Tales from the Trail

Obama gets a surprising ‘lift’ in Florida pizza joint

President Obama is hugged by Scott Van Duzer at a pizza shop in Florida

President Barack Obama met his match in the fitness category at an impromptu campaign visit on Sunday.

Stopping by a pizza place — the Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant — in Ft. Pierce, Florida, the president, a workout fanatic, was welcomed by the 6-foot-3, 260-pound, big-muscled owner, Scott Van Duzer.

“If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?” Obama asked, marveling at the man’s physique.

Van Duzer, clearly delighted by the president’s visit, gave him a big bear hug — then lifted him, literally, into the air.

“Man, are you a power lifter or what?” the president exclaimed after he was put safely back on the ground.

Obama campaign attacks Romney for raising fees as governor

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Massachusetts Democratic state lawmakers closed a budget shortfall by closing corporate tax loopholes and raising fees, the latter of which was attacked in a television advertisement the Obama campaign released on Wednesday.

The ad — titled “Mosaic” — hit Romney, who has said on the stump that he closed the budget shortfall without raising taxes, for raising state fees on everything from marriage licenses to gun permits when he was governor of The Bay State for one term starting in 2003.

“When Governor Romney says we balanced the budget without increasing revenues, that’s not true at all,” said Andrew Bagley, Director of Research and Public Affairs at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a non-partisan research group. “Let’s put it this way, corporations paid more taxes after changes to the tax policy.”

Washington Extra – The Keystone cudgel

President Obama had until the end of February to make a decision on the Keystone oil sands pipeline, but he made his move today. And, predictably, he rejected the $7 billion project. That keeps him in good standing with his environmental base for November 2012 but creates new tensions with his Republican foes.

Republicans had forced Obama to make a decision in 60 days as part of the deal for the two-month payroll tax cut extension. House Speaker John Boehner quickly reacted to the rejection by saying “all options are on the table” to craft a bill to fight for the pipeline.

But Boehner may not have many options. If the Republicans push for a bill to get approval for Keystone, the president can veto it. If they choose to make it a bargaining chip in talks for a full-year extension of the payroll tax cuts, they will likely meet fierce resistance from Democrats. We are hearing Boehner just wants to seal the payroll tax cut extension and move on after his painful capitulation in the December deal.

Washington Extra – A man and his dog

Here’s a modern-day twist on Harry Truman’s quip “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” If you, the president, have called John Boehner and urged him to compromise on extending the payroll tax deal by two months, then all that’s left to do is go out Christmas shopping with your dog.

That’s what President Obama did today, taking Bo, the only family member who hasn’t gone to Hawaii, to a pet store in a Virginia strip mall.

Bo made friends with a brown poodle named Cinnamon, prompting a warning from his master “Okay, Bo, don’t get too personal here.” Aw, Mr President, let the First Dog enjoy his time out in the real world.

Washington Extra – Black box

For the past week or so, we’ve watched Democrats and Republicans playing chess on the payroll tax cuts, trying to outmaneuver each other and gain the upper hand in this final bitter budget battle of 2011. Today, it looks like the match moved off the chessboard and into the unknown.

In this vacuum, people are struggling to know what happens next. Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management in Toronto, told us his confidence that the tax cut will be extended in 2012 “is beginning to waver.”

“As usual,” he added, “the political process is such a black box it’s hard to credibly put odds on this.”

from Photographers' Blog:

President Obama takes the White House to the Midwest

By Jason Reed

600 miles of ice cream stops, cornfields and cow judging contests – a glimpse inside the traveling white house circus.

The scene in Washington DC, 2011 - U.S. debt ceiling negotiations, unemployment figures that wont improve, congressional deadlock – it’s enough to make you want to get out of town. President Barack Obama did just that this week, jumping on a shiny new bus and heading out to the Midwest to spend time with pretty much anyone who wasn’t wearing a business suit.

It was surely a nice change of scenery for Obama and definitely for photographers assigned to the White House who have been fed a steady diet of presidential remarks in front of all the familiar Washington backgrounds for weeks on end. The message was however, the same. Getting the nine per cent of unemployed Americans back to work.

At Lincoln Memorial, Obama again makes point that government is open

President Barack Obama has found the monuments of Washington to be quite the picturesque backdrops for making the point that a government shutdown was averted.

Obama surprised visitors at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday not long after signing a short-term bill to keep the government open. A budget deal was reached shortly before Friday’s midnight deadline. USA/

“Because Congress was able to settle its differences, that’s why this place is open today and everybody’s able to enjoy their visit,” Obama told a crowd gathered at the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “And that’s the kind of future cooperation I hope we have going forward.”

Lugar warns U.S. against war in Libya

momarIn recent days  some U.S. senators have been urging President Obama to consider military intervention to help Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gaddafi.

Not Richard Lugar.

The top Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee said little  while a senior member of his own party, John McCain,  repeatedly urged the United States to pursue setting up a no-fly zone over Libya.

On Sunday Democrat John Kerry, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, suggested that Washington might want to  ”crater”  runways used by Gaddafi’s forces.

No more Mr. Nice Guy, Republican sets sights on Obama’s energy czar

Michigan Republican Fred Upton is known as a moderate who disappointed many conservatives by voting with the Democratic majority on some major issues including the taxpayer bailout of U.S. automobile manufacturers.USA/

But expect no more Mr. Nice Guy if Republicans win big on November 2 and he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Upton has a hit list of White House policy czars he plans to investigate starting with White House energy adviser Carol Browner. 

Happy 4th at the White House

U.S. july41Independence Day was an “all-service” holiday at the White House this year as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed about 1,200 people — men and women from all of the branches of the U.S. military and family members.

“This is the day when we celebrate the very essence of America and the spirit that has defined us as a people and as a nation for more than two centuries,” Obama said in a greeting from a White House balcony draped in red, white and blue bunting.
july4_balcony
Obama said was that he couldn’t think of a better way to spend the Fourth of July than with men and women in uniform. But he said he was glad to see most weren’t in uniform, given the stifling heat. But he pointed to one service member on the balcony who was decked out in a black suit because his grandmother insisted he dress up.
july4_band
Obama gave a shout-out to an individual member of each branch of the services, including a soldier who did 150 missions in Iraq after being seriously wounded. The U.S. Marine Band provided the music (patriotic favorites, according to the White House pool report).

After feasting on hot dogs, burgers and other barbeque, the White House guests had some of the best seats in the city for a spectacular fireworks display that capped Washington’s Fourth of July celebration.