Tales from the Trail

First draft: From singing to stem cells

OBAMA/After making a surprise appearance on stage to lead a star-studded cast and audience in the Kennedy Center in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Senator Edward Kennedy on Sunday night, President Barack Obama returns to his day job on Monday.

The main item of the day — stem cells.

Obama will fulfill a campaign vow and reverse another Bush decision at 1145 a.m. (1545 GMT) when he lifts a restriction on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. He will also give the National Institutes of Health four months to come up with new rules. The NIH will decide when it is ethical and legal to pay for stem cell research.

He will also be stressing the need to put science above ideology. Former President George W. Bush was accused by scientists and politicians of injecting politics and sometimes religion into scientific decisions.

The economy will also be on Obama’s mind today as stocks appear poised to drop again to new 12-year lows at the open amid a lack of confidence and declines overseas.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said in an interview on CNBC that confidence in thUSA/e U.S. banking system had to come from Obama.

Presidential hopefuls like Buffett for Treasury Secretary

rtx9bdy.jpgWhile White House hopefuls Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama wasted no time trading barbs in their second presidential debate, they agreed on the one man they would like to see running their Treasury Department to help pull the U.S. economy out of a tailspin: investment guru Warren Buffett.

“A supporter of Senator Obama’s is Warren Buffett. He has already weighed in and helped stabilize some of the difficulties in the markets and with companies and corporations, institutions today,” McCain said.

“I like Meg Whitman, she knows what it’s like to be out there in the marketplace.  She knows how to create jobs.  Meg Whitman was CEO of a company that started with 12 people,” McCain said, referring to one of his own economic advisers who used to run online auction giant eBay.

Musing with McCain: ‘If I were dictator…’

WASHINGTON – Sometimes it’s hard to tell when John McCain is joking.
 
Take his interview Tuesday with journalists at The Des Moines Register.
 
The Republican presidential candidate acknowledged the financial bailout measure before Congress was not perfect, but he said it was unacceptable to do nothing and admonished lawmakers for failing to pass a rescue plan.
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Then, without cracking a smile or missing a beat, he added this little nugget: “I’m not saying this is the perfect answer. If I were dictator, which I always aspire to be, I would write it … a little bit differently.”
 
With the Treasury secretary likely to have a huge amount of power under any bailout scheme, McCain was asked what sort of person he was looking for to fill that job. He said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had been doing admirably.
 
“I think a person along Paulson’s lines,” McCain said. Given the fragility of Wall Street, he added, any candidate “probably has to have a sound grounding in the financial markets and that aspect of America’s economy.”
 
The Arizona senator said if elected he would recruit the brightest and the best for his Cabinet, Democrat or Republican, in government or in business.
 
“I’ll go out and ask them to serve the country for a dollar a year,” he said.
 
He mused aloud about who might be enticed into government service: billionaire Iowa businessman Warren Buffett, eBay founder Meg Whitman, or Fed-Ex chief Fred Smith.
 

McCain strongly objected when a questioner suggested his running mate, Sarah Palin, was not as experienced as others he named as potential government servants.
 
“She’s been a mayor. She’s been an overseer of billions — I don’t know how many billions of dollars of natural resources. She’s been a member of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She’s been a governor,” McCain said.
 
He express skepticism when told many people, including now some conservative Republicans, questioned her level of experience.
 
“Really? I haven’t detected that,” he said.
 
“Now, if there’s a Georgetown cocktail party person who quote calls himself a conservative and doesn’t like her, good luck, good luck, fine,” McCain added.
 
“I think that the American people have overwhelmingly shown their approval. Are there people who will be detractors of her? That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s what politics is all about.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks at Truman Presidential Library  in Independence, Missouri, on Wednesday)