Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Comfort Zone

President Barack Obama was jubilant at the bill signing for the small business lending legislation, but with just slightly more than a month to go before the election, voters appear consistently unmoved by White House attempts to lift the economy.

USA-ECONOMY/OBAMAThe president acknowledged that the small business bill came after a “long and tough fight,” and he castigated Senate Republicans – well, all but the two who bucked their party – for standing in the way.

Be on the lookout for the Reuters/Ipsos poll on Ohio tomorrow, you can find it on our midterm election page.

And my colleague Deborah Zabarenko points out the following that would rattle anyone’s comfort zone: A telescope on Maui has detected an asteroid that will come within 4 million miles of Earth in mid-October — close enough to be considered a “potentially hazardous object,” according to astronomers at the University of Hawaii.

The space rock won’t hit Earth in the immediate future, but we still have a one-word reaction: YIKES!

from Summit Notebook:

No time for fun for White House officials

WASHINGTON-SUMMIT/While senators like Lamar Alexander have time to play classical piano with the symphony or attend sporting events, some people in Washington don't have as much time for fun or relaxation.

Take Austan Goolsbee, the new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who until recently worked as a member of the council and a long-time economic adviser to Obama.

Goolsbee used to compete in triathlons. Now he jokes that he is so out of shape he can hardly make it up the stairs without losing his breath.

from Summit Notebook:

How do White House staff know when it’s time to leave?

SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/GIBBSIt's an age old question that even applies to senior staff working in the White House: At what point do you decide it's time to quit your job and move on?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs predicted at the Reuters Washington Summit that some people working in the White House will soon decide they want to go back to a less hectic life. Especially those who worked on President Barack Obama's presidential campaign which lasted two grueling years.

"It's a tremendous privilege to come and work in that building each and every day," said Gibbs.

Calm before the storm: Does silence on Warren signal decision soon?

An eerie calm has descended over the blogosphere after the feeding frenzy that broke out earlier this week on whether President Barack Obama was poised to name Elizabeth Warren to lead the new consumer financial agency.

The week started with an avalanche of stories and blogs speculating on the possibility of Obama naming Warren, a Harvard law professor, as an interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The move would have allowed Obama to avoid what would likely be a heated confirmation battle.

from Environment Forum:

The quest to put solar power back on the White House

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Bill McKibben, founder of the green group 350.org, is on a quest to convince President Barack Obama to put solar panels back on the roof of the White House.

He's at the end of a journey to Washington from Maine in a van fired by biodiesel carrying one of the 32 panels Jimmy Carter unveiled in 1979 during the first press conference on the White House roof.

Also in the van are students from Unity College, which got the the panels some time after President Ronald Reagan, no fan of alternative energy, had workers remove the panels during "roof repairs" in 1986.

Washington Extra – Shuffling the pack

cabinetWe hear the White House is not wildly pleased with former budget chief Peter Orszag for abandoning the party line on tax policy this week. Now Democrats in Congress are beginning to distance themselves from President Barack Obama’s push to let taxes rise for the wealthiest Americans. We are unlikely to see this resolved before the mid-terms anyway, and there are still several different ways this could pan out. One possible compromise would be a short extension of the tax cuts for the rich and a longer extension for the middle classes, keeping any crucial decisions as far away from the 2012 campaign season as possible.

More today on the potential for a reshuffle in Obama’s inner circle after the November elections, especially if Rahm Emanuel departs for Chicago. Democratic sources tell us Larry Summers, never that happy in his role, might be among those who leave, but that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is likely to stay the course.

One administration official who is flagging his own retirement is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. As we report from our Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington this week, Gates used to be viewed by the defense industry with apprehension, but these days many industry executives see his efficiency drive as both sensible and as the best way to protect the overall defense budget. It seems he will be missed.

It was just a game of golf!

Ever since he played golf with President Barack Obama last week, New York newspapers have been rife with speculation that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being wooed by the administration to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. 

USA/The White House dismissed the speculation as fantasy and Bloomberg dismissed the idea. But still as summer draws to an end, what else is there to talk about going into the Labor Day holiday weekend except the lackluster U.S. economy?

More bad news for Obama on Friday with the unemployment rate rising to 9.6 percent. The economy is not creating jobs fast enough to reduce the unemployment rate and give Democrats more comfort going into the Nov. 2 congressional elections with their majority in Congress at stake.

Mideast peace veterans and handshake diplomacy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly referred to them as “veterans” of the Middle East peace process.

That description is probably one thing everyone can agree on. The process to bring Israelis and Palestinians to a lasting peace agreement has been going on for decades and every U.S. president hopes he’s the one who will finally achieve what those before him tried and failed. PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/

President Barack Obama is the latest to take up the baton. He’s already won the Nobel Peace Prize, but will he be The One to triumph on Middle East Peace?

Obama’s Oval Office re-do: tasteful seat of power or beige man cave?

OBAMA/The reviews are in on President Barack Obama’s newly redecorated Oval Office. And they are, like the earth tones of the custom-made sofas, mostly muted.

The morning after the spiffed-up office was unveiled — during Tuesday night’s presidential address to the nation, with Obama sitting behind the Resolute Desk — the Washington Post splashed its impressions on the front page of the much-read Style section, complete with graphics and commentary. “Very American and very appropriate,” said Margaret Russell of Architectural Digest; “tasteful and … very safe,” was interior designer Celerie Kemble’s assessment, both reported in the Post.

The New York Daily News stressed the provenance of many of the new furnishings, noting that the hand-painted striped wallpaper was made in the Hamptons on Long Island. NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Good Morning America” both had spots on the White House makeover. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos — a former aide to President Bill Clinton, and so presumably fairly familiar with the space — disclosed he’s friends with the decorator, Michael S. Smith of Los Angeles.

Obama ends Iraq war where it began — the Oval Office

The Iraq war ended where it began — at the president’s desk in the White House Oval Office.

President Barack Obama declared the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq with his hands folded on the desk where 7-1/2 years earlier President George W. Bush announced the beginning of military operations. IRAQ/OBAMA-SPEECH

“Much has changed since that night,” Obama said in the second Oval Office prime-time televised address of his presidency.