Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Republicans woo Iowa voters ahead of 2012

Image: Gingrich
Brian Frank  /  REUTERS
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's Spring Event at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa, on March 7, 2011.

'It's going to take all of us to defeat the left,' says Gingrich         

                              By Kay Henderson
updated 3/8/2011 3:11:24 PM ET
Five possible Republican White House hopefuls including Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty courted conservative voters on Monday in Iowa, the state that holds a critical early contest on the road to the party's 2012 U.S. presidential nomination.
Former House of Representatives Speaker Gingrich, former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer and former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain took turns bashing Democratic President Barack Obama.
Republicans aim to deny Obama a second term as president.
The Iowa caucuses, an important early prize in the race for the Republican nomination, are scheduled for February 6, 2012. No leading Republican, including the five who appeared at the event in Iowa, has yet formally launched a candidacy.
Meanwhile, a top aide to real estate tycoon Donald Trump visited Iowa on Monday to gauge interest in the idea of a Trump bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
First Thoughts: The White House vs. Waukee Trump, a billionaire and the celebrity star of NBC's "The Apprentice," has been flirting with a presidential run, speaking to a conference of conservatives in Washington last month. Many Republicans doubt he is serious.
Iowa's Republican Governor, Terry Branstad welcomed the five prospective candidates at the event at a church in Waukee, west of Des Moines, to what he called "the first significant event of the caucus season."
Branstad said the crowd gathered at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event were people who "show up at caucuses" and were valuable to a presidential campaign.
"I'm not yet a candidate," Gingrich said. "Every person that's going to speak tonight is a friend of mine. ... It's going to take all of us to defeat the left."
Pawlenty stressed his opposition to abortion and gay marriage. "We need leaders that cannot just talk the talk, but walk the walk," he said.
Santorum joked that he has been called an "ultra-conservative" Republican so often that "my kids used to think my first name was 'Ultra.'" The audience laughed and clapped.
Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump's company, met with Iowa Republicans.
"We do understand that Iowa is the first stop if anyone is interested in the presidential election. Certainly ... we are very anxious to learn about Iowa and be able to report back to Mr. Trump when he hopefully decides to run in June," Cohen said.

The Fix Six: The top free agent Iowa GOP operatives in 2012

Posted at 12:13 PM ET, 03/ 8/2011

By Chris Cillizza

In March alone, nine -- yes, nine! -- potential Republican presidential candidates will trek to Iowa.
Last night it was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and pizza magnate Herman Cain -- all of whom appeared at an Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Waukee.
Later this month, Gingrich, Cain and Santorum as well as Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will speak at the Conservative Principles Conference hosted by Iowa Rep. Steve King.
And, it will only get better -- or worse, depending on your perspective -- as winter turns to spring and candidates begin the full court press in Iowa in advance of the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses set for Feb. 6, 2012.
Each of the serious candidates are already on the hunt for the best political talent in Iowa -- the men and women who can guide them to victory (or an overperforming of expectations) in the Hawkeye State.
While some of the talent is already spoken for, there are plenty of top free agents that every candidate would like to have on their side.
Our Fix top six -- gleaned from conversations with smart politicos in the state -- is after the jump. Stay tuned for our Fix top six free-agent operatives in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in the coming weeks.
And make sure to check out our Fix top six national political operatives still on the market. (One of them, Jim Dyke, signed on with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour yesterday.)

