Tales from the Trail

The harvest is in at the White House

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“Are you ready to work really hard?”

“Are you ready to get dirty?”

That was the rallying cry from first lady Michelle Obama Thursday as she invited local school children to help her pick crops from the White House garden.

The crops are the bounty from the garden that Obama started in the spring to promote healthy eating .

And it’s frugal eating too.

“Do you know how much food has come out of this garden so far? Over 740 pounds of food have come out of this little piece of land,” Obama told the kids.  The whole thing — from start to harvest — came in under $200, she added.

Some of the youngsters at the harvest had been helping with the garden as it grew — along with Jim Adams, the chief horticulturist at the White House and the chefs at the executive mansion.

Everything harvested Thursday, including some gigantic sweet potatoes, was being donated to charity.

Obama plants a piece of New Jersey on White House lawn

Kind of a quiet day at the White House today. Hey, why not plant a tree?

OBAMA/President Obama was on hand for a commemorative tree planting on the White House front lawn.

There’s always a good tale behind these things and here’s this one: Benjamin Harrison planted a Scarlet Oak tree in the same spot in 1889. There it stood through good times and bad, triumph and tragedy, rain and shine, and, well, you get the idea.

Then it rotted straight through and tumped over in a 2007 rainstorm. George W. Bush planted a Scarlet Oak in the same spot as a replacement in 2008, but it didn’t take hold.

He’s powerful… And you’re not?

NUCEAR-IRAN/MISSILES-USAMaybe it was a sign that someone wanted to put the press corps — or possibly the White House staff — in their place.

Who knows, but at the beginning of the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday, a disembodied voice sounded in the briefing room, saying: “THE PRESIDENT IS POWERFUL.”

Reporters and White House staffers in the room laughed, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs joked about it, to more laughter. But no one offered an explanation for the pronouncement.

Protest resignation over Afghan plans puts Obama team on edge

On Monday, the State Department sent out its no. 2 official to tout how it was managing to get U.S. civilians out into the field in Afghanistan, with nearly 1,000 expected to be in place by year-end.

A day later, it was in damage control mode after the resignation of one of its star employees was plastered on the front page of The Washington Post and on the Internet.

In an emotionally-charged four-page letter dated September 10, Matthew Hoh said he was quitting because he had lost confidence in the war effort and whether it was worth the blood spilled there.

Official Obama family portrait is in, Bo is not

The official portrait of the first family is in.

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There’s Sasha, the youngest at 8 years old, casually draping her arm over the shoulder of the president of the United States.

Older sister Malia embraces her mom, first lady Michelle Obama, as they all sit for their first official first family portrait in the Green Room at the White House on Sept. 1.

It is the work of portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz, known for some of the most famous celebrity photographs of our time — Demi Moore pregnant and nude on the cover of Vanity Fair, and a nude John Lennon curled around Yoko Ono for the cover of Rolling Stone taken on the day of Lennon’s death. OBAMA/

“Fiesta Latina” changes the rhythm at Obama White House

hosts President Barack Obama celebrated the growing contribution of Hispanic culture and music to the United States with a “Fiesta Latina” at the White House, part of a musical series started by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Latin music “moves us and tends to make us want to move ourselves,” the president declared.

Actors Eva Longoria Parker, George Lopez and Jimmy Smits began the show joking that Obama is Hispanic.

Dust-up over healthcare reform ahead of Senate panel’s vote

The fragile consensus in favor of healthcare reform may be coming apart.

With the Senate Finance Committee due to vote on its reform bill Tuesday, the insurance industry’s trade group released an analysis saying the measure would drive up costs by thousands of dollars over the next decade.

The White House quickly fired back.

“This is a self-serving analysis from the insurance industry, one of the major opponents of health insurance reform,” spokesman Reid Cherlin said.SENATE/HEALTHCARE

“It comes on the eve of a vote that will reduce the industry’s profits. It is hard to take it seriously,” he said.

Astronomy Night at the White House

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A cloudless sky made a perfect backdrop for a stargazing
party at the White House on Wednesday night. But instead of parading on a red carpet, VIP guests made their way around the South Lawn where earlier in the day astronomers set up telescopes in preparation for the party.

President Barack Obama hosted 150 local middle school students, teachers and astronomers to scan the sky. But first, Obama said there were a “few other stars out tonight,” introducing former astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison.

For the president, the event might have been a break from the pressing issues of the day, but he was still working on his political agenda. OBAMA/Obama introduced two students — one who discovered a supernova and another who found a pulsar — and he made a pitch for his education plan.

Has stimulus become a dirty word at the White House?

If it walks like a stimulus and quacks like a stimulus, is it a stimulus?

NUCEAR-IRAN/MISSILES-USAThat’s the question being thrown at White House spokesman Robert Gibbs this week. And he has so far refused to bite.

In yesterday’s White House media briefing, “stimulus” came up five times, but never once uttered by Gibbs.

His responses were “recovery plan” and “safety-net policies.”

The First Draft: Could Obama’s Olympic sprint be a preview of a Copenhagen climate trip?

THAILAND/OK, so President Barack Obama’s lightning jaunt to Copenhagen last week was less than successful. Even with Oprah along, the Cheerleader-in-Chief couldn’t clinch the deal for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. It happens.

But now that he knows the way to Denmark, might the American president consider arguing the U.S. case at international climate meetings in Copenhagen in December? The White House said he might, if other heads of state showed up.

“Right now you’ve got a meeting that’s set up for a level not at the head of state level,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One last week. “If it got switched, we would certainly look at coming.”