Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Obama and the young vote

obama_rallyIf  President Obama really wants to get his groove back with young voters, he might want to get a bit more in synch with their musical tastes and a bit less in line with songs their parents — and grandparents — listened to. He’s got about 2,000 songs on his iPod, but – as he put it – his selections are more weighted to his childhood – his very young childhood – than to much that 20-somethings are listening to today.

“There’s still a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Those are the old standards,” Obama said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine released on Tuesday. He also listens to a lot of classical music. “I’m not a big opera buff in terms of going to opera, but there are days where Maria Callas is exactly what I need,” he said.

The president was born in 1961, which makes him little more than a toddler when some of his favorite artists had their biggest hits, something he and his handlers might want to keep in mind as he tries to connect with young voters and urge them to turn out in force on Nov. 2. The famed diva Callas was born in 1923, and died in 1977, when Obama was 16.

One test of Obama’s appeal was coming on Tuesday night, at a Democratic National Committee event at the University of Wisconsin in Madison that the party hopes will be reminiscent of the triumphant rallies – drawing 20,000, 50,000 and up toward 100,000 people – during the last weeks of his presidential campaign in 2008. Those rallies helped drive Obama into the White House, and party leaders hope some of the same magic will convince the 18-to-28-year-old set to head to the polls – and back Democrats running for the House and Senate.

Obama drew 17,000 to a rally in Madison in 2008. The singer Ben Harper will open for the president on Tuesday, as an extra incentive for the students to turn out.  It will become clear within the next few hours whether President Obama’s appeal is akin to Candidate Obama’s.

Presidents keep to-do lists too, check Obama’s pocket

Even presidents don’t escape to-do lists. Granted they include more weighty items than mundane reminders to pick up groceries after work.

President Barack Obama, it turns out, keeps one in his pocket. RUSSIA/

“I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we’ve probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do,” Obama says in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine (yes, the same publication that did a profile of General Stanley McChrystal which led  to his firing).

“I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we’ve accomplished,” Obama says.

Obama delivers checkmate by moving generals

President Barack Obama managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

In a surprise move, he chose superstar General David Petraeus to replace General Stanley McChrystal, whose team had badmouthed just about every top civilian adviser to Obama on Afghanistan in a Rolling Stone magazine article. AFGHANISTAN/

And with that one decision he managed to wipe away any impression that as commander-in-chief he would allow insubordination, and he preempted any criticism that he would allow the war in Afghanistan to be without competent leadership for reasons of politics and vanity.

It was by far the smartest move, and no one predicted it. That may have something to do with the fact that if the military was a corporation, Petraeus would essentially be taking a demotion — he is currently head of Central Command which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will now be in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

General headed to the woodshed, will he get the axe?

The sound of palms slapping foreheads could be heard all over Washington, the physical exclamation of ”what were they thinking?”

The spectacularly frank quotes from General Stanley McChrystal and his aides mocking Vice President Joe Biden and other top advisers to the president and commander-in-chief were jaw-dropping, not because that’s what they really thought, but because the views were uttered to a reporter working on a profile for Rolling Stone magazine. USA/AFGHANISTAN

Right from the first headline of the article titled “The Runaway General” it was apparent what was to come: “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”