Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Driver’s seat

The day the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the United States is headed for its fourth straight year with a $1 trillion-plus budget deficit, President Obama touted the benefits of big government spending.

His venue? The Washington auto show. His tools? Shiny new American cars, preferably those from General Motors and Chrysler. Those were the two companies that received billions in a 2009 taxpayer funded bailout that has obviously paid off, both for the automakers and the Obama administration.

The president got behind the wheels of muscle cars, SUVs, trucks, and fuel efficient and electric models and proclaimed “The U.S. auto industry is back.” But he couldn’t just leave it at that, for there were more political points to score. He did so by taking a veiled swipe at his most likely opponent in the November election – Mitt Romney – for having opposed the bailout that helped bring Detroit back from the brink.

“It’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die,” Obama said.

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U.S. set for 4th year of $1 trillion-plus deficit-CBO

The United States is headed for a fourth straight year with a $1 trillion-plus budget deficit, congressional forecasters said, giving Republicans ammunition to hammer President Obama’s spending record. The CBO report is the opening salvo in the 2012 debate over the appropriate size of the federal government in coming years and whether the wealthy should shoulder more of the burden in fixing a fiscal mess highlighted by a national debt that has topped $15 trillion and is racing higher.

Washington Extra – Home for the holidays

There will be no vacation for you, Congress, until you get your work done. That was the stern message from President Obama today. But it probably wasn’t his warning that pushed Democrats and Republicans to get back to serious negotiations to finish the year’s business. More likely, it was fear of voter backlash.

For the third time this year, Americans were hearing about the threat of a government shutdown because Democrats and Republicans could not strike a deal on some basic legislation –a spending bill needed to fund many government agencies beyond Friday. After a flurry of meetings on Capitol Hill, we received word that the deal was near.

Separate negotiations on the legislation to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits also seemed to gather pace after days of distractions and setbacks. If the negotiators are successful, Congress’ work might all be done by the weekend.

Washington Extra – Theater of the absurd

No one said extending the payroll tax cut in Congress by December 31 would be a walk in the park. But did we really expect it to turn into another marathon with multiple detours?

After a rare display of bipartisanship on Monday on a spending bill to keep the government running through 2012, Tuesday gave way to another day of bitter back and forth, in which Democrats and Republicans aimed to out-maneuver and out-smart each other.

The Republicans managed to pass their payroll tax cut bill in the House with the controversial measure to speed up the decision on green-lighting the Keystone oil pipeline. It almost certainly won’t make it through the Senate and the White House made clear today that President Obama will veto it if it does. He’s decided the Keystone pipeline has to wait until after the elections and won’t be dragged into this debacle.

Romney opens ad offensive against Obama

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s first television commercial attacking Barack Obama’s record  hits the airwaves in New Hampshire on Tuesday — just in time to welcome the president on a  visit to the early primary state.

A discussion of jobs was on the agenda for Obama’s quick trip to a high school in Manchester. But Romney didn’t wait for the president’s arrival.

The former Massachusetts governor previewed his new  ad Monday night on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” show.

“Birther” talk bubbles up again

The “birther” question rises again in a wide-ranging interview with Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry in  “Parade.”

The Texas governor dismissed the questioning of whether President Barack Obama is a native-born U.S. citizen as a “distractive issue” — after responding to several questions about the issue.

Asked whether he believes Obama was born in the USA, Perry said he had no reason to think otherwise. But the governor suggested he was not certain about the birth certificate released by Obama.

Perry video brands Obama “President Zero”

“Rick Perry – Proven Leadership,” a new campaign video for the Texas governor and Republican frontrunner opens with the voice of President Barack Obama — and footage of dreary, gray scenes.

The focus is on gloomy economic news.

With unemployment over 9 percent and the economy near another recession, the state of the U.S. economy is expected to be crucial to Obama’s re-election prospects for 2012.

The video brands Obama “President Zero”…  and fades to black.

Obama campaign goes on the attack against “attacks”

The website is dark and ominous-looking.

Pictures of conservative commentator Glenn Beck and leading Republican presidential candidates fade in and out.

Headlines such as “Rick Perry’s massive jobs lie” and “Romney’s job chart shows flawed understanding of the facts” scroll across the top.

Is it a left-leaning blog meant to criticize a “right wing conspiracy”?

Perry says stimulus didn’t create jobs; CBO says it did

Texas Governor Rick Perry, front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, said on Monday President Barack Obama’s  economic stimulus program  created “zero” jobs.

Not so, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan budget arbiter for lawmakers.

Congress in 2009 passed the $830 billion economic stimulus, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included both spending measures and tax cuts.

Obama focus on policy, not polls – White House

The White House is downplaying several new polls showing President Obama’s job approval ratings plunging to new lows along with rising public concern over high unemployment and the sluggish economy.

“The president is focused on the measures he can take…  to address the urgent need to grow our economy and create jobs; to deal with the fact that economic growth is not fast enough and that job creation is not substantial enough,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing when asked how concerned Obama is about the poll numbers.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama’s overall job approval rating at a low of 44 percent, down 3 percentage points since July.  More than half of Americans  now disapprove of Obama’s job performance and one in three say they’re worse off financially since he’s been in the White House, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. And a poll by Politico and George Washington University shows 72 percent of voters believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

2012 candidates woo voters on Labor Day

Labor Day is no day off for President Barack Obama and the Republicans who want his job. The holiday to pay tribute to American workers traditionally marks the start of the general election campaign. And although 15 months remain before the 2012 election, you’ll find the 2012 White House hopefuls on the road Monday hoping to score points with voters.

Democrat Obama travels to Detroit on Labor Day to talk about how to create jobs and strengthen the economy, the White House said. With U.S. unemployment steady at 9.1 percent, Reuters’ Jeff Mason writes  Obama’s on the spot to boost hiring and economic growth as he campaigns for a second term in the White House.

Obama also spoke in Detroit on Labor Day 2008 as his general election race heated up against Republican presidential rival Senator John McCain.