The Fix Top Six Free Agent Iowa Operatives (listed alphabetically)
Matt Gronewald: Gronewald is seen as a rising star within the Iowa Republican party, having run the state's legislative campaigns in 2010 where GOPers picked up 16 seats. Prior to his work with the legislature, Gronewald did some Iowa work for the early stages of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign and in 2006 managed the unsuccessful bid by then state Rep. Bill Dix in the 1st district. (Dix is now a state senator.) Gronewald's connections to the state legislature are impossible to replicate and, therefore, very valuable.
Doug Gross: Gross has been in and around Iowa politics for the better part of the last thirty years -- both as a staffer and as a candidate. (He was the party's nominee for governor in 2002, losing out to then Gov. Tom Vilsack.) Gross served as co-chairman of then Texas Gov. George W. Bush's Iowa finance team in 2000 and was former Gov. Mitt Romney's Iowa chairman in 2008. Gross is also former chief of staff to Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and a key adviser to the governor.
Bob Haus: Haus has a long history with the Iowa caucuses, having run then Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's 1996 effort in the state, served as a consultant to businessman Steve Forbes' 2000 Iowa campaign and headed up former Sen. Fred Thompson's Iowa bid in 2008. Another bonus to landing Haus: He ran the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and, as a result, will have an insider's knowledge of how to win what really is the first vote of any import in the 2012 race.
Brian Kennedy: Kennedy is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa and a candidate in his own right, having run for -- and lost -- a GOP primary for the 1st district in 2006. Kennedy has connections that go well beyond the borders of Iowa, however, having served as a Republican National Committeeman and as a member of the Republican National Convention Platform Committee. In 2008, Kennedy served as an Iowa adviser for Romney.
Marlys Popma: Evangelical voters comprise a significant segment of the Iowa Republican caucus vote and no one knows how they think -- and vote -- better than Popma. Popma spent much of the 2008 cycle working as the head of evangelical outreach for McCain's presidential campaign, having signed on with the Arizona Senator way back in 2006 to run his coalitions effort in Iowa. Prior to McCain, Popma did a stint as the deputy national director for Gary Bauer's 2000 presidential bid. She's also served as the executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa and as president of Iowa Right to Life.
Nicole Schlinger: Schlinger is regarded as the top fundraiser in the Hawkeye State via her firm Capitol Resources. In addition to her financial chops. Schlinger also has a telemarketing firm known as Campaign Headquarters that would be a very welcome addition to any presidential candidate trying to reach as many Iowa voters as possible. Schlinger ran Romney's 2007 Iowa straw poll operation, delivering a victory for the former Massachusetts governor.

By Chris Cillizza  | March 8, 2011; 12:13 PM ET 

Jim Dyke signs on with Haley Barbour

Posted at 9:39 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011

By Chris Cillizza

Former Republican National Committee communications director Jim Dyke has signed on with Mississippi Gov.Haley Barbour's political action committee, a major signing in the below-the-radar fight for staff talent in advance of the 2012 GOP presidential primary fight.
Dyke will serve as a communications adviser to Haley's PAC and is expected to be intimately involved when -- and if -- Barbour decides to run for president.
"Haley is delighted to have someone as talented as Jim Dyke joining his team to help us manage the increased national media interest and demand in the governor," said Henry Barbour who serves as the treasurer of Haley's PAC. "Jim's knowledge and experience will prove invaluable to Haley in the coming few months."
Dyke served as the communications director at the RNC during the 2004 re-election race of President George W. Bush then went into business for himself forming Jim Dyke & Associates in 2005.
Since that time, he's immersed himself in the creation of the outside group effort on the Republican side, serving on the board of American Crossroads and playing a senior role in Resurgent Republic, a conservative-aligned polling effort. He will remain with his company full time, serving Barbour in an advisory capacity.
Dyke also lives in South Carolina, a major advantage given the primacy of the Palmetto State in the early days of the GOP nominating process. (Dyke was one of the Fix's top six free-agents in the hunt for 2012 talent.
Dyke's hiring is the clearest signal yet that Barbour will run for president in 2012. He has said he plans no formal decision until the Mississippi legislature adjourns in April.

