Tales from the Trail

Wasn’t Groundhog Day last week? Another blizzard slams East Coast

WEATHER-USA/It is starting to feel a lot like that (in)famous movie “Groundhog Day” with a powerful blizzard again pelting the East Coast  from Washington, D.C. up to New York with a foot or more of snow and pummeling winds.

The federal government in Washington is closed for the third straight day, the United Nation’s headquarters in Manhattan is also shuttered — in fact it may be easier to say what’s open, which is probably next to nothing except the random coffee shop and well of course Wall Street.

Already about 15,000 customers in the Baltimore/Washington area are without power and that number will likely jump with wind gusts reportedly hitting more than 40 miles per hour at Dulles International Airport and near whiteout conditions.

And yes, that winter-hardened Chicagoan President Barack Obama is trying to maintain his schedule with a meeting with African American leaders at the White House to discuss the economy and jobs amid the 9.7 percent unemployment rate.

But the White House did push up a performance celebrating music from the Civil Rights Movement to Tuesday night from Wednesday because of the storm.  A few days after being sworn in as president, Obama drew a few gasps when he criticized Washington schools for closing because of a small storm of snow and ice.

Obama plays to disaffected audience but most don’t blame him

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When President Obama reaches the podium for tonight’s State of the Union address, he’ll turn to a TV audience fed up with Washington and its incessant partisan bickering. But guess what: most viewers won’t be blaming him.
    
More than 90 percent of the American public thinks there’s too much partisan infighting and 70 percent say the federal government isn’t working well, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
    
But who’s the culprit? Only 27 percent blame the president. The biggest target of public disaffection are Republicans in Congress — at 48 percent — followed by congressional Democrats at 41 percent.  Conducted Jan. 23-25, the survey of 800 adults has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
    
If the numbers are accurate, Obama’s message may find a fair amount of audience sympathy, particularly for his much-anticipated emphasis on jobs, the economy and curbs on Wall Street’s excesses.
    
Nearly three-quarters say not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry, while 51 percent want more emphasis on economic matters than they’ve seen up to now.
    
In fact, poll respondents are fairly optimistic about Obama’s future, with 54 percent saying he is facing either a short-term setback or no setback at all. There are even signs that his overall job approval rating has begun to edge up.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama)

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Have lessons been learned on Wall Street?

President Barack Obama went to Wall Street on the one-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse to make a push for greater regulation of the financial industry. OBAMA-REGULATION/

He’s proposing creating a “resolution authority” to end the concept that some firms are “too big to fail.” And Obama is hoping that financial regulatory reform gets passed this year.

Obama had some words for those who defend the status quo or argue for less regulation. “There will be those who engage in revisionist history or have selective memories, and don’t seem to recall what we just went through last year,” he said.

Barack and Bill lunching, can burgers be far away?

So we hear that current President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton are going to do lunch today.

OBAMA/It will follow Obama’s big financial regulation speech being delivered to Wall Street on the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

Wondering how much appetite they’re going to have after a speech on financial collapse and during an almost inevitable discussion about healthcare reform — the issue that turned into this past summer’s discontent.

Wall Street high-fliers, where are they going to go?

President Barack Obama announced that any Wall Street firm taking a taxpayer handout must cap compensation for its executives at $500,000, which for most Americans doesn’t sound like such a bad salary.

But that raised the ire of (surprise, surprise) Wall Streeters who immediately cried gloom and doom, like there isn’t enough of that in the business right now, saying firms need their best performers and warning that many will flee for the land of more money.

Just trying to figure out where that promised land may be. OBAMA/

Wall Street firms have been laying off by the thousands, banks are devouring each other, and the market is so far off its highs that no one wants to look at their 401k’s.

First Draft: Spinning

WASHINGTON – Lots of spinning going on.

Morning TV shows had footage of a spinning shark twirling out of the water and a spinning small plane blown about by the wind upon landing. And sports fans looking forward to the spinning football at Sunday’s Super Bowl.

NBC touting a live interview with President Barack Obama at about 5 p.m. EST before kick-off on Sunday.USA-POLITICS/OBAMA

Obama saying Wall Street taking bonuses while firms are being bailed out by taxpayer money is “the height of irresponsibility” and “shameful” is still making the rounds.

Wall Street ponies up for Obama inauguration

It’s been a brutal year for Wall Street, but the high rollers apparently still love a big, expensive party.

People who work in the finance industry have given at least $4.8 million to underwrite Barack Obama’s inauguration party, more than any other business sector, according to an analysis by the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics.CALVIN KLEIN

Obama’s team appears to have reached the $40 million goal it set to pay for the festivities. Roughly $6.8 million has come from those giving less than $200, according to the committee. But large donors have given at least $35 million.

The First Draft, Friday Jan. 2

The new year begins on a quiet note in Washington, but lawmakers are preparing to hit the ground running next week when the 111th Congress will be seated.

obamaPresident-elect Barack Obama is scheduled to return to Washington this weekend and plans to meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday to discuss the legislative agenda and plans for a nearly $1 trillion economic stimulus package.

Obama also plans to meet Republican leaders Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Amid inaction on financial bailout, blame game continues in McCain ad

PHOENIX  – U.S. lawmakers have yet to back a plan to try and stem the global financial crisis. But the vigorous round of finger-pointing over who is to blame for it continued on the campaign trail on Tuesday as John McCain’s camp singled out Democratic rival Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton in a new ad.

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The 60-second spot argued that, while the veteran Arizona senator sought to rein in excesses by troubled mortgage titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – which were rescued by the government earlier this month – Obama, an Illinois senator, did nothing.

“John McCain fought to rein in Fannie and Freddie,” a voiceover says. It then quotes The Washington Post saying McCain “pushed for stronger regulation … while Mr. Obama was notably silent.”