Tales from the Trail

Another poll comes out in favor of gays in the military

As Congress mulls “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a new poll finds support for repealing it.

A CNN poll showed that 78 percent, or nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe people who are openly gay should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. MILITARY-GAYS/

The results of the survey of 1,023 adults, conducted May 21-23, were similar to earlier polls — 81 percent in Dec. 19-21, 2008 and 79 percent in May 4-6, 2007.

“Support is widespread, even among Republicans. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans favor allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military,” Keating Holland, CNN polling director, said on its website. “There is a gender gap, with 85 percent of women and 71 percent of men favoring the change, but support remains high among both groups.”

A Gallup analysis this month found “broad, steady support” for openly gay members of the military. Gallup’s last poll on the issue, conducted May 3-6, showed 70 percent in favor.

No magic solution for oil spill, elbowing BP won’t do any good

The message from the White House podium today was loud and clear – there is no magic fix for the oil spill that looks like curdled chocolate milk flowing on top of the Gulf of Mexico. And there isn’t much that anyone can do that BP isn’t doing.

OIL-RIG/LEAKCan government push BP out of the way if it believes the company is not doing the job?

“Well, to push BP out of the way would raise a question — to replace them with what?” Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, the administration’s response chief for the disaster, asked back.

White House spokesman smells a rat in the Rose Garden

OBAMA/A furry little creature has been showing up at White House Rose Garden events recently about as often as a particularly persistent reporter. But this week it went too far, by running across the base of Barack Obama’s podium while the U.S. president was speaking about  financial regulatory reform on Thursday.

The moment was captured on video, but no one seems to know what the creature was, although there were plenty of theories.

Reggie Love, Obama’s special assistant and personal aide, opined that the animal was a field mouse, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. But he insisted that Love had it wrong.

Question raised by Obama-Calderon presser: Was that it?

It was definitely not a press conference and it was barely a Q-and-A.

For a White House that is more agile than any predecessor in new media –Twitter, blogs, video — it seems to be getting a bit out of practice with the traditional question-answer format with real, live reporters.

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon faced the media in the White House Rose Garden. USA-MEXICO/

They took a total of two questions, both were on border issues. Obama answered lengthily about his concerns with the current U.S. immigration system, the fight against drugs, and the positive coordination with Mexico. All ground covered by the administration many times. Not exactly headline-making.

The Day After: everyone’s got an opinion

Everyone’s got an opinion about what happened Tuesday when Senator Arlen Specter — long-term Republican, newly turned Democrat — lost the Pennsylvania primary, Tea Party candidate Ron Paul won the Senate Republican primary in Kentucky, and neither Democrat in the Arkansas Senate primary could muster 50 percent of the vote so they have to do it all over again in June.

USA-POLITICS/In all of the contests, there was only one person who won an actual seat in Congress on Tuesday night — Democrat Mark Critz who took the special election for the Pennsylvania district seat left vacant by the death of Rep. John Murtha earlier this year.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs @PressSec tweeted “Sort of says it all…” with a link to a Politico story headlined “The GOP’s special failure.”

Ask away, Obama says, without answering reporters questions

OBAMA/Freedom of the Press is all well and good, but don’t expect President Barack Obama to always answer journalists’ questions.

That’s what the president made clear in the Oval Office after he signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act — a new piece of legislation named after the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and beheaded in 2002. The new law requires the State Department to identify countries and governments that restrict press freedoms.

Seated at his desk surrounded by members of the Pearl family, Obama made a little speech talking about how important journalists were and how vital a free press was to keep the world informed.

Rose Garden praise for Times Square cop


The hero cop who evacuated New Yorkers under threat from a car bomb on May 1 has already had dinner with the mayor and been visited by President Barack Obama. Now he’s also received a shout-out from Obama in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden honoring about 25 officers from across the country who won “Top Cop” awards for showing unusual bravery.

Obama praised police Lieutenant Wayne Rhatigan’s handling of the failed Times Square car bombing as a good example of cooperation between citizens and the police.

“Alerted by two street vendors that smoke was coming out of a suspicious vehicle, NYPD Officer Wayne Rhatigan immediately realized the potential danger and, along with other officers on the scene, helped clear the area quickly and safely,” Obama said on Thursday, after visiting Rhatigan and other officers in New York on Wednesday.

Market drop reveals secret of White House podium: it doesn’t do real-time news

The stock market was dropping quickly, down more than 900 points for a bit, and market reports were citing Greece’s financial troubles. The White House briefing was in full swing.

Reporters facing President Barack Obama’s press secretary found they had up-to-minute information that Robert Gibbs did not.

OBAMA/One reporter asked about the stock market’s drop below 10,000 ”in the last few seconds, while you’ve been talking.” Gibbs had no immediate answer. “Let me go find out. You guys have — I’m going to start bringing my computer.”

Hotter ties with Brazil? Tap Obamamania, says expert

BRAZIL-CARNIVAL/The United States’ influence in its traditional “backyard” is waning and needs a boost. Washington should be forging closer ties with Latin America’s emerging powerhouse Brazil, says Johns Hopkins political scientist Riordan Roett.

Best way to do that? Send the Obamas to Brazil because Brazilians will go nuts about the U.S. First Family.

“The White House should send the Obamas to Brazil. Can you imagine the Obamas getting off the plane in Rio de Janeiro? It would be extraordinary, a carnival, absolute madness,” Roett told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit.

Manna from heaven (well, Hanks) for White House press


The actor Tom Hanks reinforced his standing as the caffeine guardian angel of the White House press corps on Tuesday by sending a second high-end espresso maker to the denizens of the West Wing briefing room.

“In that you get out so rarely, here is another machine to supply you with the Manna of Heaven, the Boost of Bolt, the Cuppa Java that may help you get through the day,” Hanks wrote in a note accompanying the shiny new  ”Made in Italy” Pasquini espresso maker, which came complete with a jug for steaming milk and a set of espresso cups.

The actor – accompanied by director Steven Spielberg,  paid a surprise visit to the press corps last month after being hosted by President Barack Obama at a White House preview of HBO’s new World War Two series “The Pacific.” Hanks said he wanted to check the status of the first espresso maker he had sent, a “Pony Express” model much-loved and well-used by reporters cooped up in the press center.