Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – A vision

One thing clear about President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech on reducing the long-term deficit is that the White House believes it will be a vision to behold. USA/

“The president will lay out a vision and that vision will be clear,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. But he refused to provide details and said to stay tuned.

Will there be numbers? Is it a plan? White House correspondents asked seeking clarity.

“I think that you can describe a vision as a plan,” Carney said. “I will not then go from there to get into specifics about what that vision-slash-plan-slash-concept will include.”

Obama will meet with congressional leaders to lay out his vision before delivering the speech tomorrow.

Washington Extra – Mistakes were made

Anyone in public office for more than a nanosecond is likely to have words and deeds come back to haunt them. New political realities sometimes demand a new world view 180 degrees from the old one. And then comes the explanation.

President Barack Obama, who is urging Congress to raise the debt ceiling, is finding his 2006 Senate vote against raising the debt limit when George W. Bush was president has come back to bite him. OBAMA/

The White House has decided to confront the discrepancy head-on.

Asked about the five-year-old vote, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president “now believes it was a mistake.”

Washington Extra – Playing ball

The White House was clearly relieved to announce that at 6 a.m. GMT NATO took over the ball for running the military operation on Libya. BASEBALL/

Not a minute too soon for members of Congress concerned that the United States could get bogged down in another war. “I sincerely hope that this is not the start of a third elongated conflict,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon said.

Republicans and Democrats say they want to play ball to prevent a government shutdown, but so far have not reached agreement on spending cuts.

Washington Extra – Energy epiphany

If you thought you’d heard it before, you have.

President Barack Obama said today the United States must reduce its dependence on oil. And even he acknowledged this is not a new idea. OBAMA-ENERGY

“Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. And every president since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil,” he said at Georgetown University.

“Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet,” Obama said.

Washington Extra – Sharp tongues

Democrats are trying a bit of divide-and-conquer strategy on Capitol Hill.

CHINAAs another budget showdown looms, they are employing a tactic of trying to turn the Tea Party and the rest of the Republican ranks against each other.

It was made starkly clear when Senator Charles Schumer told fellow Democrats to portray Republican House Speaker John Boehner as boxed in by the Tea Party, and to criticize his spending cuts as extreme — “I always use the word extreme,” Schumer said, according to The New York Times’ blog “The Caucus.”

That strategy is not going to work very well now that its cover is blown.

Republicans were not about to let that slide. They accused Democrats of secretly wanting a government shutdown. “With No Plan to Force Washington to Live Within Its Means, Democrats Dig In With ‘Extreme’ Rhetoric to Mask Tacit Support for a Government Shutdown,” blared the headline on a National Republican Congressional Committee email.

Washington Extra – Some explaining to do

Critics say President Barack Obama has some explaining to do.

OBAMA-BRAZIL/So tonight he plans to do just that in a speech on U.S. military involvement in Libya at the National Defense University.

One question clearly on people‚Äôs minds is when will it end? But clarity on that question is unlikely since Obama himself probably doesn’t know right now.

It’s turned into a NATO operation, which means more countries have more say in decisions — although obviously the United States remains a key player.

Washington Extra – Let’s talk

Members of Congress have been complaining all week (while out of town on a weeklong break) that they weren’t given enough information when President Barack Obama moved ahead with military action on Libya.

OBAMA-LATINAMERICA/What is the goal in Libya? How will the goal be achieved? Explain, explain, explain! they demanded (while Obama was on a Latin America trip).

So today, Obama held a conference call with leaders of Congress from both parties to consult on Libya, and he plans to address the public in the “very near future” (although not today), White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “We take the need to consult very seriously,” he said.

Washington Extra – Fed speak

Has hell frozen over? Are pigs flying? Is the sun rising in the West?

Don’t rub your eyes, it’s real. The Federal Reserve chairman, that oracle of monetary policy, will hold FOUR news conferences a year. AUSTRALIA

The first will be on April 27 after a two-day FOMC meeting. It marks the first time in the nearly 100-year history of the central bank that a Fed chief will deign to hold a regular media briefing. It’s almost too tantalizing to contemplate.

After years of reading the tea leaves following these monetary policy setting meetings, reporters will actually get to ask questions of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke immediately after THE DECISION is made.

Washington Extra – Consequential choice

Truth or Consequences?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message on Libya’s ceasefire declaration was basically: she’ll believe it when she sees it.

“We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see actions on the ground. And that is not yet at all clear,” she said. USA

President Barack Obama put it in starker terms: “Muammar Gaddafi has a choice.”

Washington Extra – Changing palette

Not so very long ago a no-fly zone over Libya seemed like an option on the outskirts of what the United States was considering in trying to pressure Muammar Gaddafi.

OBAMA/Since last night, apparently a no-fly zone might not be enough, and the United States is now pressing for air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery. What changed?

“It is not our feeling … that a no-fly zone is a snap-your-fingers, one-size-fits-all solution to a problem. And what we want is action on a variety of items that can improve the situation in Libya,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, without agreeing with the premise that policy had shifted.