Tales from the Trail

Obama gets a taste of the presidential life

ABOARD A U.S. AIR FORCE JET – Barack Obama got a taste of U.S presidential life on Sunday, traveling from Chicago to Washington on the military aircraft often used to fly Vice President Dick Cheney.USA-OBAMA/
       
The plane, an Air Force Boeing 757, had all the trappings of Air Force One: the presidential seal at the front, name cards with the seal, and cups and plates emblazoned “Air Force One.”
 
Obama said he got a little choked up before leaving his Chicago home for the U.S. capital where he will take office on Jan. 20. He said it hit him as he flipped through a photo album a friend gave his 10-year-old daughter Malia.
 
“I just looked through the pages. The house was empty. It was a little tough. It got me,” he told reporters. His wife Michelle, Malia and daughter Sasha, 7, arrived in Washington on Saturday. The girls start school on Monday.
 
The Obamas will stay at the luxury Hay Adams Hotel across a park from the White House until Jan. 15 when they move into Blair House, a guest house near the White House.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed. Obama steps off a military plane at Andrews Air Force Base, Jan. 4, 2009

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Hotel will be Obamas’ first home in Washington

KAILUA, Hawaii – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and his family will trade their plush Chicago home for a Washington hotel this weekend when they formally move to the capital.USA-OBAMA/
 
The Obamas are still vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Oahu but are due to return to Chicago on Thursday in preparation for the relocation to Washington. Obama’s daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, are set to start classes at Sidwell Friends school on Monday.
 
“They will stay at a Washington hotel through the 15th and then they will move into the Blair House,” a transition aide said, referring to the guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
 
The Obamas had asked to move into Blair House two weeks before the traditional date of Jan. 15 because of their daughters’ Jan. 5 start at their new school, but the White House said this was not possible because of previously scheduled events.
 
Obama will formally move into the White House on Jan. 20, the day he is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
 
The transition aide said Obama would continue to work on his economic recovery plan to rescue the United States from deep recession in the days leading up to his inauguration.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hugh Gentry  U.S. President-elect Barack Obama with daughters Malia and Sasha in Hawaii, Dec. 30, 2008

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Obama’s pet care advice: remember the poop

 USA-OBAMA/CHICAGO – Pay attention, you puppy-loving kids. The future president of the United States says if you want a dog, you have to be able to take care of it. That includes cleaning up the, er, poop.

Sitting on a chair at an elementary school in front of a cross-legged group of children ranging from about 6 to 9 years old, Barack Obama told them how he had promised his young daughters Sasha and Malia that they could get a dog to bring to the White House.

“They’ve been asking for a dog for years now,” said Obama, adding that he wanted to make sure the girls were old enough to take care of a pet before getting them one.

Obama assembling high-powered basketball team

WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama did not have to look far to find his choice for education secretary — just across the basketball court.

USA-OBAMA/Obama and his education choice, Arne Duncan, play pick-up basketball games together, and Duncan has a history in the sport having played on the Harvard basketball team while a student there and then professionally in Australia.

At a news conference in Chicago to announce Duncan’s nomination, Obama chuckled when talking about the Chicago-area native.

Bush contemplates how he’d like to be remembered

President George W. Bush, nearing the end of his final term in office, says he most wants to be remembered as someone who came to Washington and didn’t lose his values.
 
Someone who didn’t sell his soul to the political process.
 
Somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace.
 
So he told his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, in an interview for StoryCorps, the national oral history initiative. An excerpt of the interview aired on National Public Radio on Thanksgiving Day and the White House released excerpts on Friday. The entire interview will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process,” Bush said in the interview. “I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values.  And I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice those values.”
 
“I’d like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor,” the president added.
 
He mentions his HIV/AIDS and malaria initiatives in Africa, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit as two programs he is proud of.
 
Asked about his “No Child Left Behind” education law, Bush called it one of the “significant achievements of my administration.”
 
“We said loud and clear to educators, parents, and children that we expect the best for every child, that we believe every child can learn, and that in return for federal money we expect there to be an accountability system in place to determine whether every child is learning to read, write and add and subtract,” Bush said.

Bush hands over power to President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009.
 
As he heads into the final weeks of his presidency, Bush’s job approval ratings remain low. Only about 26 percent approve of his performance, while some 70 percent disapprove.
 
Bush’s decision to take the United States to war in Iraq is widely unpopular. A Quinnipiac University poll in early November found that 58 percent disagreed with decision.

Mom wants them to make their beds, but…

The Obama girls had other ideas during their first visit to the White House since their father was elected the next president of the United States. Aided and abetted by President George W. Bush’s daughters, Barbara and Jenna, Malia and Sasha Obama did a little bed jumping during their visit.

First Lady Laura Bush told the story ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday.

“It wasn’t the Lincoln Bedroom,” she explained. “It was another bedroom with a very tall bed that we usually put a step out for people to step into when they stay in that room. But instead the little girls did the running jump, and Barbara and Jenna of course aided and abetted that jumping.”

A tough act to follow in the U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert Menendez has a tough if not impossible act to follow as successor to Sen. Charles Schumer as chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign committee.

Using such words as “aggressive,” “focused,” “committed” and “widely respected,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday named Menendez as committee chair.

Menendez of New Jersey will need all of those qualities — and probably more — to achieve anywhere near the success that Schumer of New York has enjoyed the past two elections.

A TARP by any other name…

WASHINGTON – TARP, the four-letter acronym for a $700 billion government bailout, has lost its original definition and needs a new name.

Even the White House on Tuesday acknowledged that TARP was perhaps not the most accurate portrayal of the changing intent of the financial rescue package.

After all, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson last week said the Troubled Assets Relief Program would not be used for troubled asset relief but rather to shore up financial firms.

Welcome to Front Row Washington: Tracking U.S. politics

WASHINGTON – With the election over, it is time to say happy trails to Reuters “Tales from the Trail” election blog and give a warm welcome to “Front Row Washington” which will provide readers a view from Reuters correspondents working the political beat around town and the country.

Reuters has a front row seat to all the action in Washington, whether in the White House, Pentagon, State Department briefing rooms or in halls of Congress. From here we will offer readers insight, analysis and behind-the-scenes stories as Democrats move into the White House and Republicans try to influence policy decisions.

We heartily thank all our readers over the last year or so who have made this blog a success and invite you to stay tuned because it will be a fun ride over the coming years.

Details for Obama White House tour on Monday emerge

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush and wife Laura will greet their successors Barack and Michelle Obama at the South Portico of the White House at 2 p.m. EST on Monday before giving them a tour of their new home.

They will tour the White House and Bush and the president-elect will stroll over to the Oval Office along the Colonnade between the White House residence and the West Wing. Their wives will have their own private meeting in the White House Residence.

“We are gratified by the invitation. I’m sure that, in addition to taking a tour of the White House, there’s going to be a substantive conversation between myself and the president,” Obama said during his first news conference as president-elect.