Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Same page

Alarm over Japan’s nuclear crisis prompted a slumping stock market to slump some more in a third day of selling.

The United States and Japan weren’t quite on the same page in terms of advice to the public. The State Department recommended that Americans living within 50 miles of the Fukushima nuclear plant evacuate or stay indoors, while Japan asked residents within 18 miles to do the same.

USA-BUDGET/Republicans and Democrats are still not on the same page as far as spending cuts go, which means back to the drawing board with a three-week reprieve from the sixth stopgap spending bill expected to pass Congress by Friday. Talks will get an added kick when the latest temporary funding bill is passed, but in a divided Congress bipartisan deals become a fairly lofty goal.

“I understand the world we live in right now,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas told us in an interview. “I’m going to attempt to work in a very bipartisan way” to slow down the implementation of Dodd-Frank, the Republican said about the financial reform measure named after two Democrats.

House Speaker John Boehner knows it won’t be easy, but he’s confident a bipartisan deal will be found to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year — somehow, some way — congressional correspondent Thomas Ferraro blogs.

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.

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.

Washington Extra – Say it ain’t so

The White House says it knows that just telling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to go, doesn’t make it so.

LIBYA-GADDAFI/SONGaddafi “has clearly shown that he doesn’t intend to leave just because we said so,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The head of intelligence told it like it is, Carney said. “Director (James) Clapper stated what is true, that Colonel Gaddafi is hunkering down, we all know that.”

Washington Extra – Podium pieces

We learned a thing or two from briefings around town.

– White House spokesman Jay Carney has a sister, and today is her birthday. He announced it from the podium. “I spoke with her this morning, and we are very close.” LIBYA-USA/

– State Department spokesman Mark Toner is interested in the Georgetown basketball game. “Anybody got the latest score on Georgetown?” he asked, to break up some of the back-and-forth with reporters on questions about Libya.

– Republicans have noticed that Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t been around. House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy complained that Biden is supposed to be lead negotiator in government funding talks and no one will say who is filling in for him. “The vice president is out of the country. We’ll have to prepare for another two weeks but that’s not where we want to go.”

Washington Extra – Women of power

Were the cosmic pranksters having a laugh when the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day happened to fall on the same date as Fat Tuesday?

Washington showed off its woman power. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed their delight at meeting on such an auspicious day. USA/

Britain’s former first lady Cherie Blair was also at the State Department for the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards ceremony.

Washington Extra – Will it fly?

It wasn’t quite spilling the beans, but White House spokesman Jay Carney did in one sentence clearly list the top three options being considered on Libya: humanitarian aid, enforcing the U.N. arms embargo, and contingency planning for a potential no-fly zone.

Then it got a bit murky. LIBYA-PORTS/

“I just want to stress that the military options that we talk about are not limited to a no-fly zone, but include a no-fly zone as an option,” Carney said.

“It’s a serious option … and it’s not a simple one that you can simply say, ‘Oh, let’s have a no-fly zone, snap your fingers and it happens’.”

Washington Extra – 9 below

Don’t underestimate the PoliPsych impact of the unemployment rate falling below 9 percent for the first time in nearly two years.

That number is the one which resonates with the public when candidates talk about jobs on the campaign trail. USA-ECONOMY/JOBS

The economy is still shaking off the doldrums so the White House did not want to be seen as publicly reveling in what must have been a privately gleeful moment after the 8.9 percent February unemployment rate was revealed.

Washington Extra – Trying it out

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… oh wait… sorry, just some trial balloons floating around…

President Barack Obama took a harsh tone on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at today’s news conference.  USA/

The way he repeatedly emphasized “COLONEL” was an effective reminder that Gaddafi was not an elected leader like a president, but rather a military man who took power through a coup.

Washington Extra – Oil up

How high is it? A 2-1/2 year high.

How high can it go? No one knows.

BUSINESS/SUMMERYEnergy Secretary Steven Chu expressed what is on many minds – that the oil price jump can hurt the economy. “We have a very delicate recovery going on and an increase in prices will make that vulnerable.”

Even with all options on the table, U.S. officials expressed great caution about imposing no-fly zones over Libya. “I think we are a long way from making that decision,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Some Republicans saw the oil price scare as an opportunity to push again for expanding off-shore oil drilling. “To end this dangerous over-reliance on oil imports, we must find more domestic resources, improve our efficiency and improve international cooperation,” Senator Dick Lugar said.