Tales from the Trail

Obama tries to make political mountain out of ant hill

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are trying to make political hay out of a comment by House Republican leader John Boehner that managed to mention ants and nuclear weapons in the same sentence.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boehner  criticized the financial regulatory reform legislation making its way through Congress as an overreaction to the financial crisis. “This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon,” he said.

ANTSDemocrats couldn’t resist pouncing on it. Especially since they are struggling to come up with the votes to pass the landmark legislation through the Senate where 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber are required to overcome procedural hurdles.

The White House released excerpts of remarks that Obama will make later today in Wisconsin in which the president took Republicans to task for opposing the financial regulatory reform bill.

“In fact, just yesterday, I was stunned to hear the leader of the Republicans in the House say that financial reform was like using a nuclear weapon to target an ant.  That’s right.  He compared the financial crisis to an ant.  The same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly eight million jobs.  The same crisis that cost people their homes and their lives savings,” Obama will say. 

Byrd demanded respect for the institution of the Senate

Senator Robert Byrd was a stickler for Senate decorum. And the Democrat from West Virginia would not tolerate any disrespect of the institution to which he was elected an unprecedented 9 times.

I remember when Bill Richardson, who was energy secretary in 2000 and under fire over security lapses at U.S. nuclear weapons labs, decided to skip a Senate hearing where he was asked to be a witness, Byrd was livid.

The following week when Richardson did show up for a Senate hearing, the Democratic senator from West Virginia delivered a scathing public scolding to the former member of Congress from his own party. (Jaws dropped at the sight of the Democratic senator telling Richardson he’d never work in this town again if Byrd could help it).

from Environment Forum:

Campaign ad equating global warming with weather gets “pants-on-fire” rating

MILKEN/By now, almost everybody -- with the possible exception of Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina -- realizes there's a difference between climate and weather. Fiorina, running in the California primary and ultimately aiming to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer, paid for and appeared in a campaign ad slamming the sitting senator for being "worried about the weather" when there are serious concerns like terrorism to deal with.

Take a look here:

A few problems with this ad earned it the not-so-coveted beyond-false "Pants on Fire" rating from Politifact, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalism website that checks on the truthfulness of political advertising. First off, Boxer didn't say she was worried about the weather. She said that climate change was "one of the very important national security issues" -- a position in line with the Pentagon and the CIA. The site also found that it's not an either/or thing, that focusing on climate change doesn't necessarily mean neglecting national security. They took a look at Boxer's record and found she has supported at least six bills against terrorism.

"Fiorina casts climate change as something you need to pack an umbrella for, or that prompts you to curse at the TV weatherman -- which strikes us as not only a trivialization of climate change but also a failure to distinguish between two well-established scientific specialties," Politifact said. "She also ignores Boxer's lengthy record supporting bills against terrorism. So we have to light up the meter (the site's Truth-o-Meter): Pants on Fire!"

Obama’s Senate savvy is showing

Looks like President Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten his political roots in the Senate.

Presidents over the years have found one sure way to annoy members of Congress: act like you don’t care about them.

OBAMA/So when Obama took the rare step of going to their turf  to meet with just the Senate Republicans — the party that has pretty much stood in his way since he got elected — it showed some political savvy.

Pennsylvania primary: undecideds may decide it

The Pennsylvania Democratic primary may end up decided by the undecideds.

Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak are vying for the Democratic vote in Tuesday’s primary, which will determine who  runs against the Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat in November. SPORT BASEBALL

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows the race is too close to call — with Sestak at 42 pecent versus Specter at 41 percent. Add to the mix 16 percent undecided and 25 percent saying they might change their mind, and the vote could go any which way.

“Sen. Arlen Specter has the party organization behind him, which should help with turnout. But Congressman Joe Sestak could benefit from the relatively large group of undecided voters.  Generally, incumbents don’t do all that well with undecideds, who are more likely to vote for the challenger or not vote,”  said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

from Environment Forum:

Washington math: oil spill + climate bill = new environmental polls

OIL-RIG/LEAKWith BP's spilled oil shimmering off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a re-tooled bill to curb climate change expected to be unveiled this week in the U.S. Senate, what could be more appropriate than a bouquet of new environmental polls? Conducted on behalf of groups that want less fossil fuel use, the polls show hefty majorities favoring legislation to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

In the kind of harmonic convergence that sometimes happens inside the Capital Beltway, a new poll released on Monday by the Clean Energy Works campaign showed "overwhelming public support for comprehensive clean energy legislation," with 61 percent of 2010 voters saying they want to limit pollution, invest in clean energy and make energy companies pay for emitting the carbon that contributes to climate change. A healthy majority -- 54 percent -- of respondents said they'd be more likely to re-elect a senator who votes for the bill.

Last Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been pushing for climate change legislation for years, released its own poll numbers. NRDC's pollsters found seven in 10 Americans want to see fast-tracked clean energy legislation in the wake of the BP oil spill, and two-thirds say they want to postpone new offshore drilling until the Gulf oil spill is investigated and new safeguards are put in place.

Arizona law galvanizes U.S. Latinos

IMMIGRATION-USA/ARIZONAThe swastika made of refried beans smeared onto the glass doors of the Arizona State Capitol this week captured the anger of Hispanics at the law authorizing local police to question anyone reasonably suspected of being in the United States illegally. The controvesial law, which critics say is a mandate for racial profiling, has galvanized the country’s largest minority that is expected to turn out in large numbers at planned rallies in more than 70 U.S. cities.

Hispanics were disappointed that President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise to overhaul the immigration system in his first year in office. The Pew Research Center says 76 percent of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States are Hispanics. The Latino community sees the undocumented immigrants as contributing with their labor to the growth of the U.S. economy and deserve the right to be legal residents.

The Arizona measure was criticized by other minorities. “This law is un-American as it unjustly targets communities of color, in particular immigrant communities, which have been critical to the economic growth of our country throughout its history,” said Michael Honda, chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Specter believes Senate would reject filibuster against Obama’s pick for high-court ‘ideological battleground’

The person who arguably knows as much as anyone in the U.S. Senate about counting votes and judicial confirmation battles has some advice for President Barack Obama:

Pick a U.S. Supreme Court nominee without regard to a possible Republican procedural roadblock known as a filibuster.

Senator Arlen Specter said Obama also needs to make his selection understand that the nation’s highest court is an ideological battleground that has  moved sharply to the right in recent years. OBAMA/

Bunning pitches fit, Republican team uncertain how to play it

Senator Jim Bunning has put his foot down. And his own Republican teammates are trying hard not to call a foul.

The former professional baseball player who is retiring from his Kentucky seat this year has basically decided this is where he draws the line. BASEBALL/

If we were to mix sports metaphors, Bunning has become a football lineman – a one-man blocking machine of legislation to renew jobless benefits, highway construction and other programs that expired on Sunday night. His reasoning is that until there is a definite way to pay for the bill, he does not want to add to the debt.

Hillary says Congressional gridlock challenges U.S. world stature

USA/The partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Congress during much of the Obama administration may have far-reaching implications for America’s stature in the world, according to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton said U.S. partners overseas have been confused about the Senate’s inability to approve President Barack Obama’s appointments to top diplomatic jobs, including assistant secretary of state positions and ambassadorships.

“It became harder and harder to explain to countries, particularly countries of significance, why we had nobody in position for them to interact with,” Clinton told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Obama budget plan for fiscal year 2011.