities. And Obama’s job approval rating shows signs of firming up.

So how’s he doing now? New polls on Obama healthcare

The White House (whether its occupant is Obama or Bush) has a tendency to be dismissive of public opinion polls, shrugging them aside as inconsequential to the president’s decision-making and basically to be brushed off like dandruff on a shoulder.

That is unless the polls are going their way.

USA-HEALTHCAREWhite House spokesman Robert Gibbs, amid the glee of the healthcare bill signing Tuesday, tweeted @PressSec “In the polling obsessed town of Washington, DC this will give the nattering nabobs of negativity something to chew on” with a link to a story about the USA Today/Gallup poll that said 49 percent vs. 40 percent saw passage of  the bill as “a good thing.”

But while early post-healthcare polling data show a bump in President Barack Obama’s favorability ratings, it remains to be seen whether there’s a trend in the making.