Tales from the Trail

Obama bests Republicans on healthcare reform in public confidence poll


Barack Obama appears to be winning the popularity contest over healthcare reform that’s been playing out in public since his White House summit on Feb. 25.

A new Gallup poll suggests that 49 percent of Americans have confidence in Obama to make the right recommendations.

That’s not a majority. But it’s way higher than the 32 percent who think Republicans in Congress would do the right thing.
The findings appear to contradict Republican claims that the public favors their decentralized, piecemeal approach over Obama’s comprehensive reform plan.

The president also outstrips a 37 percent public confidence rating for congressional Democrats, according to the survey of 992 adults conducted March 2-3. The data have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

That lead over Democrats could be important for the White House as Obama makes his last-ditch effort to prod reluctant party members into going along with his plan to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system. Democratic leaders are trying to muster enough party support to bypass Republicans.

Will presidential weight carry healthcare through?

President Barack Obama spoke. Republicans talked back.

USA HEALTHCARE/OBAMA SPEECHNo sign that anyone shifted positions after the president’s remarks today in the East Room at the White House with lots of white hospital coats in the audience.

In fact, it appears that the two sides — Obama and the Republicans — hardened their resolve, setting the stage for a political tug-of-war that’s only going to turn more fierce as the November elections near.

Obama wants it, Republicans oppose it. But it’s the congressional Democrats left trying to push through Congress an issue that has created discord within their own ranks. Democrats in the Senate differ from their colleagues in the House on what the legislation should look like — and not all Democrats support it.

Obama tells reporters: No lectures about cholesterol

OBAMA/U.S. President Barack Obama has been advised by his doctors to watch a borderline-high cholesterol level but that didn’t stop him from sitting down to a lunch of  fried chicken on Tuesday.

While visiting Savannah, Georgia to pitch his “cash for caulkers” tax credit proposal, Obama surprised the lunch crowd at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room by stopping in with his entourage of press, staff and security.

As platters of chicken and sweet potatoes were brought to the table, Obama admonished reporters: “I don’t want any lectures about my cholesterol today.”

Does it matter if the president smokes?

In the current anti-smoking mood in the United States where having a cigarette is banned just about everywhere that is public, how big of a deal is it if the president of the United States lights up once in a while? AUSTRALIA-BUDGET/

The question puffed up on Sunday when President Barack Obama’s routine medical exam showed he was in good health but still struggling with the habit that last June he said was “95 percent cured.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama continues to chew nicotine gum and has quit smoking but  occasionally falls off the wagon “like many who have struggled with kicking that habit. ”

Senator Coburn cites Thomson Reuters at healthcare summit

USA-HEALTHCARE/Republican Senator Tom Coburn is obviously a big fan of Thomson Reuters. He cited Thomson Reuters reports throughout his presentation at the White House healthcare summit.

Coburn, an Oklahoma physician who opposes the sweeping Democratic healthcare overhaul, said lawmakers should focus first on reducing hundreds of billions of dollars of wasteful spending in the U.S. healthcare system. He cited recent studies by Thomson Reuters showing wasteful spending and how patients are postponing medical care due to cost.

They can be found here, here and here.

Coburn often cited these reports during Senate debate on healthcare reform. He wants to bring down costs by tackling waste, fraud and abuse, and limiting medical malpractice lawsuits. And like most doctors, he wants us to live healthy lifestyles and avoid junk food. He also wants to change some popular government programs that he said are contributing to unhealthy eating habits.

White House healthcare summit plans take shape

BUSH/President Barack Obama’s bipartisan healthcare summit is taking on the trappings of a diplomatic visit, complete with a gilt-edged setting at Blair House, the federal style mansion where foreign heads of state stay when they’re in Washington.

Little seems to have been left to chance: they’ve decided on the shape of the table — a hollow square — and a buffet lunch, with name cards in front of each participant. There’s some concern about an echo in the room. The nearly full-day gathering will be televised. And just as foreign officials get to inspect a venue before visiting dignitaries show up, there will be a walk-through beforehand by staff of the congressional leadership.

There’s good reason for this attention to detail. The summit is central to Obama’s last-ditch attempt to pass sweeping healthcare legislation. Obama’s plan to engage Republicans on healthcare in a high-profile negotating session was inspired by his widely praised exchange with his Republican critics in Baltimore in January. The White House hopes the summit will boost the healthcare effort by showing voters that Obama is committed to bipartisanship. Many observers believe the ultimate strategy may be to use a parliamentary maneuver to push through the bill without any Republican votes.

Who knew the Dalai Lama was a feminist?

World peace came first. But then the Dalai Lama told reporters he brought up to President Barack Obama during their White House meeting the issue of women in leadership roles. USA/

“I also mentioned the female, biologically, more sensitive about others’ pain … about others who are suffering,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said, adding with a laugh that Obama agreed with that sentiment.

“I wish, you see, the amount of leadership more female … should take the leadership role,” he said.

You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from low-earth orbit

President Barack Obama and a group of brainiac young students played stump-the-astronaut with the current occupants of the orbiting space station.

OBAMA/This was an event beamed live between the White House Roosevelt Room (the bookcase has been converted into a whizbang video screen) and the space station.

Obama, phone cradled on his shoulder, talked to the group of astronauts sitting erect and being careful not to float away in their gravity-free environment.

Gibbs Twitter math: 4 days, 8 tweets, 22,500 followers

NUCEAR-IRAN/MISSILES-USABasically all White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had to do was turn up … and they followed by the thousands.

Gibbs launched his first tweet on Twitter @PressSec this Saturday asking for micro-blogging tips and by Tuesday he had more than 22,500 followers. (OK so there may be a touch of envy from some of us still struggling in the three-digit follower realm).

Asked whether he was sending all the tweets — eight so far — himself, Gibbs replied: “Inexplicably, yes.”

Obama ‘luckiest man on the planet’ in snowstorm

President Barack Obama has weathered many political storms with varying degrees of success, but the snowstorm of the century that walloped Washington this week proved he was the luckiest man on the planet. That’s according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, still sore from endlessly shoveling snow at his own home.

To get an idea of what a herculean task it would have been for one person to clear the White House of snow, see the video posted on the White House blog of the blizzard striking the president’s home.

“Obviously, we have seen an extraordinary amount of winter weather here in the mid-Atlantic.  Having shoveled my driveway now what seems like 10,000 times, I can testify to that,” Gibbs said at his daily news briefing.