Tales from the Trail

Valentine’s Day with the GOP

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by sending your special someone a pink e-card, covered in hearts, with a message from the president: “Hope you like this Valentine’s card, your grandchildren are paying for it.”

In the GOP version of My Funny Valentine and a way to raise some sweet cash, the Republican National Committee is poking some fun at the White House and its Democratic cohorts with GOPvalentine.com, and more than 30,000 of the snarky messages had been sent as of Friday morning.

The site boasts 18 card options, including “This card entitles you to one free hug  full-body pat-down” with a photo of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and “Don’t censure this Valentine” with a photo of Rep. Charles Rangel, who was censured by the House of Representatives for ethics violations.

The media isn’t safe either. A card featuring Keith Olbermann, whose contract with MSNBC was terminated following a suspension for donating to Democratic candidates, reads “MSNBC just wants to be friends this Valentine’s Day.”

The one for incoming White House spokesman Jay Carney, a former Washington bureau chief for Time who left to become Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director, takes an even more pointed swing:

Trump accepts high marks for CPAC

USA-POLITICS/Donald Trump went to CPAC this week and aced his performance as a prospective White House Wannabe. Any doubts? Just ask him.

“I tell the truth. I tell it like it is, and people understand what I’m saying, and the place did go crazy,” The Donald tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe today.  ”That’s what I said in the speech. And that’s why I got 10 standing ovations.”

Remarks like that, taken out of context, might sound like the words of a talking ego.

Washington Extra – Food for thought

The U.S. government strongly supports democratic reforms in the Middle East. Just look at its comments on Egypt. But the American public doesn’t appear to be so gung-ho.

OBAMAA Reuters/Ipsos poll out today found that a solid majority, 58 percent, believe the United States should be cautious about backing democracy in the Middle East because elections could lead to anti-American Islamist governments.

The biggest opposition group in Egypt is the banned Muslim Brotherhood and President Barack Obama has acknowledged that the group’s ideology included anti-American strains.

Washington Extra – Let’s do lunch

Mending fences is clearly the White House play of the week.

USA/First a visit to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now lunch with Republican leaders from Capitol Hill. What next?

President Barack Obama at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow will host House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (that’s two of the three “Young Guns” of Capitol Hill).

Discussion will be heavy on the economy and spending. But if the Republicans are hoping for a heads-up on Obama’s budget proposal, they will be disappointed. “We will save that for them and for you for Monday,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Diplomatic storm leads to question: what was Wisner?

Frank Wisner created a bit of a diplomatic tempest when he went off message in Munich on Saturday and said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should stay in place to oversee the transition. “We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president (Mubarak) must stay in office to steer those changes.” SERBIA-KOSOVO/

That set the State Department and White House into scramble mode, trying to downplay Wisner’s role, after actually sending him on Jan. 31 to personally deliver a U.S. government message to Mubarak to take more action in response to mass protests.

Administration feathers got so ruffled that the White House tried backpedaling on whether Wisner had actually in fact been an envoy.

Washington Extra – Fruitcake diplomacy

If only he’d sent fruitcake…

USA/President Barack Obama is clearly trying to make nice with the business community and he promised the Chamber of Commerce a new friendly era after two years of coldness.

The White House and U.S. Chamber of Commerce can see each other across a park, but until recently acted like the other was on the wrong side of the tracks.

But it’s never too late to make-up in Washington, where yesterday’s enmities are often tomorrow’s alliances.

Washington Extra – People’s choice

The United States has decided — it is up to Egyptians to decide.

CANADA/Anyone looking for a clear sign that the United States does or doesn’t back its ally of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak, won’t find it in the official words out of Washington today.

Instead, Washington took the firm stance to perch on the tightrope — call for Democratic reforms, stay away from public opinions about Mubarak.

“We’re not picking between those on the street and those in the government,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Washington Extra – Job prospects

The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in 2010, the biggest GDP gain since 2005, but still too weak to make a big dent in the unemployment rate which ended the year at 9.4 percent.

EGYPT/USAEgyptian protesters again took to the streets seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak from the job he’s held for 30 years.

Rather than risk a fissure in messages, the White House held its press briefing, while the State Department canceled. In the strongest public message so far, the United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on the government’s response to the massive protests.

Obama misses walks, not leaving home without shaving

President Obama is staying neutral on the Super Bowl, dislikes the “bubble” of being president, and enjoyed (go figure) political science in college.

Those were some of the takeouts from the president’s roughly 45-minute interview Thursday on the Internet site YouTube, which posed questions to him from viewers across the country.

Asked what his favorite thing was about being president, Obama said having a positive impact on people’s lives took first place.

2012 possibility? The candidate speaks Mandarin

President Barack Obama was asked bluntly about the buzz that his Ambassador to China may turn into a Republican rival for the White House in 2012.

A Newsweek article about Ambassador Jon Huntsman has been seen by some as hinting at a potential run for the White House by the former Republican governor of  Utah.

CHINA/Obama responded with praise and humor to the question posed at a news conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao.