Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – The bench’s backstories

As the Supreme Court justices convene Wednesday to hear arguments in the case Arizona v United States, will their thoughts drift to Italy, Ireland, Poland and Puerto Rico? 

The challenge to Arizona’s tough immigration law may have the justices thinking about their own families’ origins and journeys to America. As Reuters reports today, nearly all of them, like their countrymen, descend from people who came looking for a better life (the notable exception is Justice Clarence Thomas whose great-grandmother was a slave).

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seen in a October 8, 2010 group portrait. Seated from left to right in front row are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing from left to right in back row are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Their ancestral stories may not tell us how they feel about illegal immigration or whether they will rule in favor of Arizona. But they are clearly a point of pride in their biographies and were often cited in nomination hearings.

Take Justice Samuel Alito, who referred to the experience of his own father, brought to the United States from Italy as an infant. It “is typical of a lot of Americans both back in his day and today. And it is a story, as far as I can see it, about the opportunities that our country offers, and also about the need for fairness and about hard work and perseverance and the power of a small good deed.”

No privilege for most stay-at-home moms -poll

Mothers relax on the grass with their babies at Central Park during a warm day in New York, March 22, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The recent flap over women voters — especially stay-at-home mothers — has sent both Republican and Democratic pundits scrambling and with good reason: many stay-at-home moms aren’t affiliated with either party and are a ripe target for swing votes, a new poll shows.

The survey from Gallup Inc also finds that moms who don’t work aren’t exactly a pampered lot, despite Ann Romney – the wife of a multi-millionaire businessman – being portrayed as their standard bearer. It found most moms who stay home are more economically disadvantaged than their working peers.

Who’s out of touch? Biden takes aim at Romney on economy

Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday accused Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney of disregarding the importance of the manufacturing sector as a source of jobs for middle class Americans and said the former Massachusetts governor had offered “consistently wrong” remedies for the U.S. economy.

In a campaign speech in Davenport, Iowa, a key battleground state in the general election, Biden also said Romney showed a lot of “chutzpah” by suggesting President Barack Obama was “out of touch” with ordinary Americans.

“Out of touch? Romney?” Biden said to laughter from his audience at an Iowa factory. “I mean, pretty remarkable, pretty remarkable.”

Washington Extra – Theater of the absurd

No one said extending the payroll tax cut in Congress by December 31 would be a walk in the park. But did we really expect it to turn into another marathon with multiple detours?

After a rare display of bipartisanship on Monday on a spending bill to keep the government running through 2012, Tuesday gave way to another day of bitter back and forth, in which Democrats and Republicans aimed to out-maneuver and out-smart each other.

The Republicans managed to pass their payroll tax cut bill in the House with the controversial measure to speed up the decision on green-lighting the Keystone oil pipeline. It almost certainly won’t make it through the Senate and the White House made clear today that President Obama will veto it if it does. He’s decided the Keystone pipeline has to wait until after the elections and won’t be dragged into this debacle.

Shaq throws in support for Obama in 2012

NBA star Shaquille O’Neal said on Monday he believes President Barack Obama is doing a ”fabulous job” and will win the 2012 presidential election.

O’Neal, who retired from pro basketball this year, joined a handful of celebrities endorsing the Democratic president, ranging from singer Lady Gaga and actor Tom Hanks to Basketball hall-of-famer Magic Johnson.

“It’s a hard job … You can’t please everybody but I think he’s doing a fabulous job,” O’Neal told CNN host Piers Morgan. ”The world is in a little bit of turmoil right now — the economy’s down — but … he’s going to pick it back up and I think he’s going to win this next election.”

Obama focus on policy, not polls – White House

The White House is downplaying several new polls showing President Obama’s job approval ratings plunging to new lows along with rising public concern over high unemployment and the sluggish economy.

“The president is focused on the measures he can take…  to address the urgent need to grow our economy and create jobs; to deal with the fact that economic growth is not fast enough and that job creation is not substantial enough,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing when asked how concerned Obama is about the poll numbers.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama’s overall job approval rating at a low of 44 percent, down 3 percentage points since July.  More than half of Americans  now disapprove of Obama’s job performance and one in three say they’re worse off financially since he’s been in the White House, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. And a poll by Politico and George Washington University shows 72 percent of voters believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Majority says U.S. on wrong track

A large majority of Americans say the United States is on the wrong track and nearly half believe the worst is yet to come, according to a  Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

The poll reflects growing anxiety about the economy and frustration with Washington after a narrowly averted government default,  a credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s, a stock market dive and a 9.1 percent jobless rate.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll  — conducted from last Thursday to Monday — found 73 percent of Americans believe the United States is “off on the wrong track,” and just one in five, 21 percent, think the country is headed in the right direction.

Palin’s take on S&P downgrade

“Many commonsense Americans like myself  saw this day coming,” Sarah Palin says of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and the fallout in the markets.

In what reads like an economic policy statement, the former Alaska governor and possible presidential candidate says she is “surprised that so many people seem surprised by S&P’s decision.”

“Weren’t people paying attention over the last year or so when we were getting warning after warning from various credit rating agencies that this was coming?” she said in a lengthy posting on her Facebook page.

Stark realities of U.S. life without credit

Amid the political fingerpointing over which party will catch the blame if Congress fails to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit, comes the stark reality of what bills get paid after Aug. 2, if the U.S. government can’t borrow more money.

A group of House Republicans wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday to say there would be plenty of money from tax receipts to make interest payments to creditors, pay Social Security retirement benefits, cover Medicare health payments and pay U.S. military troops.

Senate Democrats at a news conference made clear that once those bills were paid, little would be left for anything else.

Palin sees U.S. economy as “sinking ship”

Fresh off her “One Nation” bus tour that may or may not have been a precursor to a 2012 presidential campaign, Sarah  Palin on Sunday likened the sputtering U.S. economy to a sinking ship.

“It’s very noble of President Obama to want to stay at the helm and maybe go down with this sinking ship,” said Palin, who herself  resigned as Alaska governor in 2009 with more than a year left in her first term.

“I prefer, many Americans prefer, that we start plugging the hole, that we start powering the build pump and start getting rid of this unsustainable debt that is sinking our ship. We don’t have to go the way of the Titanic,” Palin said in a  Fox News interview.