By Chris Cillizza  | March 7, 2011; 9:39 PM ET 

The top six free-agent 2012 GOP operatives

Posted at 12:42 PM ET, 02/17/2011

By Chris Cillizza

Every presidential nominating fight is like an iceberg -- the bulk of it is below the surface.
That's especially true when it comes to staff. Most average voters have no idea who the campaign manager or senior adviser is on any campaign -- Mark Penn, of course, excepted -- but the reality is that those men and women are the ones shaping the campaign message, raising the money and making sure the candidate is where he (or she) need to be at all times.
Many top Republican staffers have already been snapped up by presidential campaigns-in-waiting but there are still a lot of folks on the sidelines -- weighing offers and deciding the best place to take their talents. (LeBron James reference!)
Our list of the top six -- we couldn't limit ourselves to just five! -- free agent Republican operatives in the 2012 presidential talent pool are after the jump. For the purposes of this exercise, we've limited our picks to people on the national level.
Make sure to stay tuned for our lists on the most wanted Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina operatives too!
* Nick Ayers: Ayers is, without question, the most coveted staffer still not signed to a campaign yet. He spent the 2008 and 2010 cycles as executive director of the Republican Governors Association, working with Gov. Haley Barbour (Miss.) to turn the committee into a financial juggernaut that outshone even the Republican National Committee. Ayers cut his political teeth in Georgia working for then Gov. Sonny Perdue. Now, he's fielding offers from a variety of campaigns -- and potential campaigns -- at the moment. Whoever lands him will have scored a major coup.
* Gentry Collins: Collins may be best known for being the guy who wrote the memo that brought RNC Chairman Michael Steele down. But, Collins has a long pedigree in presidential politics that includes a deep knowledge of Iowa -- his home state. Collins headed up former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Iowa effort in 2008 but hasn't inked a deal with his former employer -- or anyone else -- just yet.
* Jim Dyke: Dyke has the sort of political pedigree most presidential campaigns would die for. He served as the communications director at the Republican National Committee during the 2004 re-election race of President George W. Bush then went into business for himself forming Jim Dyke & Associates in 2005. Since that time, he's immersed himself in the creation of the outside group effort on the Republican side, serving on the board of American Crossroads and playing a senior role in Resurgent Republic, a conservative-aligned polling effort. Plus, Dyke lives in South Carolina and knows Palmetto State politics intimately well.
* Mike DuHaime: DuHaime has already been at the top of a presidential campaign once -- serving as campaign manager for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's bid in 2008. Duhaime's more recent claim to fame, however, is as the senior strategist for Gov. Chris Christie's (R) successful 2009 campaign in the Garden State. He also oversaw the 2010 independent expenditure campaign at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. DuHaime currently works at Mercury, a public-affairs and consulting firm.
* Brian Jones: Jones is a veteran communicator, having served as communications director at the RNC and, for a time, Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential bid. Jones, like most good press people these days, has a background in research. He was research director at the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2002 cycle.
* Heath Thompson: Thompson is a low-key presence in Washington but a major player in Republican campaign politics. After spending several years working for Republican media guru Scott Howell, Thompson and fellow Howell alumnus Todd Harris started their own firm earlier this year. In 2008, Thompson advised Giuliani and two years later served as the lead strategist for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Thompson also has strong ties to South Carolina, having lived and worked in the state for years.
By Chris Cillizza  | February 17, 2011; 12:42 PM ET 

Obama as beer-brewer-in-chief

By Daniel Strauss 03/04/11 11:33 AM ET

Barack Obama will go down in history as, among other things, the first president to brew his own beer in the White House.

The blog Obama Foodorama reported this week that the president's Super Bowl party featured a selection called "White House Honey Ale,” brewed right at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The blog said the president and first lady Michelle Obama bought the equipment with their own funds (an aide did not specify when) in advance of serving it at the February gathering.

The "honey" part of the beer comes from Michelle Obama's garden beehive. The beehive is also a White House first.

Foodorama notes that Obama is the first president since George Washington to homebrew beer, and the very first to offer the brew at the White House. (Washington was a perennial self-brewer, the blog said, but he’s the only president who didn't live in the White House.)

