Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Under fire

benHe is not quite the loneliest man in the world, but Fed chairman Ben Bernanke must be feeling in need of a friend these days. First those nasty Tea party types stormed the capital with their distinctively un-Fed-friendly views. Dismiss them as extremists if you will, but they seemed to have been joined by an array of world leaders in their criticism of quantitative easing, the Fed’s purchases of U.S. government debt in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

The rest of the world fears the Fed’s action amount to a backhand form of competitive currency devaluation. Many Republicans fear the Fed is enabling profligate U.S. budgetary policy. Even Fed governors and regional presidents are uneasy. Governor Kevin Warsh warned on Monday the Fed was not “a repair shop for broken fiscal or regulatory policies” and that the Fed could lose its “hard-earned credibility – and monetary policy can lose its hard-earned sway – if its policies overpromise or underdeliver.” Dallas Fed Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher then chimed in, calling quantitative easing “a bridge loan to fiscal sanity.”

In the end, the effects of the Fed’s latest move on economic growth may not be that dramatic. Its effect on the Fed’s long-term credibility, though, are less clear, and perhaps more worrying.

Finally today, hats off to the New York Times’ Norimitsu Onishi, whose research into Obama’s childhood in Indonesia threw up some unexpected gems. The future president, a chubby kid known as Barry, was apparently also referred to a “the boy who runs like a duck.” His nanny, an openly gay man, had an affair with the local butcher before running off to join a group of transvestites known as the Fantastic Dolls. But however unconventional his upbringing, even then Obama seemingly had leadership qualities.

Once, Onishi reports, Obama asked a group of boys whether they wanted to grow up to be president, a soldier or a businessman. A president would own nothing while a soldier would possess weapons and a businessman would have money, the young Obama explained.

Election is over, now can they get along?

It’s the day after the election and the big question now is will they play nice?

The Tea Party’s coming to town, Republicans seized control of the House, and Democrats are still in charge of the White House and Senate. 

Soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner today said he saw no problem with incorporating members of the Tea Party into the Republican Party. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the goal was “how do we meet in the middle?”

Washington Extra – Time for a change, Take two

For the second time in two years, the American people have delivered a message of change, a message that they think Washington is broken. In 2008, Barack Obama took that message into the White House but has, at least according to these polls, failed to deliver change that most Americans readily believe in.

Now, the conservative Tea Party movement is riding what Kentucky’s new Senator-elect Rand Paul called a “tidal wave” right into the halls of power to “get our government back.”

USA-ELECTIONS/The change the Tea Party is proposing is, of course, very different from the agenda that Obama pursued. The question is whether the new kids on the block will be any more successful in handling the power they have now been granted.

Christine O’Donnell’s parting words: “Let’s Party!”

It was probably one of the most upbeat political concession speeches.

Tea Party favorite and Republican Christine O’Donnell, who lost the Delaware Senate race, began her concession speech by declaring victory and ended it with a very uplifting “Let’s Party!”

There was no sign of wear-and-tear from a campaign in which she felt a need to declare ”I’m not a witch” in an ad, and was called a “nut job” by Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain.

Democrat Christopher Coons won the Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. Although O’Donnell lost, other Tea Party favorites like Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida won their Senate races. USA-ELECTIONS/DELAWARE-SENATE

Meek stays in Florida Senate race despite Clinton overtures

This much is clear. Democrat Kendrick Meek is not dropping out of Florida’s three-way Senate race.

What’s not so clear is what happened before Meek summoned reporters to his campaign headquarters for a late evening news conference Thursday to deny reports former President Bill Clinton had asked him to quit the race.

Singling out a report by Politico.com, the Florida congressman said, “Any rumor or any statement by anyone that says that I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate, at best.”

Washington Extra – The relative merits of Obama, Stewart, Palin and baseball

jonIt is unclear to me if appearing on “The Daily Show” will have done much for President Barack Obama’s ratings. But it doesn’t seem to have helped Jon Stewart’s much. Nielsen data just in shows last night’s episode attracted 2.8 million viewers (minus TiVo data), compared to the show’s average of roughly 3.6 million an episode. Not sure if it says much about the president, except that people probably watch the Daily Show for Jon Stewart, not for his guests. Or maybe they were just watching the World Series.

That said, I suspect Sarah Palin would draw higher ratings if she ever graced Stewart’s studio. Instead, the former vice presidential candidate will be on air on Entertainment Tonight this evening. Asked bluntly if she planned to run for president, Palin said she would take a look at the lay of the land, to see if there was anyone else with the “common sense, conservative, pro-Constitution passion” she believes in.

If so, they would get her wholehearted support. If not: “if there’s nobody else to do it, then of course I would believe that we should do this.” As our blogger Toby Zakaria observed, it may come down to a definition of “nobody”, because there is of course likely to be a healthy Republican field, many of whom may indeed share that passion.

Palin for President? Someone’s gotta do it

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. And if no one else wants to do it, Sarah Palin says she would step in.

The former Republican vice presidential candidate, who has been stirring the pot this year with her backing for Tea Party candidates for the midterm elections, has been hard to pin down on whether she plans to run for president in 2012. Well, until now.

In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight, to air tonight, Palin let the moose out of the bag.

Washington Extra – Analyze This

A confusing labyrinth. That is how the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) described the American development effort in Afghanistan, in a damning report on how $17.7 billion in aid and reconstruction money was doled out to 7,000 contractors between 2007 and 2009 with little or no coordination.kabul

With all the criticism that surrounds the Afghan government and the tactics employed by the U.S. military, the major shortcomings in the West’s development effort in Afghanistan sometimes seem to get too little attention. The U.S. Special Representative to the region Richard Holbrooke once said he had “never seen anything remotely resembling the mess” he inherited in terms of the development effort, while former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani once described the aid effort to me as “dysfunctional and lacking accountability.” It is a view shared by many experts, who see it as a major reason why the West has failed to win more Afghan hearts and minds, and why things are now not going as well as President Barack Obama would have hoped.

Incredibly, SIGAR had tried to analyze contracting in Afghanistan for the years 2002-7, but found much of the data the government agencies had compiled prior to 2007 was “too poor to be analyzed.”

from Reuters Investigates:

Spoiling the party

Last month The New York Times had a story about Arizona Republicans putting up homeless people as candidates for the Green Party in elections there. Now Murray Waas, our Barlett & Steele award winner, has a special report about Democratic Party shenanigans. 

USA-ELECTIONS/TRICKSWaas went to Pennsylvania's 7th district to show how Democrats helped get Tea Party activist Jim Schneller (left) on the ballot, hoping to siphon off votes from the Republican candidate.

This is what one Democrat involved in the scheme had to say:

Abu Rahman, the president of the Delaware County Asian American Democratic Association and a Lentz supporter, who admits he gathered signatures for Schneller, said in an interview that he had some mixed feelings about what he was doing. "I remember thinking to myself that this is not clean," Rahman said, "But it is not illegal."   

from Reuters Investigates:

Following the money in O’Donnell’s campaign

Mark Hosenball has been in Delaware and Pennsylvania reporting on the midterm election campaign for our special report "Conservative donors let Christine O'Donnell sink."

If that's not enough O'Donnell for you, here's his report from a bastion of conservative thinking in Delaware:

By Mark Hosenball

Republican Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell may be the darling of both national and local Tea Party groups. But she's not particularly beloved at one of Delaware's most august and esteemed conservative organizations.