Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Waiting for fireworks

Will we see fireworks in the debt talks next week?

So far the White House and lawmakers have been cranky about the state of negotiations, but no one has actually drawn a firm line in the sand – still hoping for a compromise.

Senators and staff can’t be happy about having their Fourth of July recess cancelled next week over debt talks, setting up a perfect environment for tempers to flare.

And no matter how much critics try to pooh-pooh the deadline for avoiding default, Treasury is sticking with Aug. 2 as the drop-debt date.

White House economic officials are expected to attend meetings on Capitol Hill next week. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been invited but it’s unclear whether they will venture over to that end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

They may have to tread carefully to avoid tantrums after Obama likened Congress to children earlier this week.

Washington Extra – Farewell to arms

Some memorable lines in the farewell tribute for Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

President Barack Obama said when he took office, Gates had already served seven presidents and when asked by a reporter whether he might stay on, Gates replied “inconceivable.” (Turned out to be a case of famous last words…)

Gates, true to his reputation as a plain-spoken guy, said his views about the State Department “evolved” over four decades. “For much of my professional life, the Secretaries of State and Defense were barely speaking to one another,” he said.

Washington Extra – Breaking glass

The new IMF chief is an accomplished negotiator, an international relations expert and a European finance minister.

The newly elected managing director also made history, and it had nothing to do with credentials. Christine Lagarde in 2011 becomes the first woman to head the IMF.

This is also the year when two women might start vying for the 2012 Republican nomination for president — Michele Bachmann is running, Sarah Palin has yet to reveal her intentions.

Washington Extra – Her Waterloo

It takes some political derring-do to launch a presidential campaign from a town named Waterloo.

After all, in another time, on another continent, that was the locale of Napoleon’s final defeat, from which sprang the term “met his Waterloo.”

Tea Party conservative Michele Bachmann chose Waterloo, Iowa, her birthplace, to announce a run for the Republican presidential nomination. And she wasted no time in going on the offensive.

Washington Extra – In abeyance

Some say impasse, some say abeyance.

But whatever they call it, debt negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and lawmakers hit a brick wall.

After two days of meetings this week, Republicans decided it wasn’t worth going to the third session today and walked away.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took the harsher line, saying the talks were at an “impasse.” Dictionary definition: a situation from which there is no escape or a deadlock.

Washington Extra – Fighting words

When President Barack Obama announced the 30,000 U.S. troop surge for Afghanistan in December 2009, he said: “It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”

Obama, president for less than a year, said those words at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was still trying to prove that he had what it took to be commander-in-chief.

A year-and-a-half later, it is now a different setting. Obama will announce his plan to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan at the White House, having proven his mettle when he gave the go-ahead for the daring and risky operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Washington Extra – Long day

The longest day of the year probably seemed even longer for some.

Jon Huntsman started the day in New Jersey to formally throw his hat into the ring against the picturesque backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the thing about backdrops and TV… Huntsman made it into every shot, but not Lady Liberty. And then he was off to New Hampshire for a rally.

At the Capitol, it was scheduled as a two-hour meeting, but the issues seem never-ending as Vice President Joe Biden and lawmakers negotiate on the deficit and debt limit. Some speculation swirling that perhaps a short-term increase in the debt limit may be an option if agreement is out of reach.

Not exactly a sunny day for the economy. Data out today point to a housing market still struggling to regain footing.

Washington Extra – Not enough

The word is not enough. That was the message from the United States to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who pledged reforms in a speech at Damascus University.

“What’s important now is action, not words,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

White House spokesman Jay Carney concurred: “President Assad needs to either lead that transition or get out of the way … I’m not saying the words are meaningless, but he needs to act on them … But first, he needs to stop the violence.”

Washington Extra – Tee party

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner get to flex their golfing skills tomorrow and we’re guessing there’s plenty of pre-game strategizing going on.

Is Obama telling Vice President Joe Biden, arguably the best golfer of the four, to hold back on the hole-in-ones? They do after all want Boehner amenable to their views on the debt limit stand-off.

Is Ohio Governor John Kasich giving Boehner advice on how to keep the Veep off-guard so they can ruin his handicap and have bragging rights on the Republican versus Democrat scoreboard?

Washington Extra – Fall and rise

That’s not hot air emanating from the Capitol today, it’s the huge sigh of relief from the Democratic leadership that Congressman Anthony Weiner decided to resign.

And gone with him are the difficult decisions about whether to strip him of committees or think up other pressure tactics to end the weeks-long distraction.

“Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.