The news sparked a small flurry in the blogosphere given that Obama, who has previously settled friendly bets between world leaders with beers like Goose Island's 312, had not shown a predilection for do-it-yourself beers. Obama settled a World Cup bet last summer with British Prime Minister David Cameron by giving his English counterpart a bottle of 312. And during 2009's so-called "beer summit" with Vice President Joe Biden, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Massachusetts Police Sgt. James Crowley, Obama drank a Bud Light.

Although the White House isn't ready to release the recipe yet, a spokesman told Foodorama that “White House Honey Ale” isn't a one-time thing.

"It is very safe to assume that there will be more White House beer in the future," White House East Wing spokeswoman Semonti Stephens said.

More On White House Homebrewed Beer...

MONDAY, MARCH 07, 2011

Major media outlets mis-report that President Obama *himself* is brewing beer...& claim that he'll be doing it again for St. Patrick's Day; the White House responds...
Last week, the Obama Foodorama story about homebrewed beer at the White House created international headlines, from TV news to print and digital media. But National Public RadioFox News, andThe Hill each managed to misreport a central fact, and claimed that President Obama himself brewed the beer. While the idea of the Commander in Chief hand-crafting beer for guests is fun, he's a bit too busy winning the future to be elbowing his Chefs out of the way in the White House kitchen--because that's who actually brewed the White House Honey Ale, not President Obama. (Inset is a bottle of the WH homebrew)
Each of the stories linked to or referenced the original story here at ObFo--but apparently the writers didn't manage to actually *read* it.

"Barack Obama will go down in history as, among other things, the first president to brew his own beer in the White House," was the opener for the story in The Hill.

"During this year's Super Bowl, President Obama created a stir by offering guests at the White House beer that he'd brewed himself," was the opener on NPR's news blogThe two-way.

NPR then built its story on The Hill's mis-reporting of the subject, and thus mirrored The Hill's mistake. Fox News put the mis-info right in the headline:

And then Fox stole The Hill's mis-reporting verbatim, opening their story with The Hill's lede: "Barack Obama will go down in history as, among other things, the first president to brew his own beer in the White House." (Above: Obviously, the Fox headline)
It's a big ol' case of media entities playing that kids' game, "telephone," or "grapevine," where you whisper things in each others' ears and laugh hilariously at the garbled outcome.

This isn't so hilarious, though, because at least two of these media entities are supposed to be dedicated to that age-old journalistic practice of fact checking. Sure, it's a story about beer--but it's also a story about the President of the United States. And if you can't get the facts straight about the President and beer...what else are you misreporting? For Fox, that's an easy answer: Opinion. But for the other two theoretically more responsible media outlets, it's annoying at best and very troubling at worst.

Irish media fabricates White House beer details; NPR reports that, too
A large Irish digital media entity also fell down on the job of fact checking, but did swell with publishing pure fiction. President Obama will be serving homebrew for his annual St. Patrick's Day reception, reported Irish Central and its affiliated entities. The websites even claimed that the White House announced this (no, it did not, for the record).

"President Obama has officially declared March 2011 Irish American Heritage Month. More importantly the White House also announced that the president would be brewing his own beer called White House Honey Ale for St. Patrick’ Day," Irish Centralnoted.

NPR re-published the fabrication, and thus gets an A+ for lack of fact checking:

"According to the Irish Central website, when Obama announced that this March is Irish American Heritage Month, he also pledged to serve his own White House Honey Ale," NPR noted in its beer story.

However, the NPR writer did have the sense to add:

"One word of warning: I haven't been able to independently confirm that the Obamas will serve the beer at St. Patrick's Day (!)."

Well, ObFo *was* able to independently confirm the facts.

"There are no actual plans for homebrew to be made for St. Patrick's Day," an East Wing spokesman told ObFo.

The President, it should be noted, actually did issue a proclamation for Irish American Heritage Month. Sláinte!

