Tales from the Trail

Thinking about the U.S. economy? It helps to be a stool maker

WASHINGTON – Trying to figure out where the Obama team is going on the economy? It probably helps to be a stool maker.
The $825 billion stimulus bill moving through Congress “is just one leg in a multi-legged stool,” the president said during a visit to Congress this week.
Reporters have been trying ever since to figure out exactly how many legs are on the economic recovery stool.
“Is it a three-legged or a four-legged stool?” one reporter asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs during a briefing Thursday. And, “What are those legs specifically?”
“I think roughly you have, whether you’re talking about stools or pillars or what have you, three main areas,” Gibbs said. “You have a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which is moving through Congress. You have a financial stability package. And you have financial re-regulation.”
“I don’t know that it’s tremendously pertinent to get caught up in whether there are three stools, three legs on this stool or four, or rungs, or what have you,” he said.
“I think the American people understand that we have to deal with … each of these in order to move the economy forward.”
Then Gibbs added a complication: ”I’m not sure … which leg housing is.”
But he sought to reassure the American people.
“You may not understand which leg of the stool you’re on, but you understand it’s a problem that has to be dealt with.”
What about the “international leg of the stool that was discussed by the G20 here … people say that it’s not moving anywhere,” asked a reporter, referring to a group of industrialized and major developing nations.
Gibbs said more detail on the international leg would be forthcoming as the G20 meeting in London in April draws near.
Reporters were not entirely satisfied with the level of detail coming from the White House spokesman.
“I’m wondering,” said one, “when you’re going to show us a little more leg.”
For more Reuters political news, please click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Gibbs at a briefing Tuesday)

First lady Michelle Obama in spotlight at reception

First lady Michelle Obama took a turn in the spotlight Thursday, hosting a reception for a woman whose treatment at Goodyear prompted Congress to change the law on pay discrimination. 
It was one of the highest-profile public events for the first lady since the inauguration last week. And it was on behalf of a woman — Lilly Ledbetter — who got to know the first couple well during the presidential campaign.
President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law in the East Room of the White House flanked by a small crowd of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“This is what change looks like,” Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland joked to the audience as the lawmakers crowded around the document Obama was to sign.
The first lady later spoke about Ledbetter at a reception in the State Dining Room as guests sipped orange juice and cranberry juice and munched cherry orange scones, apple muffins and other pastries.
“She is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world,” Michelle Obama said. 
“She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do, plain and simple.”
Ledbetter discovered after 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at her plant despite having more experience than some male co-workers.
A jury found she was the victim of discrimination. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision two years ago, saying discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the first offense.
“I will never see a cent from my case,” Ledbetter said. “But with the passage (of the bill) and president’s signature today, I have an even richer reward. I know that my daughters and granddaughters and your daughters and your granddaughters will have a better deal.” 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Michelle Obama greets guest); Reuters/Jim Bourg (Obama hands pen to Ledbetter after signing bill)

Contraceptives not the kind of stimulus Boehner can believe in

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama’s $825 billion plan to boost the recession-bound U.S. economy has some elements that, well, aren’t the sort of USAstimulus that House Minority Leader John Boehner says he can believe in.
“I’m concerned about the size of the package, and I’m concerned about some of the spending that’s in there,” Boehner complained Friday after a meeting at White House.
“How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?”
Hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?
The Ohio congressman’s office explains. One proposal included in the stimulus package would expand Medicaid family planning services to all 50 states.
The proposal would enable people who don’t qualify for Medicaid to receive the family planning services, including contraceptives.
“Whether or not you think that is good public policy, it has nothing to do with an economic stimulus,” a spokesman for Boehner said.
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Boehner watches Obama speak to press)

Bush twins offer advice to Sasha & Malia Obama

In the White House, it’s tradition for the outgoing president to leave a note for his successor.

This year, President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, decided to leave their own letter for President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia.

Entitled “Playing House in the White House,” the letter is full of the Bush daughters’ memories of first coming to the White House when they were 7 years old when their grandfather – George H.W. Bush – was sworn in as president.

White House website gets new look, blog

OBAMA/WASHINGTON – Moments after Barack Obama took the oath of office as the 44th U.S. president, the Web site for the White House, www.whitehouse.gov, underwent a dramatic metamorphosis, offering a new blog for online readers.

