Tales from the Trail

Un-Common culture war over rapper’s visit to White House

The White House is standing by its rapper.

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., who raps under the name Common, will appear Wednesday night as scheduled at a celebration of American poetry and prose at the White House, despite criticism from Sarah Palin and other conservative political figures about  some of his lines, including a song praising a man convicted for killing a police officer and this 2007 rhyme about former Republican President George W. Bush: “Burn a Bush ’cause for peace he no push no button/Killing over oil and grease/no weapons of destruction.”

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate linked to an article on the conservative “Daily Caller” website and tweeted “Oh lovely, White House…”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama does not approve of all of the Grammy-winning rapper’s violent or vulgar lyrics, but believes there is much more to the work of the  ”socially conscious hip-hop artist.”

“The president does not support and opposes the kind of lyrics that have been written about, as he has in the past. He’s spoken very forcefully out against violent and misogynist lyrics,” Carney told reporters at the White House’s daily news briefing on Wednesday.

“While the president doesn’t support the kind of lyrics that have been raised here, he does — I mean, we do think that the — some of these reports distort what Mr. Lynn stands for more broadly, in order to stoke a controversy,” Carney said.

Looking to cash in on bin Laden bounty? Forget about it

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, it doesn’t look like anyone will be claiming the multimillion-dollar bounty the U.S. government put on his head.

White House spokesman Jay Carney signaled that no one was likely to receive the $25 million reward, which the Secretary of State had discretion to double, because it was U.S. intelligence work rather than a tipster that led to the deadly raid on the al Qaeda chief’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a week ago.

“As far as I’m aware, no one knowledgeably said, ‘Oh, Osama bin Laden’s over here in Abbottabad at 5703, you know, Green Avenue’,” Carney said, drawing laughs at the White House daily briefing.

“Minutes passed like days” for U.S. officials watching bin Laden op

It took almost a decade for the United States to find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But when it came to the final act, time went into slow motion  for U.S. officials holding their breath and hoping the raid in Pakistan would go off without a hitch.

White House counterterrorism official John Brennan, a former CIA officer who has been after bin Laden for 15 years, described the scene in the White House Situation Room where President Barack Obama and other national security officials gathered to monitor the U.S. operation in real-time.

“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” Brennan told reporters at the White House.

McCain says Trump having fun, Republicans have serious candidates for 2012

Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, made clear that he doesn’t see Donald Trump as a serious candidate for 2012.

“I think Mr. Trump is having a lot of fun and it’s pretty clear he enjoys the limelight.  We have very serious candidates.  And I think that, if Mr. Trump wants to run, he’s welcome to run,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

(Ouch!) 

That came a day after Trump attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where Obama and comedian Seth Meyers told cutting jokes about the New York real estate magnate.

Washington Extra – Changing hats

The national security musical chairs was made official today by President Barack Obama.

On stage was a daisy-chain of Washington insiders who have worn many hats over the years and criss-crossed different administrations. They all report to Commander-in-Chief Obama, who by comparison appeared a relative newcomer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former senator and first lady, was there to welcome back into the fold Ryan Crocker, who was chosen to be ambassador to Afghanistan.

Obama has ‘better stuff’ to do than birth certificate ‘sideshows’

President Barack Obama tried to put the kibosh on birther speculation by releasing his Hawaiian birth certificate and calling questions about the authenticity of the document a distraction from bigger issues by “sideshows and carnival barkers.”

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he said to reporters after the White House released a long-form copy of his birth certificate. Potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stirred up the controversy in recent weeks by demanding Obama prove he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

“We’ve got better stuff to do.  I’ve got better stuff to do,” Obama said. “We’ve got big problems to solve, and I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them, not on this.”

Washington Extra – Mistakes were made

Anyone in public office for more than a nanosecond is likely to have words and deeds come back to haunt them. New political realities sometimes demand a new world view 180 degrees from the old one. And then comes the explanation.

President Barack Obama, who is urging Congress to raise the debt ceiling, is finding his 2006 Senate vote against raising the debt limit when George W. Bush was president has come back to bite him. OBAMA/

The White House has decided to confront the discrepancy head-on.

Asked about the five-year-old vote, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president “now believes it was a mistake.”

Who are you calling non-essential? Revelations of a government shutdown

There’s always been a lot of talk about the haves and have-nots.

These days in Washington it’s about the essentials and non-essentials. USA/

The two classes of federal workers would be starkly revealed by a government shutdown if Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement on spending by midnight Friday.

Those deemed to be non-essential, an estimated 800,000 federal workers, would be furloughed if the government shuts down as it did 15 years ago.

Here are some comments from “non-essential” workers on CNNMoney.com and the Huffington Post.

Candidate Obama touts working class credentials

obama_phillyEvery political candidate has a tale of his hard-working origins — even sitting presidents with Harvard Law degrees who have made millions by writing best-selling books. And President Barack Obama is no exception, as he showed during a road trip on Wednesday in which he tested out what will likely be themes of his newly launched 2012 re-election campaign.

At a stop at a wind turbine company outside Philadelphia, Obama stood before a giant American flag and pledged to keep fighting for policy priorities like promoting the use of renewable energy. He took off his suit jacket, joked with questioners in the crowd and paced casually on the stage away from the presidential podium.

“Here’s what I said (in 2008). I said I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president, but I can promise you this … . I will be honest with you about the challenges we face and how we can solve these problems and I will take what I hear from you,” he said.

Washington Extra – Playing ball

The White House was clearly relieved to announce that at 6 a.m. GMT NATO took over the ball for running the military operation on Libya. BASEBALL/

Not a minute too soon for members of Congress concerned that the United States could get bogged down in another war. “I sincerely hope that this is not the start of a third elongated conflict,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon said.

Republicans and Democrats say they want to play ball to prevent a government shutdown, but so far have not reached agreement on spending cuts.