*Photo at top via AP; photo of White House Honey Ale by Pete Souza/White House


Obama Chefs Are First White House Homebrewers
Making History With White House Honey Ale

The Obamas Make History With Homebrewed White House Honey Ale


White House beermaking is a milestone in American culinary history that the Chefs will continue; there might even be Hops planted in the Kitchen Garden...
UPDATES: 2 notes at bottom of post, and a post hereabout media mis-reporting of facts...
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made culinary history when they served homebrewed White House Honey Ale, made with a pound of honey from the White House Beehive, to guests at last month's Super Bowl party. They are the first presidential couple to ever charge their chefs with the ancient--and now wildly popular--art of homebrewing, according to White HouseCurator Bill Allman. (Above: The President and First Lady check out beer steins; inset is a bottle of White House Honey Ale)

Allman is the very busy historian who oversees every extraordinary aspect of the most famous 132-room museum/residence in America, from the priceless antiques and art to the decades of records about domestic practices and sometimes curious presidential habits. The Obamas' White House homebreweing has no precedent: Allman did a thorough check of his sources, beginning with the days when the White House was first occupied more than 200 years ago.

"We have no record of beer brewing at the White House," Allman said.

William Ushong, historian for the White House Historical Association, concurs.

"I haven't heard of any beer brewing going on at the White House itself," Ushong said. "President Jefferson would be your likely candidate, given his epicurean taste."

But no: Even President Thomas Jefferson (in office 1801-1809), who is credited with being the first president to spotlight the importance of the culinary arts at the White House, did not homebrew at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Allman said that while President Jefferson "rather famously took a personal interest in buying wines, by which he severely depleted his personal accounts," a previous White House historian recorded that Jefferson's Steward bought the whiskey, beer, and cider that was served, so it wasn't brewed on site. (Jefferson, above)

Allman added that there's also no evidence that homebrewing occurred in other early presidential administrations, when "skills possibly plied at [the presidents'] personal homes might have been plied at their temporary official home." Even during Prohibition in the 1920s, when all of America was dry, there is no record of home brewing or distilling at the White House, Allman reported, while admitting that "there was some consumption of illegal alcoholic beverages."

"There is no evidence in our files concerning brewing during those decades or during the rest of White House history," Allman said.

Homebrewing takes hold at the White House...
The White House Honey Ale was not the first time the White House chefs have homebrewed. You don't serve your very first fermentation experiment to special visitors, do you? The President and Mrs. Obama's Super Bowl guest list mixed glamor with politics: Singer/actress Jennifer Lopez and her husband, singer Marc Anthony mingled with a smattering of Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress, and First Family friends.

But Super Bowl Sunday was the first time there was an announcement about homebrewed beer, because clearly the White House is aware that it's special; the bottle labels for the White House Honey Ale were created in-house, to mark the occasion.

And the homebrewing is going to continue.

"It is very safe to assume that there will be more White House beer in the future," said Semonti Stephens, a spokesman for the East Wing.

For the Super Bowl party, "90 to 100" 12-ounce bottles of the Honey Ale were served, Stephens said. There were no leftovers.

The chefs, who are led byExecutive Chef Cristeta Comerford (l), are quite excited about homebrewing, according to Stephens. Between the savory side and the pastry side of the kitchen, there are about a dozen chefs, all told--and a number are exploring the wonders of boiling and bottling.

"It's a collaborative effort," Stephens said.

Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, for the record, is a whiz at molecular gastronomy--the science of food. Brewing some lovely White House Honey Ale is right in keeping with his interests in the reactive nature of edible ingredients; he's even lectured at Harvard University about the science of food, and alongside world-class scientists at a recent convention in DC.

Red, White and Brew
The Obamas and their chefs have now joined a national community of enthusiasts that seems to be getting larger by the day, because homebrewing (and craft brewing and micro brewing) have surged in popularity in recent years, becoming one of the hottest trends in the food world. There are more than 700,000 homebrewers in the US, according to the American Homebrewers Association. Every year there are countless festivals, competitions, and beer bashes held to laud the wonders of home fermentation. Homebrewing has been legal in the US since 1978--and yes, it is legal in DC, where there's a very active cadre of Hop Heads.

The President and First Lady purchased the brewing equipment with their own funds, a White House aide said on Super Bowl Sunday. Stephens declined to identify exactly what kind of equipment--it's a private purchase, after all--but according toAlan Talman of Karp's Homebrew, a brewing supply shop in East Northport, New York, the Obamas could have a very workable homebrewing set-up for as little as $60 dollars. A fancy rig would run between $200-$400 dollars. And the White House kitchen, though notoriously small considering the vast amount of delights that are created each week, is already in possession of some of the finest cooking equipment available.

Hops in the Kitchen Garden...
The very talented chefs have been engaging in all kinds of "new" culinary adventures since the President and Mrs. Obama arrived, from pickling vegetables grown in Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden (which have been given as high-profile diplomatic gifts) to making cheese in house, which occurred for Sunday night's black tie Governors' Dinner, when homemade ricotta was served. But the culinary adventures are not really new: They're practices that were once standard in American kitchens. They just haven't gone on at the White House before--or were conducted behind the scenes, with no announcement. Home pickling and cheese making are also hot trends right now in the American cooking scene.

Assistant chef Sam Kass (l), who does double duty as the First Lady's Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, is very excited about the homebrewing: Hops could be the next "experimental" vegetable planted in the First Lady's Kitchen Garden, which Kass oversees. 

"Believe me, I've thought about it," said Kass, chuckling, when asked if there was a possibility that the key beer-making crop might join the other delicacies growing in America's most famous edible garden.

"It has definitely crossed my mind," Kass said.

Mrs. Obama's 1,500 square-foot Kitchen Garden, located on the bottom of the South Lawn, will shortly be re-planted for the Spring season, and there's plenty of room for Hops, which are relatively easy to grow. The garden is simultaneously a nutrition education project for children and an unequaled chef's garden, the source of more than 60 kinds of vegetables, including heirloom varieties and special edibles sourced from Jefferson's own kitchen garden at his Virginia plantation home, Monticello. It's overseen by master historical gardener Peter Hatch, who has advised on the Kitchen Garden. The White House crops are used to create everything from State Dinners to simple First Family meals. About a third of the crops are donated to Miriam's Kitchen, a local social services agency that feeds the homeless.

Ale to the Chief: America's beer lovers are thrilled...
Although President Obama has had a couple of other high-profile beer events during his Administration--there was the Beer Summit in 2009, and last summer's World Cup Beer Bet with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron--news of the presidential predilection for homebrewed beer caused a huge froth of excitement. The White House brewing became a hot topic on the internet, the subject of many postings to beer list-servs and chatboards. (Above: The Prime Minister and President toast as they swap beers; the bet ended in a draw)

Talman, of Karp's Homebrew, said the presidential beer was the subject of much discussion among visitors to his store, which is about a half hour outside New York City.

"Plenty of people have mentioned it to me, and people in the beer trade are passing the word around," Talman said.

“Last weekend at his SB party the president served homebrew at the White House,” Denny Conn of the Cascade Brewers Society told an Oregon state senate committee, during a February hearing about a bill to allow homebrew competitions to resume at state fairs. The committee passed the measure, and sent it to the full senate for a vote, according to the Portland Tribune.

Obama Foodorama got hundreds of excited e-mails from readers praising the President and First Lady's excellent taste, and looking for more info; there was so much cheery, beery e-mail that the interns are still plowing through it. There were even invitations sent in for President Obama, asking him to visit homebrewing fests (you can e-mail the President here, BTW).

Of course everyone wants the recipe--but the White House isn't ready to release a "definitive" recipe just yet. That'll have to wait until the recipe is absolutely perfected.

"Maybe with the next batch," Stephens said.

The White House is very good about issuing recipes, as can be seen from the sidebar of this blog.