It will serve as a place for the most technology-savvy president in U.S. history and his new administration “to connect with the rest of the nation and the world,” Macon Phillips, director of new media for the White House, said on the site.

The site features a web-log or blog, an online “briefing room” and allows visitors to sign up for e-mail updates on major announcements and decisions, and to send in their own ideas.

Activists “shoe” Bush out the White House door

Critics of outgoing President George W. Bush turned a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House into a  rowdy street theater on the eve of his handover of power to Barack Obama.

An activist coalition calling itself ShoeBush.org piled a motley collection of dozens of old shoes, including tan combat boots said to have been worn by U.S. troops in Iraq and children’s bright yellow flip-flops, at what amounted to Bush’s doorstep.

“We wanted to shoo and boo Bush on his last day in office,” said Ann Wilcox of Washington D.C., who marched with the group of about 500 peace activists.

Obama losing track of all his things with moves

USA-POLITICS/OBAMABarack Obama started out the year at home in Chicago, moved to a Washington hotel for 10 days and is now at Blair House for the last few days before he moves into the White House on Tuesday.

All that moving around has left the president-elect unable to find some of his things.

Future White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Obama’s flight from Washington to Cleveland, Ohio, that his recent move to Blair House had left him “a little discombobulated.”

While Bush gives final address, Obama goes out to dinner

WASHINGTON – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama skipped his soon-to-be predecessor’s final address to the nation on Thursday in favor of dining out.
At roughly 8 p.m. in Washington, about the time President George W. Bush began his televised speech, Obama left his new temporary residence across from the White House to go out for dinner in a restaurant a few blocks away.
The ride in his motorcade lasted about a minute and an aide said his wife, Michelle, accompanied him for the meal.
Bush, who was speaking for the final time to the country, reflected on his eight years in office and opened by wishing his successor well.
“This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation,” Bush said. “And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.”
Obama spent the day working at his transition office in downtown Washington, then came to the Blair House — the residence where his family will stay from now until the inauguration — at around 7:15 p.m.
He left the house about 45 minutes later and entered the restaurant while Bush was speaking.
Maybe he’ll read the transcript?
Obama goes to Ohio on Friday to visit a factory. The trip is designed to highlight his proposals to create jobs and boost the economy. On Saturday Obama returns to Washington on a train ride that kicks off several days of inauguration festivities.
Obama routinely criticized Bush over domestic and foreign policy during the 2008 election, but the transition of power between the two leaders has proceeded smoothly.
Last week Obama had lunch with Bush and the three other living former U.S. presidents at the White House.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque. Secret Service agents stand in front of the security canopy after Obama arrived at his temporary residence at Blair House across the street from the White House in Washington January 15, 2009.

For more Reuters political news click here

Bush: the winsome hawk

WASHINGTON – The word of the day at the White House was winsome.

Not as in ‘you win some, you lose some,’ but just plain winsome as a description of President George BUSH/W. Bush’s mood five days before he relinquishes the presidency to Barack Obama.

“He’s not tired.  He just has a ton of energy,” Ed Gillespie, counsellor to Bush, told reporters. “I would say that he’s gotten a little more winsome.”

That raised the question of whether Gillespie had actually meant wistful since the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of winsome is: “generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence” or cheerful, lighthearted.

The First Draft, Monday, Jan. 5


President-elect Barack Obama woke up today in the tony Hay-Adams Hotel, across Lafayette Park from the White House.

Soon after sunrise, a black SUV was spotted carrying Obama’s younger daughter Sasha to her first day at Sidwell Friends School elementary campus in suburban Bethesda, Maryland. Older daughter Malia will go to Sidwell Friends’ middle school campus in Washington DC.
The Obamas arrived in Washington late Sunday, an extra-early move so the girls could start school at the beginning of the semester. Most presidents-elect arrive on January 15. That’s when the Obama family will move into Blair House, directly across the street from the White House. The new first family moves into the executive mansion on Inauguration Day, JBOXING/anuary 20.

Top news on morning TV shows was New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s withdrawal as Obama’s chosen commerce secretary in the face of a legal inquiry. Richardson, a former Democratic  presidential candidate, has denied wrongdoing in connection with the investigation of a California-based financial company that had done business with the New Mexico state government.