Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Cake cutting

Everyone SAYS they want to cut the budget deficit, but when it comes to actually agreeing on a course of action, it’s not exactly a piece of cake.  GERMANY/

President Barack Obama says his budget plan would halve the deficit by 2013. “So what we’ve done here is make a down payment, but there’s going to be more work that needs to be done, and it’s going to require Democrats and Republicans coming together to make it happen,” he said.

But Democrats and Republicans are far from seeing eye-to-eye on how to go about deficit cutting.

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor explained the difference as he sees it: “For years, Democrats have proposed more government spending to create jobs, resulting in the largest debt and deficits in history while unemployment remains too high. Republicans believe in free markets and the ability for small businesses and entrepreneurs to keep more of their own money so they can invest, grow their companies and hire employees.”

At some point both parties are going to have to start singing “stuck in the middle with you,” or nothing’s going to move.

Washington Extra – Early valentine

Even on television from thousands of miles away, the Egyptian revolution was breathtaking. A moment to mark in history.

President Hosni Mubarak gave the protesters an early valentine by stepping down. What had been expected yesterday was surprising today.

President Barack Obama framed the event as one of the monumental examples of peaceful resistance that the world has seen, even though he was talking about the ouster of a strong ally of the United States for the last 30 years. OBAMA/

Washington Extra – Wave goodbye

Might be time for a remake of an old classic film, with a contemporary twist: Mr. Smith gets out of Washington (or should that be Dodge?)

More and more lawmakers are deciding it’s time, enough is enough, see ya. The Number 2 Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl, today announced he won’t seek reelection next year, with a quaint “my heart says it is time to go.”  USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

While not an elected official, Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh said today he was stepping down from the central bank’s powerful board.

Washington Extra – Food for thought

The U.S. government strongly supports democratic reforms in the Middle East. Just look at its comments on Egypt. But the American public doesn’t appear to be so gung-ho.

OBAMAA Reuters/Ipsos poll out today found that a solid majority, 58 percent, believe the United States should be cautious about backing democracy in the Middle East because elections could lead to anti-American Islamist governments.

The biggest opposition group in Egypt is the banned Muslim Brotherhood and President Barack Obama has acknowledged that the group’s ideology included anti-American strains.

Washington Extra – Let’s do lunch

Mending fences is clearly the White House play of the week.

USA/First a visit to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now lunch with Republican leaders from Capitol Hill. What next?

President Barack Obama at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow will host House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (that’s two of the three “Young Guns” of Capitol Hill).

Discussion will be heavy on the economy and spending. But if the Republicans are hoping for a heads-up on Obama’s budget proposal, they will be disappointed. “We will save that for them and for you for Monday,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Washington Extra – Fruitcake diplomacy

If only he’d sent fruitcake…

USA/President Barack Obama is clearly trying to make nice with the business community and he promised the Chamber of Commerce a new friendly era after two years of coldness.

The White House and U.S. Chamber of Commerce can see each other across a park, but until recently acted like the other was on the wrong side of the tracks.

But it’s never too late to make-up in Washington, where yesterday’s enmities are often tomorrow’s alliances.

Washington Extra – Game on

Think legacy. That’s what President Barack Obama advised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Obama tried to appeal to Mubarak’s ego and sense of place in history as he pressed for movement on a political transition. “I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he is also a patriot,” Obama said. USA-CANADA/

He didn’t call for the Egyptian leader to immediately step down, but brought up Mubarak’s promise not to run again. “The key question he should be asking himself is how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?”

Washington Extra – Chaos theory

Something to ponder while thinking about the crisis in Egypt: Chaos Theory or Domino Effect?

EGYPT/Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tells ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that he’d like to step down but… “If I resign today there will be chaos.”

It seemed fairly chaotic on the streets of Cairo where protesters were fired upon and journalists were detained. Egypt’s prime minister told the interior minister not to obstruct peaceful marches at tomorrow’s “Friday of Departure” rally.

Washington Extra – Line dance

Here’s something that Republicans might want to hear: the White House is promising that its budget will include serious deficit control.

EGYPT-USA/“The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said in an interview with Reuters’ White House correspondents Alister Bull and Jeff Mason.

While the budget will make “tough choices and tough cuts,” Lew said, “there will also be the question of how far do you want to go in some of these areas and what are the consequences of going beyond a certain line.”

Washington Extra – Waiting for Mubarak

Much of the day was spent waiting…

Waiting for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make his move so that U.S. officials could react and the crisis could lurch into potentially calmer territory. EGYPT/MUBARAK-TRANSFER

It became clear that something was up when the State Department delayed its media briefing before canceling it altogether, and the White House indefinitely delayed its briefing.

Official Washington tends to clam up when it sees movement toward possible resolution of difficult situations so as not to disrupt chances for success.