Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Ag committee chair says new faces mean new dynamic on Capitol Hill

They are new, enthusiastic and changing the environment on Capitol Hill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says "do not underestimate the effect" of the large number of freshmen lawmakers on his committee, which will sit down to overhaul U.S. farm subsidies next year. USA/

"This session of Congress is a little different from the ones I've participated in previously. A huge number of new members," Lucas said at a Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit. "I've got a very enthusiastic bunch of new faces."

It turns out that half of the House Agriculture Committee is new -- 16 of 26 Republicans and 7 of 20 Democrats.

"Now, granted, freshmen Democrats are hard to come by," he said, not missing a beat in taking a swipe at Democrats who were pounded in the November elections and lost control of the House of Representatives to Republicans.

"So literally 23 of the 46 members of the committee -- no committee experience, no Farm Bill experience. It's a slightly different dynamic as we go through the course of this year and next year," Lucas said.

Washington Extra – Fear factor

This was definitely an Ides of March to beware of.

NUCLEAR-USA/Japan faced a potential nuclear catastrophe after explosions at three reactors at a nuclear power plant sent radiation toward Tokyo. The fear factor sent shivers through world stock markets which tumbled.

Fear also reportedly prompted some Americans to buy potassium iodide tablets and Geiger counters. Good idea?

Reuters energy correspondent Tom Doggett reports that Energy Secretary Steven Chu didn’t see the necessity. “I think there’s essentially no concern in terms of the health effects on American shores. So, I think that they really shouldn’t be doing those things quite frankly, but, you know, it’s a free country,” Chu said after a hearing.

U.S. government shutdown bad for courts, judges warn

Nearly all trials and other federal court proceedings might come to a halt if the U.S. government shuts down because Congress cannot agree on the budget, the federal judiciary’s policy-making body warned.

The 27-member group, which is made up of judges from around the country and which meets twice a year, received a report warning of “potentially dire consequences” for the federal judiciary if a funding measure is not adopted soon. USA/

David Sentelle, chief judge of the U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., told reporters a shutdown would mean court personnel, jurors, pretrial services and others in the judiciary would not get paid.

Bachmann is tops in GOP “intensity”

RTR2JTAS_Comp-150x150House Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann may not rate highly with Republican hierophants like George Will. But some Republicans seem to have an intense liking for her none the less, according to a new Gallup poll.

The Gallup survey of more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents shows Bachmann with a 20 percent “positive intensity” rating among 12 potential GOP White House wannabes. That’s second only to Mike Huckabee’s 25 percent rating. And it’s worth noting that Bachmann was recognized by only 52 percent of the respondents, so there may be room for improvement.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor with a disarming nice-guy persona, has polled strongly among Republican voters for some time. But the results seem encouraging for Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican who has only recently emerged from relative obscurity on the back of the Tea Party movement.

Washington Extra – Sticky situations

It is a natural instinct to review one’s own situation when a friend or neighbor is hit by a crisis.

NUCLEAR-USA/So the risk of a nuclear disaster in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami prompted the United States to look inward. The upshot is that President Barack Obama is committed to nuclear power, and “it remains a part of the president’s overall energy plan,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The administration is not going to switch gears on nuclear policy while a crisis unfolds, so that type of statement is to be expected while it assesses the situation.

Democratic congressman says he wants to make Obama ‘a better president’

Veteran Democratic Congressman John Conyers voiced some disappointment in President Barack Obama — and said he wants to help the leader of his party to do better. USA/

In a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, Conyers criticized Obama on a number of fronts — from his overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and management of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to agreeing to Republican demands last year to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was first elected to Congress in 1964 — three years before after Obama was born. He backs Obama, but says, “I just want to make him a better president.”

Will she? Won’t she? Still reading the tea leaves…

USA/Is Sarah Palin getting the kind of press that makes for viable presidential campaigns? Maybe not, and her critics appear to be increasingly of a conservative stripe.

The Mama of Mama Grizzlies proved to be a fierce campaigner on the 2010 midterm election trail, and she continues to command an army of devoted supporters, particularly among members of the Tea Party movement.

But winning the White House requires an ability to attract many, many independent voters. And two months after the Arizona shootings, and her use of the charged term “blood libel” against critics of her gun-toting rhetoric, Palin seems to be having trouble convincing influential conservatives to take her seriously as a seaworthy candidate.

How bad was Intelligence Czar’s Libya “gaffe”?

USA-INTELLIGENCE/The columnist Michael Kinsley once quipped that in Washington a “gaffe” is when a political notable accidentally tells the truth. Intelligence and national security officials are describing the latest controversial statements about Libya by National Intelligence Director James Clapper as that kind of “gaffe.”

At a Congressional hearing on Thursday, Clapper said that rebels trying to oust Muammar Gaddafi from power had lost momentum and that the Libyan leader could well survive for some time to come. “We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul…He appears to be hunkering down for the duration.”

“This is kind of a stalemate back and forth,” Clapper said, but added that, “I think over the long term that the (Gaddafi) regime will prevail.”

Inside Secret Service ears when Reagan was shot

USA-POLITICS/OBAMAThirty years after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Secret Service offers an unusual peek into history with the release of about 10 minutes of radio traffic between agents protecting the president and their command  center.

The never-before-heard recording shows that agents initially believed Reagan, referred to by his code-name “Rawhide”, was fine after being shot as he left the Washington Hilton Hotel following a speech on March 30, 1981.

“Rawhide is okay. Follow-up, Rawhide is okay,” said Special Agent in Charge Jerry Parr, after hustling Reagan into his limousine which quickly sped away from the hotel.

Dueling analyses over Libya’s future?

clapperThe  Director of National Intelligence dropped a bomb – metaphorically — in the  Senate on Thursday when he testified that Libyan rebels are not likely to oust Muammar Gaddafi and predicted that eventually “the regime will prevail.”

James Clapper’s  jaw-dropping prediction, as Washington, NATO and the United Nations search for a way forward and Libya lurches toward civil war,  prompted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to call for his dismissal.

And it prompted some flame-throwing from the White House.

Tom Donilon, Obama’s National Security Advisor, said Obama is happy with Clapper’s performance, but he had tough words for Clapper’s analysis.