Tales from the Trail

The Rich and Taxes – Clinton’s lament

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took what appeared to be a coded swipe at Republican refusals to consider raising taxes in U.S. debt limit talks, saying on Tuesday that all leaders must make hard decisions to put their countries on the right track.

Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president in 2008 but now “out of politics” as top diplomat for her one-time rival President Barack Obama,  sounded pointedly political as she recounted a meeting with an unnamed president facing serious fiscal challenges.

“Often times leaders are struggling to get the political support they need to make the hard decisions,” Clinton said at meeting on government transparency at the State Department.

“I met with a president of a country who’d been trying so hard to raise the tax revenues of his country and basically the rich of his country refused to pay anything for schools, for hospitals, for infrastructure. They just said no,” Clinton said.

“And this president is trying so hard because he knows that he will never be able to lift his people out of poverty, put them on the right track, give them opportunities, have an open opportunity society, unless he can deliver results.”

Rare agreement on Capitol Hill over confirmation process

Stop the presses!

A man-bite-dog moment at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

The normally grid-locked U.S. Senate — Democrats, Republicans, independents — came together and overwhelmingly passed a bill to reduce its workload, curb its power and perhaps even decrease partisan fighting.

Drafted by the chamber’s party leaders, the measure, which now goes to the House of Representatives for anticipated final congressional approval, would slash the number of presidential appointees who need Senate confirmation.

More specifically, it would eliminate the confirmation requirement for about 200 of the 1,200 posts in the executive branch as well as for more than 2,800 members of the U.S. Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Officer Corps.

Washington Extra – Her Waterloo

It takes some political derring-do to launch a presidential campaign from a town named Waterloo.

After all, in another time, on another continent, that was the locale of Napoleon’s final defeat, from which sprang the term “met his Waterloo.”

Tea Party conservative Michele Bachmann chose Waterloo, Iowa, her birthplace, to announce a run for the Republican presidential nomination. And she wasted no time in going on the offensive.

House lawmakers tussle over Medicare mailings

House Democrats are accusing the Republican majority of censoring language in mailings to constituents about a Republican plan to privatize Medicare for future retirees.

At issue is official mail that goes to constituents with taxpayers picking up the cost of postage. Any materials mailed at taxpayer expense have to have bipartisan approval.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, five Democrats complained that previously approved language describing the proposal by Republican Representative Paul Ryan no longer was okay.

Republicans hold debt school for lawmakers

Pop quiz: What’s the debt limit?

As the August 2 deadline for raising borrowing authority nears, House Republican leaders have been holding a series of workshops for their 240 members to help “educate” them on the debt limit, according to senior aides.

In the past couple weeks, a few dozen House Republicans have attended each of the meetings to hear House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan discuss options for cutting spending and field questions about the debt limit.

“Any member (can) come in and have a presentation on debt limit,” one aide said, adding, “they can get facts and have a conversation about what it means.”

Washington Extra – One more for the road

Jon Huntsman is in. Well, technically, the Republican announced that he will announce that he is in next Tuesday.

“I intend to announce that I will be a candidate for the presidency a week from today,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a Thomson Reuters event in New York.

He advocated “getting our own house in order” to improve ties with China. “As we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States,” Huntsman said.

Washington Extra – Seven up

Ready… Set… Go… And they’re off to the races for 2012. The Republicans went north. The Democrat went south.

Seven Republicans go head-to-head in New Hampshire tonight in the first major debate in the battle for their party’s presidential nomination.

The One they hope to unseat next year, President Barack Obama, sought a head start by talking jobs (he said the word 21 times) in the battleground state of North Carolina, before attending three back-to-back Miami fundraisers in fickle Florida.

GOP presidential field – looking Perry promising?

With polls showing President Barack Obama beating any current 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, some party leaders are casting around for additional contenders, especially those who are well-known and might appeal more to the party’s most conservative wing.

One name that has come up repeatedly is Texas Governor Rick Perry, a conservative Republican and rising star in the Tea Party movement who fueled speculation last year that he might run for the White House by going on a national tour to publicize his book “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” which takes aim at what he sees an intrusive and expansive federal government.

Perry has in the past emphatically said he will not run, but he more recently has seemed to be leaving the door slightly open by saying for now he is focused on Texas’ legislative session, which ends on May 30.

from The Great Debate:

Does Gingrich actually want to be President?

Newt Gingrich, May 13, 2011

By Ben Adler

The opinions expressed are his own.

There is a well-established template for a politician who has ascended to the pinnacle of national politics, tumbled off of it, and wants to return to run for president. You get out of Washington. You occupy yourself in private or charitable endeavors, maybe write anodyne books and studiously avoid making controversial proclamations that might come back to haunt you.

Richard Nixon, after losing his 1960 presidential bid and his ill-advised 1962 run for Governor of California followed this script and was elected in 1968. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently announced his candidacy for president, hasn’t merely detoured from this path in recent years, he’s gone completely in the other direction. In fact, everything he has done since he was Speaker suggests he never planned to run for president, and he hasn’t made the appropriate preparations.

After Gingrich famously miscalculated and cost his party seats in the 1998 midterms by impeaching Bill Clinton for a brief episode of philandering, Gingrich left his own wife -- who had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis -- for his mistress. That was his first mistake; well, actually his second, since he had previously left his first wife while she was in the hospital with cancer for his second wife. (Gingrich’s personal history was the subject of a devastating profile in Esquire last year.)

Pawlenty is in the race for Republican presidential nomination

Tim Pawlenty upstaged Tim Pawlenty  on Sunday.

The former Minnesota governor said he is in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, revealing the news in a polished, campaign-ready  video posted on his website.

The surprise announcement came in a preview of the official announcement he was set to make Monday in Iowa. In the video,  he says Des Moines  is his first campaign stop. But he was already campaigning.

“We need a president who understands that our problems are deep, and has the courage to face them. President Obama does not. I do,” Pawlenty says in the video.