Tales from the Trail

After the big speech, pyramids!

CAIRO – After the pressure of his big speech to the Islamic world had ended on Thursday, President Barack Obama got down to the serious business of all Egyptian travelers — visiting pyramids.
OBAMA/EGYPTSwapping his speech suit for beige chinos and a navy blue polo shirt, Obama helicoptered to the hot and dusty site of the Khufu pyramid with advisers David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and body man Reggie Love.
“This thing is huge,” he said standing at the base of the pyramid and urging Love to come for a closer look.
The pyramid is estimated to weigh 6 million tons and originally stood about 480 feet high.
“Hear that guys?” Obama shouted to reporters. “No evidence aliens actually built this.” 
The president avoided the temptation of riding a camel but watched as Emanuel, Jarrett and Love mounted the seated beasts and were  then lifted high in the air as the animals stood.
“I just want you guys to know,” he told accompanying reporters, “if you weren’t here, I’d get on a camel. I don’t want to give you guys the satisfaction.”
Obama toured the nearby sphinx with Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretOBAMA/EGYPTary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and pronounced it as awe inspiring.
And he visited the Solar Boat, a 130-foot vessel found buried near the pyramids.
At one point the president entered a subterranean tomb and called attention to one of the hieroglyphs with a round face and big ears.
“Hey, that looks like me,” a member of the group quoted him as saying. “Look at those ears.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credits: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama at sphinx; Obama in front of pyramid with Hawass)

Who decided which Chrysler dealers to close?

Washington is always full of conspiracy theories –  one of the latest surrounds the decision to close hundreds of Chrysler dealerships following the automaker’s slide into bankruptcy.

Conservatives want to know whether dealerships with Republican ties were targeted by the Obama administration.

CHRYSLER/BANKRUPTCYSome are seizing on a Reuters article. In it, a lawyer who represents some of the terminated dealers said after a deposition with Chrysler President Jim Press that the automaker did not make the decision.

The First Draft: Presidential e-mail

SUNDANCE/If you just can’t get enough of the goings and doings of President Barack Obama, can’t wait for the blog posts, Twitter tweets, Washington whispers or even the newspaper and magazine stories about the U.S. chief executive, now there’s help. You can sign up for e-mails from the president. He sent his first one Wednesday. It’s hardly a window on the inner workings of the White House but it is a new way to communicate.

“My staff and I plan to use these messages as a way to directly communicate about important issues and opportunities, and today I have some encouraging updates about health care reform,” wrote in his first message, also posted here. “The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.”

He ended the note with,

“Thank you,
“Barack Obama”

and then added a postscript:

“P.S. If you’d like to get more in-depth information about health reform and how you can participate, be sure to visit http://www.HealthReform.gov”

First Draft: royal iPod

President Barack Obama gave the Queen an iPod filled with show tunes and pictures from her visit to America. Now watch for those tell-tale ear buds under Her Majesty’s crown.

“I think it was a fun gift for the Queen,”  White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told ABC’s “Good Morning America” from London where Obama is attending the G20 summit. ”I think it was a real treat to call back and tell his kids that he’d met the Queen.” G20/

Obama apparently came away with warm feelings for the British royals after his private meeting at Buckingham Palace. “The president remarked to me this morning that her sensibilities sort of reminded him a bit of his grandmother, only with a much bigger house,” Gibbs told NBC’s “Today.”

The house on fire method of crises handling

Put on that fire gear, there are crises to extinguish.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who has compared policy to a multi-legged stool, on Monday offered a lesson in how to douse the flames of the many crises facing the Obama administration.USA-OBAMA/

“Which room are you going to put out first?  Or are you going to call the fire department and ask them to put all of it out?  Or are you going to say, you know what, we love the living room; start over there.  And if you can, get quickly to the kitchen, and next to the den,” Gibbs said.

“We could do that. And maybe by the time they get to the kitchen or the den the whole house is in ashes,” he said.

The waste not, want not, method of crisis handling

So, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton created a stir last week by telling Europeans “never waste a good crisis” … which apparently reached the ears of everyone but the White House.

“I did not see Secretary Clinton’s comments,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

EU-USA/But he went on to describe the “mindset” of the Obama administration as “for far too long, many of the problems that we understand undermine our potential long-term economic growth, whether it’s dealing with our health care crisis, whether it’s our increasing dependence on foreign oil despite president after president after president discussing the dangers.”

The First Draft: Obama heads for the Hill

It’s not an official State of the Union speech, but President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night address to Congress is showing all the signs of a major event. The pre-game show started late Monday, with an extraordinary free-wheeling question-and-answer session at the White House with U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives. It continued on morning television, where Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs managed to hit ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN.


Obama plans to offer “a sober assessment about where we are and the challenges that we face,” Gibbs told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Does Obama favor nationalizing U.S. banks? No, he told NBC’s “Today”: “Our banking system has always been private but regulated.” To all questioners, he gave some version of what he told “Today” — “We understand there are brighter days ahead.”

Before he heads for Capitol Hill for the 9 p.m. EST address, Obama has a morning meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. The global economic crisis tops the agenda, with other key topics expected to include Afghanistan and North Korea.

White House lashes Santelli for CNBC “rant”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday that CNBC’s reporter Rick Santelli may not have taken a responsible view with his rant against President Barack Obama’s housing plan.

Santelli was the darling of cable television on Thursday for railing about Obama’s $75 billion plan to help rescue people struggling to make their mortgage payments.

On a trading floor in Chicago, Santelli wondered aloud whether people really wanted to “subsidize” mortgages.

First draft: Spin after the news conference

OBAMA/White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the morning television talk shows today to reiterate what his boss said last night in his first presidential news conference: Congress must pass an economic stimulus package to help avoid dire consequences.

Gibbs said on NBC’s “Today Show” that Obama was willing to “do whatever it takes, with Democrats or Republicans to make sure that he gets something on his desk quickly that gets help to the hands of the American people.”

Obama continues his road show today, traveling to Florida where he is expected to focus heavily on the home foreclosure crisis that’s hit the United States — particularly hard in Ft. Myers, Florida .

Thinking about the U.S. economy? It helps to be a stool maker

WASHINGTON – Trying to figure out where the Obama team is going on the economy? It probably helps to be a stool maker.
The $825 billion stimulus bill moving through Congress “is just one leg in a multi-legged stool,” the president said during a visit to Congress this week.
Reporters have been trying ever since to figure out exactly how many legs are on the economic recovery stool.
“Is it a three-legged or a four-legged stool?” one reporter asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs during a briefing Thursday. And, “What are those legs specifically?”
“I think roughly you have, whether you’re talking about stools or pillars or what have you, three main areas,” Gibbs said. “You have a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which is moving through Congress. You have a financial stability package. And you have financial re-regulation.”
“I don’t know that it’s tremendously pertinent to get caught up in whether there are three stools, three legs on this stool or four, or rungs, or what have you,” he said.
“I think the American people understand that we have to deal with … each of these in order to move the economy forward.”
Then Gibbs added a complication: ”I’m not sure … which leg housing is.”
But he sought to reassure the American people.
“You may not understand which leg of the stool you’re on, but you understand it’s a problem that has to be dealt with.”
What about the “international leg of the stool that was discussed by the G20 here … people say that it’s not moving anywhere,” asked a reporter, referring to a group of industrialized and major developing nations.
Gibbs said more detail on the international leg would be forthcoming as the G20 meeting in London in April draws near.
Reporters were not entirely satisfied with the level of detail coming from the White House spokesman.
“I’m wondering,” said one, “when you’re going to show us a little more leg.”
For more Reuters political news, please click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Gibbs at a briefing Tuesday)