Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Obama and Father’s Day

President Barack Obama will take time out on Friday from unrest in Iran and a suddenly endangered healthcare overhaul on Capitol Hill to focus on fathering.

Ahead of Father’s Day on Sunday, Obama plans several events at the White House and in suburban Virginia designed to highlight fatherhood and mentoring. Obama also wrote an essay that will appear in Parade magazine on Sunday and will have a Father’s Day interview with CBS News.

Obama, abandoned by his father at age 2, last saw him when he was 10 years old and frequently talked during the campaign about fatherhood and his experience growing up. He will visit a program in suburban Arlington, Virginia, that provides one-year intensive training for urban young adults, then hold an event in the East Room of the White House to discuss fatherhood and mentoring and host young men from local schools at a South Lawn event.

The First Draft: Reviews flood in after Obama’s Cairo speech

OBAMA-EGYPT/He’s been preparing for this moment since long before he came to the White House, so President Barack Obama might wonder how his Cairo speech to the Muslim world went over. He wouldn’t have to wait long — within minutes after he ended his address, the reviews started flooding in.

The Washington Post said Obama did well, but basically, talk’s cheap: “Perhaps today’s words, from the son of a Muslim, will be viewed as a welcome olive branch. But it’s still just a speech. And even stirring words can’t paper over the seemingly intractable differences in the Mideast.”

The New York Post got a bit snarky: “If world peace is attained by complimenting those on the other side into submission, he made some serious progress. Obama really buttered them up in Cairo.”

Ben Stiller is in the (White) House

Actors Ben Stiller, his wife Christine Taylor and Ricky Gervais took advantage of President Barack Obama being out of town on Thursday to tour the White House. 

They also stopped by the press briefing room, normally thronging with photographers, cameramen and other members of the White House press corps but largely empty as most were travelling with Obama in New Mexico, where he was addressing a town hall meeting. 

BRITAIN/Stiller and Gervais, best-known for his lead role in the British comedy series “The Office”, starred together in the new comedy “Night at the Museum 2″ and attended the world premiere in London on Tuesday. 

The First Draft: Presidential e-mail

SUNDANCE/If you just can’t get enough of the goings and doings of President Barack Obama, can’t wait for the blog posts, Twitter tweets, Washington whispers or even the newspaper and magazine stories about the U.S. chief executive, now there’s help. You can sign up for e-mails from the president. He sent his first one Wednesday. It’s hardly a window on the inner workings of the White House but it is a new way to communicate.

“My staff and I plan to use these messages as a way to directly communicate about important issues and opportunities, and today I have some encouraging updates about health care reform,” wrote in his first message, also posted here. “The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform bill by July 31.”

He ended the note with,

“Thank you,
“Barack Obama”

and then added a postscript:

“P.S. If you’d like to get more in-depth information about health reform and how you can participate, be sure to visit http://www.HealthReform.gov”

The First Draft: White House wooing comes in waves

OBAMA/It’s a busy day at the White House, with waves of lawmakers moving in for talks with President Barack Obama, in between a press statement and before a commencement address.

Wave One: House Democratic leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel of New York and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, both of California — come to discuss health care.

Wave Two: Senate leaders from both parties — Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama — talk with the president about a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Obama holds first Rose Garden event

President Barack Obama held his first ceremonial event in the Rose Garden Tuesday, using the scenic lawn outside the Oval Office to honor some of the country’s finest teachers.
“This is our first official Rose Garden ceremony — a place where so many,” the president started before being interrupted by a smattering of applause. “Yes, that’s worth applause, sure, why not,” he added to laughter.
USA-OBAMA/“This is a place where so many presidents have honored so many citizens who’ve made extraordinary contributions to the life of our nation,” Obama said.
The Rose Garden was one of President George W. Bush’s favorite ceremonial venues. The day after November’s election, he spoke in the Rose Garden when he congratulated Obama and said his victory represented a “triumph of the American story” that made every American proud.
The people being honored Tuesday were educators who had been named national and state teachers of the year.
“Our teachers are the key to our nation’s success, to whether America will lead the world in the discoveries and innovations and economic prosperity of this new century,” Obama told the audience.
The president presented the national teacher of the year award to Tony Mullen, a former New York City police officer who worked his way up to the rank of captain while studying to become a teacher.
Mullen, who now teaches at the ARCH School in Greenwich, Connecticut, works with youths who have behavioral and emotional problems.
“I teach and mentor at-risk teenagers, because too many of the pages of their stories are filled with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, academic failure and despair,” Mullen told the crowd. 
“I teach these young adults because they are among the most complex population to educate, and therefore challenge my ability as an educator,” he said. “And I teach them because they provide me plenty of opportunity to help rewrite their stories, to help them compose a happy ending.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama presents award to Mullen)

