Tales from the Trail

Obama aide backhands Palin over crib notes

OBAMAWhite House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mocked former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for writing notes on her hand at last weekend’s Tea Party convention.

At his daily briefing, Gibbs jokingly showed the White House press corps his left palm where scrawled in black ink was a grocery list of items to buy in case he and his family were snowed in.

“Eggs, milk and bread,” Gibbs read to laughter. “But I crossed out bread … And then I wrote down ‘hope and change,’ just in case I forgot,” he quipped, referring to President Barack Obama’s  slogan during the 2008 campaign.

Gibbs, who took the podium after an impromptu news conference by Obama, was taking a jab at Palin, who was caught using her hand for crib notes during an appearance before the conservative Tea Party movement in Nashville on Saturday. USA/

The former Alaska governor was shown to have written “Energy,” “Budget cuts” (which was crossed out), “Tax,” and “Lift Americans Spirits” on her palm, for which she was widely ridiculed by liberal bloggers. This came after Palin had taken a swipe at Obama as overly reliant on teleprompters.

Unemployment falls, what’s the proper political response?

OBAMA/The unemployment rate fell in January to 9.7 percent, the lowest in five months and below that dreaded 10 percent in December. It also foiled analyst expectations for an increase to 10.1 percent.

So a jump-for-joy event in Washington right?

Well, not quite.

The White House publicly decided on a cool, measured response.

(We have to believe someone over there must have let out a cheer, or maybe even clapped, at 8:30 a.m.)

The official response from White House economic adviser Christina Romer was a caution that there would likely be “bumps in the road ahead” and that it was important not to read too much into one monthly report. UNEMPLOYMENT/

Gingrich once again at head of Republican pack

Once, a first-term Democratic president failed to deliver on healthcare reform and found his party USA-POLITICS/swept from office by a wave of voter anger that brought Republican Newt Gingrich to the forefront of American politics. Could this history lesson from the Clinton era be repeated?

Healthcare reform is stalled, voters are angry and Gingrich — who rose to prominence as House speaker after Republicans won Congress in 1994 — is again leading the pack, this time among  potential White House hopefuls for 2012.

The Washington-based political news outlet, Politico, says Gingrich’s political action committee is raising money far faster than those of 2008 campaign veterans including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Obama eyes a new job: sportscaster

OBAMA/Sportscasters, beware. In a few years – three or seven, to be exact – President Barack Obama may want your job.

The basketball-playing prez took the afternoon off on Saturday to attend a game between Georgetown and Duke universities.

Part way through the second half, he took a turn at the announcers’ table to provide commentary on the college basketball game.

Now a U.S. senator, Scott Brown is ready to take on Obama

USA-POLITICS/MASSACHUSETTSFresh from a stunning election victory that shook the confidence of the national Democratic Party, Scott Brown says he’s ready for a showdown with President Barack Obama — on the basketball court.
    
Brown, known only a few weeks ago as a dude with a truck, says he challenged Obama to hoops when the two spoke by telephone on the night the Massachusetts Republican won Teddy Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue seat in the U.S. Senate.
    
“The only time I spoke to him was election night and I did challenge him to pick his best, and I’ll take my daughter Ayla who plays for Boston College, and we’d challenge him to a little 2-on-2. I think we’d have the upper hand,” Brown said in an interview with TV comedian Jay Leno. TELEVISION-LENO/
    
“He looks like he’s in great shape. It’d certainly be a tough game,” he said.
    
Brown didn’t mention how the president responded.
    
Obama, a hard-core hoophead, has shot baskets on the campaign trail, with U.S. troops in the field and with kids on the South Lawn of the White House. At 48, he would have a two-year advantage over the 50-year-old Brown. But as Sports Illustrated magazine notes, the president can’t dunk and doesn’t have a hoopster nickname. 
    
USA-OBAMA/Brown does have a nickname. At Tufts University, he was known as “Downtown Scotty Brown,” possibly for his long-distance jumpshots.  And that’s not all. In a given week, Brown told Leno, he swims close to 2 miles, bikes about 95 and runs 15 or 20 miles. 

If Obama’s really looking for ways to reach out to Republicans, a friendly game of basketball might make a nice change from all the ankle-tripping, elbow-jabbing, floorboard-thumping contests on Capitol Hill. 

Photo Credits: Reuters/Brian Snyder (Brown Victory); Reuters/Mario Anzuoni (Leno); Reuters/Jim Young (Obama and Young Hoopster)

Dylan at the White House: how much have the times changed?

The announcement that music icon Bob Dylan was coming to the White House next month for “A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement” sent us scrambling to listen to his famous song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

The lyrics from 45 years ago, eerily echo today.

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt,  will be he who has stalled
The battle outside is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows, and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

JAZZ FESTIt was a year ago that President Barack Obama entered the White House on a platform of  change – “Yes, we can.”

Chatty White House party crashers turn mum on Capitol Hill

The most famous party crashers (hint red sari and tux) who so gaily chatted with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at a swank White House state dinner in November (photos still proudly displayed on Facebook), clammed up when they attended a different event on Capitol Hill Wednesday. SALAHI/

In fact, Tareq and Michaele Salahi were decidedly not engaging in conversation with members of Congress at the  House Homeland Security Committee hearing and basically had only one line for them:

“On advice of counsel I respectfully assert my right to remain silent and decline to answer your question,” he said, and she repeated.

Obama talks race on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Barack Obama, marking his first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as president of the United States, urged Americans on Monday to remember that the civil rights era is not ancient history.

OBAMA/“Sometimes in celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, we act as if this history was so long ago,” he said at a White House gathering of black senior citizens and their grandchildren.

Not for these people, who brought stories with them about the slain civil rights leader during a brief visit with Obama and his wife, Michelle, in the Roosevelt Room, just steps away from the Oval Office.

Laughter, emotion and presidents at funeral of Biden’s mother

When it comes to showing support, bringing an entourage of people on a huge famous plane to the funeral of your friend’s mother says a lot. USA/

That’s what President Barack Obama did for his pal and vice president, Joe Biden, on Tuesday. Biden’s mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden, died on Friday at the family’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. She was 92.

The president, along with first lady Michelle Obama and a large cadre of Obama’s senior White House staff and Cabinet members, flew on Air Force One to attend her funeral in Delaware.

Obama: “ultimately the buck stops with me”

President Barack Obama reached back into history in choosing the words for his much-awaited statement on intelligence mistakes over the Christmas Day attempted airline attack. SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA

“I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer,” Obama said on Thursday after much speculation on whether he would do a mea culpa.

“For ultimately, the buck stops with me.”

And with those words, Obama became the latest American president to use a variation of that phrase to show the public he was aware of the huge responsibilities that come with the Oval Office.