Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Wednesday, Jan. 7

USA-OBAMABarack Obama can expect questions about his plans to stimulate the flagging economy, his controversial choice of Leon Panetta for CIA chief and the war in Gaza at a mid-morning news conference.

Later, the president-elect lunches with President George W. Bush and all three living former presidents: Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. A planned photo op in the White House Rose Garden before lunch seems likely to be a damp affair — cold rain expected for most of the day. Still, it’s better than weather elsewhere in the United States: reports of snow in the Northwest and ice in the Northeast led morning TV newscasts today.

On Capitol Hill, more wrangling over whether to seat Illinois’ Roland Burris, who was spectacularly turned away from the Senate floor on Tuesday. Already, a couple Democrats — Dianne Feinstein of California and reportedly Jim Clyburn of South Carolina — are breaking ranks and saying Burris should be allowed to take over Obama’s former seat. The fact that Burris was appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is charged with earlier trying to sell the Senate seat, is at the heart of the controversy.

The Congressional Budget Office releases a new outlook for the economy and the budget deficit just before Obama’s news conference.

Reports that CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta – practicing neurosurgeon, former White House fellow and globe-trotting TV doc — is Obama’s choice for surgeon general prompted some ribbing from The Washington Post’s Style section, which suggested a whole “television cabinet.” The newspaper offered TV financial guru Suze Orman for Office of Management and Budget, mother-of-six Angelina Jolie as labor secretary, disaster correspondent Anderson Cooper to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency and talk empress Oprah Winfrey to helm the “Dept. of Oprah.”

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 15

For Detroit’s struggling automakers, the wait continues.

There will be no word on the fate of the struggling industry’s financial bailout at least until President George W. Bush is safely home later on Monday after ducking shoes in Iraq and visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the White House says.

Most analysts and observers are expecting White House action soon to help the carmakers after the Senate’s failure last week to approve a $14 billion bailout that could avert catastrophic failures and millions of job losses in a recession-wracked economy.

But White House spokesman Dana Perino said there was no timetable for a decision.