First Draft: It’s Take-Your-Kids-To-The-White-House Day!

MASTERCARD/AMERICANEXPRESSJust as the cherry tree blossoms pass their peak and not long after the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, there’s another hallowed Washington spring tradition: Take Your Child To Work Day. That’s when Type A parents with Type A jobs bring their kids to the office to give them some idea of what Mom and Dad do for a living — and that includes people who work at the White House, the State Department and on Capitol Hill.

First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the under-age crowd at the White House, with an event in the East Room at mid-morning. Her husband, President Barack Obama, is expected to be otherwise engaged then, and later is set to meet with credit card company executives, and it might not be suitable for children: presidential aides have labeled some of the companies’ practices “abusive.”

At the State Department, Secretary Hillary Clinton welcomes the kids at an event that, in keeping with discreet diplomacy, is closed to the press. Children and their working parents are also expected to visit Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is an enthusiastic supporter of the event.

Is “shirtless cover” okay?

obamaparkWashingtonian is making the most of the buzz on its May issue with a shirtless President Obama on the cover.

Obama didn’t pose for the picture. It’s the same shirtless paparazzi photo taken  while he was on vacation in Hawaii in December.  But the magazine took some creative license and changed the color of his swim trunks from black to red.

The glossy magazine that bills itself as the guide to life, media, gossip and politics in Washington used the photo to illustrate its cover story “26 Reasons to Love Living Here” (he’s reason #2 – “Our New Neighbor is Hot,” according to the cover).

First Draft: From No. 54,000 to No. 2 — after a handshake

SUMMIT-AMERICAS/The handshake that set Washington buzzing — that awkward grip-and-grin between President Barack Obama and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez at a weekend summit in Trinidad — seems to be great for book sales. Specifically, the tome Chavez passed to Obama, “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage of a Continent” leaped from Number 54,000 on Amazon.com to Number 2, almost overnight.

The anti-colonialist book is in some strange company atop the online bestsellers list. Five of the others in the top 10 are editions in the popular romantic vampire “Twilight” series. There’s also “The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World” at Number 7. The online description says it’s about how “the United States there has been a gradual drifting away from the Founding Fathers original success formula.”

Number 9 is “The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide: Protect Your Savings, Boost Your Income, and Grow Wealthy Even in the Worst of Times.” Number 8 is “The Shack,” billed as “a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God.”

Just say “Bo” – Obama White House unveils first dog

USA/The Obama White House on Sunday unveiled the first family’s new pet, a 6-month-old male Portuguese Water Dog named Bo.
The black-and-white, curly-haired Bo was a gift to Obama daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, from Senator Ted Kennedy and will take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama had promised his daughters a new puppy during his campaign for the White House. In January, he told reporters the front-runner breeds were a Portuguese Water Dog and a Labradoodle.
The Web site of Dog Breed Info Center describes the Portuguese Water Dog as a hardy, muscular, medium-sized dog that grows to about 20-22 inches (51-56 cm) tall and is “lively but sensible, and loyal.”
“Bear in mind that this extremely intelligent dog will take liberties if it feels it is stronger-minded than its owners,” the center said. “This breed may out-think its owner!”
Online advertisements by U.S. and Canadian breeders quote prices for Portuguese Water Dogs at between $2000 and $2900.
The water-loving breed gets its name from its long history of helping Portuguese fisherman herd and catch fish, retrieve tackle, and carry messages between ships.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Pete Souza-The White House/Handout – Bo, a 6-month-old male Portuguese Water Dog, is seen in this White House photograph released April 12, 2009.