Tales from the Trail

Nobel award to Obama required lengthy U.S. Constitution check

When President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last October it caught most by surprise and sent his lawyers scurrying to quietly make sure that the president could receive the prestigious award without running afoul with the U.S. Constitution or federal law.

NOBEL-OBAMA/A provision in the Constitution, known as the Emoluments Clause, bars the receipt of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind from a “King, Prince or foreign State”.  When the Nobel prize was established more than a century ago, Alfred Nobel’s will specified that the recipient of the peace award was to be chosen by a committee of five people elected by the Norwegian parliament known as the Storting.

However, Justice Department lawyers told the White House in a 13-page legal memorandum — sent to the White House counsel last December and released late Thursday — that the U.S. Constitution and federal law did not bar Obama from receiving the prize.

The memo went through various legal arguments, such as whether congressional approval was needed — no was the answer — and the level of involvement by the Norwegian government in the selection process. The lawyers determined that the Storting had “no meaningful role” in selecting the prize recipients or funding the $1.4 million award.

Plus, the Justice Department lawyers added to their reasoning past precedent — noting that two previous sitting presidents (Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) had won the Peace Prize as well as a sitting vice president, Secretary of State, and a U.S. Senator.

U.S. value-added tax still a pretty toxic idea

White House Economic Economic Advisor Paul Volcker stirred up debate over the United States possibly adopting a European-style value added tax to help bring federal deficits under control, saying recently that it “was not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past.USA-FED/

Well the idea is still pretty toxic in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate on Thursday voted 85-13 to adopt an anti-value-added tax resolution sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain as part of its consideration of legislation that would restore lapsed jobless benefits.

The resolution has no force of law, but it gives a pretty clear sense that senators don’t like the idea of a value-added  tax.

Palin serves up plenty of red meat at Boston Tea Party

Conservative darling Sarah Palin had no trouble stirring up Tea Partiers at a rally in Boston, not far from the site where colonists staged the original Tea Party revolt centuries ago.

USA/The problems in the United States are “nothing a good old fashioned election can’t fix,” she told the crowd of several thousand on the Boston Common. “The first test will be at the ballot box in November.”

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate, who wore a red leather jacket, brought plenty of red meat rhetoric to the anti-tax Tea Party.

Latest Washington technique? Bipartisanship by sniping?

If bipartisanship is what they’re after … they’ve got a funny way of showing it.

Financial regulation reform is the latest struggle on Capitol Hill between the forces of Democrats and Republicans. And while everyone seems to be calling for bipartisanship, the words they’re using are quite simply snippy.

President Barack Obama had congressional leaders from both parties over to the White House today to chat about his goal of  financial regulatory reform to prevent another markets meltdown. USA/

Hillary Clinton for Justice?

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/Would Secretary of State Hillary Clinton trade her globetrotting ways for the distinguished black robe of a Supreme Court Justice?

The Washington parlor game is in full swing over who President Barack Obama will pick to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

In the middle of it all, Clinton’s name was very publicly, and quite intriguingly, thrown into the mix this morning  — by a Republican.

Healthcare accomplished, the messenger is leaving

Here’s an example of quitting while you’re ahead.

Linda Douglass took on what some last year might have considered an unenviable task — pushing the message of  President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform against a tide of criticism and a history of failure by past administrations.

 Remember, last year it did not always seem like a go.

But now that healthcare reform is in fact the law of the land, the former ABC News correspondent turned Obama campaign spokeswoman turned administration healthcare reform messenger has decided now would be a good time to leave and get back to basics. OBAMA/

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the President, and leaving this great team is bittersweet. After nearly two years of work that has been exhilarating and grueling in equal measure, I am going to step off the treadmill for awhile and rediscover the experience of dining with my husband on a regular basis,” Douglass said in a statement.

White House becomes playground for annual Easter Egg Roll

Never mind nuclear arms treaties, unemployment figures, or healthcare debates. The big news at the White House on Monday was the Easter Egg Roll.

OBAMA/President Barack Obama and his family joined scores of kids and camera-toting parents for the annual event, which, in addition to the ritual tossing of eggs with spoons, featured soccer, tennis and basketball games as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity.

“Today we have transformed the South Lawn into a playground,” Mrs. Obama told the crowd before joining the festivities.

It’s official – Obama is the first African-American president

OBAMA/

President Barack Obama has done his civic duty and filled out his Census form, and in doing so confirmed that he is, indeed, the first African-American U.S. president.

Obama checked African-American on the form when he filled it out, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. And he did it without giving it a great deal of thought.

“I think he just checked it,” Gibbs told reporters during a briefing in his office at the White House on Friday.

Easter Bunny imposes Obama no-fly zone

OBAMA/Even President Barack Obama had to change his ways for the Easter Bunny.

The White House is preparing for the annual Easter Egg Roll where scores of children will join the First Family’s Easter celebrations. But the tents have restricted the landing zone for the president’s preferred form of conveyance from his residence, the Marine One helicopter.

That’s why Obama was forced to take a motorcade out to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for a day-trip to Portland, Maine, where he will try to sell healthcare reform to skeptical Americans.

The Easter Egg Roll on Monday is one of the most highly anticipated events of the White House social calendar, at least among the younger crowd. No word on whether First Dog Bo will be joining the hunt.

from Photographers' Blog:

Destination: Afghanistan

It all started out with a phone call from Reuters News Pictures Washington Editor In Charge Jim Bourg on Thursday night informing me there was a secret Presidential trip leaving on Saturday to an undisclosed destination which Reuters would like me to travel with the president on. I was told that this was very secretive and that I was not to mention it to anyone and that no details were available yet. I had been with President Obama on his secret trip to Baghdad last year, so it was pretty easy to figure out that the destination this time might be Afghanistan, a trip which had been highly anticipated since Obama became president 15 months ago. I was to expect to be contacted directly by the White House for a meeting to discuss the details. But I was to "open" the White House as the first Reuters photographer arriving there on Friday morning at 7am, my scheduled shift, and to go about my day as planned acting as if everything was normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That afternoon I was called in to meet with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in his office at 4pm, along with some of the other members of the 14 person media travel pool who would be going on the secret trip aboard Air Force One.

We were given a schedule of events and were sworn to secrecy. I headed home to pack and test out the BGAN satellite phone I had been provided by Reuters for the trip.