Tales from the Trail

New White House press secretary Carney sounds a few familiar notes

President Barack Obama’s new press secretary, Jay Carney, took a few phrases out of his predecessor’s playbook during his first stint at the White House podium.

It turns out that he, like Robert Gibbs, is not an economist. And he doesn’t want to speculate. And he refers you to the (insert relevant department here) for further details on questions that were not entirely on his radar. USA/

Despite those familiar dodges — “I’m not an economist” was a favorite line of Gibbs — Carney did show up prepared on Wednesday.

He called nearly all of the reporters in the first three rows of the press room by name.

He handled questions ranging from Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget to his philosophies on presidential news conferences.

Washington Extra – Early valentine

Even on television from thousands of miles away, the Egyptian revolution was breathtaking. A moment to mark in history.

President Hosni Mubarak gave the protesters an early valentine by stepping down. What had been expected yesterday was surprising today.

President Barack Obama framed the event as one of the monumental examples of peaceful resistance that the world has seen, even though he was talking about the ouster of a strong ally of the United States for the last 30 years. OBAMA/

Washington Extra – Line dance

Here’s something that Republicans might want to hear: the White House is promising that its budget will include serious deficit control.

EGYPT-USA/“The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said in an interview with Reuters’ White House correspondents Alister Bull and Jeff Mason.

While the budget will make “tough choices and tough cuts,” Lew said, “there will also be the question of how far do you want to go in some of these areas and what are the consequences of going beyond a certain line.”

Washington Extra – Job prospects

The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in 2010, the biggest GDP gain since 2005, but still too weak to make a big dent in the unemployment rate which ended the year at 9.4 percent.

EGYPT/USAEgyptian protesters again took to the streets seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak from the job he’s held for 30 years.

Rather than risk a fissure in messages, the White House held its press briefing, while the State Department canceled. In the strongest public message so far, the United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on the government’s response to the massive protests.

Guess who’s not coming to dinner with Hu

Usually politicians flock to a high-profile event like moths to a flame.

But we’re learning that isn’t quite the style of the new Speaker of the House.

OBAMA-CHINA/The White House is rolling out the red carpet for China’s President Hu Jintao with one of the most formal of all events — the State Dinner.

This will be only the third hosted by President Barack Obama during the two years of his presidency — the previous ones were for the leaders of India and Mexico.

Washington Extra – hello goodbye

She says goodbye and he says hello.

The House Speaker’s (HUGE) gavel changed hands today, symbolizing the transfer of power to Republicans. Outgoing speaker Nancy Pelosi, attacked by Republicans as a symbol of Democratic excesses, took the high road as she repeatedly congratulated new House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican majority.

Boehner started off with some levity and humility — “It’s still just me.” And he didn’t disappoint those watching for his now trademark show of emotion when he dabbed his eyes with a white handkerchief while standing behind Pelosi before the handover. Reuters photojournalist Kevin Lamarque captured the moment, you can see it on our politics blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/frontrow/ OBAMA/STAFF-GIBBS

There were goodbyes emanating from the White House too. President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs is stepping down from the White House press room podium. “What I’m going to do next is step back a little bit, recharge some … I will have an opportunity I hope to give some speeches. I will continue to provide advice and counsel to this building and to this president.”

One less New Year’s resolution for Obama

President Barack Obama can cross at least one New Year’s resolution off his list … quitting smoking.

According to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, it’s been about 9 months since the president indulged in that habit.

Gibbs tweeted last week “POTUS hasnt’ had a cigarette in about 9 months.” (sic on apostrophe placement)

Gibbs puts foot down (literally) for “the White House Eight” in India

RTXUDCZ_CompWhite House press secretary Robert Gibbs has had his share of confrontations with reporters. But on Monday, it was Gibbs who came to their defense when Indian officials tried to limit access to a meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Gibbs went so far as to risk getting his foot jammed in the door to help gain access on behalf of journalists who were about to be blocked from covering the bilateral meeting.

He also made clear that if the full contingent of eight “pool” reporters was not allowed in, Obama was prepared to cancel the meeting.

Gibbs is now predicting Dems will hold both chambers of Congress

White House press secretary Roberts Gibbs isn’t offering any more words of possible doom and gloom for fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill. 

Three months after riling Democrats by saying they may lose one chamber of Congress in the November 2 election, GibbsUSA/ said on Sunday that he expects them to keep both.

“Our candidates have done a remarkably good job in a tough, political environment,” Gibbs said. “I think that come election night, we’ll retain control of both the House and the Senate.”

What’s it like to be the most powerful woman in the world? Michelle knows

Michelle Obama is the most powerful woman in the world. So says Forbes magazine.

Does it mean she can leap tall buildings in a single bound? We’re not sure. But she did jump over women with a decade more experience (an assumption based on age) in the top 5 – Kraft Foods Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld, talk show host Oprah Winfrey,  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. OBAMA/

Has the designation changed anything in her household, given that her husband is the leader of the free world? We asked her office, but they wouldn’t bite.

But no one at the White House is disputing the title (we assume they wouldn’t dare).