Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Making nice (or not)

It was President Obama’s day for showing the business community he cares. He invited CEOs to Blair House across the street from the White House to discuss ideas for creating jobs and revving up the economy.

USARepublicans tried to turn the olive branch into an inconsequential twig. House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (who wasn’t invited) tweeted while the meeting was underway that it amounted to a “nothingburger.”

Honeywell CEO David Cote, who attended the meeting, had some sympathy for Obama: “We avoided a depression largely because of the actions of the president … I think he gets zero credit for it in the business or political community, because it seems like you get zero credit for the problem you avoid, even though that may be the biggest thing that you do.”

On Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans were trying to make a contest out of who had more Christmas spirit.

Faced with the prospect of a legislative session going into and beyond the Christmas holiday, Republican Senator Jon Kyl said it was impossible to get everything done that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted “without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians…”

Seneca Nation has message for Obama on taxes

Robert Porter, president of the Seneca Nation tribe of Native Americans in western New York state, has a message for President Obama.

“I’d like to see the president not be so timid in his efforts to support and protect Indian country,” he says. USA/

Porter is one of dozens of tribal leaders from around the United States who is to meet Obama and other administration officials on Thursday.

Washington Extra – Question of Constitution

Constitutional or unconstitutional? That is the question the U.S. Supreme Court eventually may get to decide on President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

(By one definition, constitution can also refer to one’s health — just throwing that in.) 

A judge in Virginia declared unconstitutional a provision that requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a fine, backing arguments by the state that Congress exceeded its authority. USA-COURT/KAGAN

Obama spared bedroom banishment by signing hungry kids law

President Barack Obama escaped banishment from the marital bedroom by signing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on Monday, and delivering on an issue that his wife has fought hard to advance.

“Not only am I very proud of the bill, but had I not been able to get this passed, I would be sleeping on the couch,” Obama joked at the signing ceremony at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School, offering a rare, if humorously intended, glimpse of the presidential marriage.OBAMA/

The first lady, who has led a White House push to get American children eating better and exercising more, played along with the joke, but said, “all kidding aside, my husband worked very hard to make sure that this bill was a priority in this session.  And I am grateful to you.”

White House podium turns time machine for Bill Clinton redux

USA-TAXES/OBAMA-CLINTON

Bill Clinton took the White House press corps on an unexpected journey back in time on Friday afternoon with an impromptu trip to the briefing room podium, where he held forth for half an hour, obviously loving every minute.

The former president didn’t rise to the bait when he was asked whether he enjoyed coming in and offering advice more than running the country. Clinton, like his fellow Democratic President Barack Obama, grappled with crushing losses to Republicans in mid-term congressional elections two years into his presidency.

The two Democratic presidents called the surprise news conference after an Oval Office meeting to discuss Obama’s deal with Republicans, which extends tax cuts for middle-income earners and the wealthiest Americans and includes an extension of unemployment benefits and a cut in payroll taxes. Obama has been lambasted by some congressional Democrats for reaching an agreement that they say concedes far too much to the rival party.

Information-sharing guru becomes chief leak plugger

The U.S. government’s man in charge of efforts to plug future WikiLeaks-style mega-dumps of government secrets is a veteran intelligence officer who previously spent years trying to figure out how government agencies could more widely share sensitive information.

Earlier this week, Russell Travers moved to the White House, where he will head an interagency committee assigned to assess the damage caused by recent WikiLeaks exposures and come up with ways to prevent future large-scale leaks. AUSTRALIA-WATER/

Travers’ previous assignment was as a senior official of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a branch of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) which was set up after 9/11 to ensure that government agencies did more to share sensitive intelligence on terror suspects amongst themselves – an assignment which makes him one of the government’s foremost experts on sharing classified information.

Washington Extra – Pirate justice

The U.S. government would surely love to get its revenge on Julian Assange, and the Justice Department says a criminal investigation has already begun. But specialists in espionage law tell us that peculiarities of American law make it virtually impossible to bring a successful case against Assange, even if he were to set foot on U.S. soil. Evidence would be needed that defendants were in contact with representatives of a foreign power and intended to provide them with secrets, evidence that has not yet surfaced. SWITZERLAND/

So although the leaked documents may make intelligence sharing harder in the future, and may make foreign governments reluctant to trust the U.S. with sensitive information, retribution could be tough.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee took aim at whoever leaked the documents, saying they should be tried for treason and “executed.”  Others might yearn for a bit of pirate justice, for both Assange and the leaker.

Can Obama launch “peace talks” with Republicans at Camp David?

Camp David may be getting ready for another round of peace talks – of the domestic variety.

President Barack Obama is emphasizing bipartisanship after the midterm election shellacking dealt by Republicans and today decided to wave a olive branch — the possibility of a summit wiith congressional leaders early next year at the presidential retreat. OBAMA/
    
He offered the invite at a White House meeting with leaders of both parties where they discussed tax cuts, the START treaty, and other issues Obama wants to see resolved during the remainder of the “lame duck” session of Congress.

An invitation to Camp David is considered an honor. In fact, Obama said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid mentioned to him that despite 28 years in Congress, he had never been to Camp David.

Washington Extra – Stood up

Welcome to the new bipartisan Washington, where Obama and the Republicans are not only at odds over tax cuts, they can’t even agree when to have dinner. OBAMA/

Republicans apparently pulled out of the November 18 meeting called by President Barack Obama because of “scheduling conflicts.” Which is about as convincing a reason for not going to dinner as “I have to stay in and wash my hair.”  Apparently some Republican aides had been grumbling that Obama had called the meeting without consulting with their bosses.

In this sort of atmosphere, it wasn’t entirely surprising today to learn that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch poured cold water on the Democrats suggested compromise on taxes, a permanent extension for the middle class and a temporary one for wealthier Americans. Still, there is an element of brinksmanship about all of this, and Washington Extra still wouldn’t bet against a deal before year end.

Jindal’s not running for president, but…

LOUISIANA GOVERNORS ELECTIONFirst, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says he isn’t running for president. Then out comes his prescription for righting the national economy. 

“What I’m saying is, if we actually focus on the real challenges facing our country, not get diverted into taking over car companies and healthcare (but) cut taxes, create jobs, our country can get back on the right path, right direction,” the rising Republican conservative star of the South tells NBC in an interview.

Political oracle Karl Rove has anointed Jindal as one of 10 potential GOP presidential candidates for 2012.  Seven others on the list are also current or former state governors. But the 39-year-old son of Indian immigrants is the only one who is his state’s first nonwhite governor since the Civil War era, whose popularity among voters that has scored one decisive election victory after another.