Another first: The White House Beehive
The White House Honey Ale was a particularly special way for the President and First Lady to get a gold star in the history books, because the White House Beehive is also a first. Before the Obamas installed the Beehive in 2009, there'd never before been one on the eighteen acres of park-like grounds. Located beside the Kitchen Garden, the Beehive is strapped to its base, so it doesn't blow over when President Obama flies in on Marine One. (Above: The Bee Hive)

The Beehive is overseen by Bee Keeper in Chief Charlie Brandts, who says the honey changes in taste while the bees are active, depending on where they're getting their pollen. Last season, the hive produced 160 pounds of honey, and it regularly appears on White House menus, for instance for the State Dinner in honor of China's President Hu Jintao. It's also used for traditional food art creations, like the 400-pound holiday White House Gingerbread House.

More White House food firsts...
In addition to the Beehive and the homebrewing, the pickling and cheese making, included on the long list of White House food firsts is the Kitchen Garden itself, the first on the White House grounds since World War II. The Obamas are the first to include cooking demonstrations at both their annual Easter Egg Rolls, and the first to invite guest chefs to cook State Dinners. They're the first to ever have a Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives. Most recently, they became the first presidential couple to appoint a male Social Secretary--and an openly gay one, at that. Jeremy Bernard is the fellow who will now oversee the events where all the culinary history is being made. And, of course, there's the biggest first of all, the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign. Mrs. Obama's massive project is the first-ever national campaign run by a First Lady that focuses on healthy eating and fitness initiatives. (Above: Kass and the First Lady, with child helpers, working in the Kitchen Garden)

The President and Mrs. Obama have often said that they aim to make the White House truly the People's House, and the culinary adventures of their chefs reflect that. They're re-creating the best of American food traditions, creating new ones, and making history as they go.

UPDATE, March 4: If you are visiting here from NPR, please note that the report that President Obama is doing the beer brewing HIMSELF is entirely false. And if you arrived here from Irish Central or other Irish media, please note that it isNOT TRUE that the White House has announced that the President himself will be homebrewing beer to serve to guests on St. Patrick's Day, fun as that sounds.

UPDATE, March 2: For all the serious Hop Heads who've e-mailed: Yes, President George Washington was a well-known homebrewer. President Washington is also the only presidentwho never lived in the White House. He oversaw construction, which began when the first cornerstone was laid in October of 1792. But it was not until 1800, when the White House was almost completed, that its First residents, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in.

*Top photo by Samantha Appleton/White House; beer bottle photo by Pete Souza/White House; Comerford photo by API; others by Eddie Gehman Kohan/

*In the photo at top, the President and First Lady were attending the Marine Barracks evening parade in Washington, on July 24, 2009.

Santorum Shines, Cain Impresses at IFFC Event

By Craig Robinson
The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition (IFFC)was the focus of the political world yesterday as it hosted five potential 2012 presidential candidates at their annual spring fundraiser.  An over-flow crowd of over 1500 people packed the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, where the event was held.  Governor Terry Branstad, who addressed the crowd, called the IFFC gathering the first significant event in the lead up to the 2012 caucuses.
The event, which was covered by hundreds of journalists from around the country, also attracted Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, who filmed her show live from Point of Grace last night.  The main attractions of the night were Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Buddy Roamer, but Governor Branstad, Congressman Steve King, and Ralph Reed were also featured prominently. Pete Ricketts, the National Republican Committeeman from Nebraska and owner of the Chicago Cubs, introduced each of the candidates.
Unlike previous events the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition have held, this year’s event looked professionally produced.  In fact, it looked and felt like a national debate put on by a major news network.  The folks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition should be very proud of the type of event they were able to produce last night.  They should be equally proud of the massive crowd that attended.
While the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition was a big winner, let’s look at how each of the potential 2012 presidential candidates placed after sharing the same stage.
1. Rick Santorum:
If any candidate had a lot on the line at last night’s event, it was Rick Santorum.  The 1500 or so people who attended this event are the ones he needs to convince that he’s the horse to back in the Iowa caucuses.  Not only did Santorum deliver a heartfelt speech that addressed the social issues that those in attendance are passionate about, but he also made it clear that he’s just not saying that these issues are worth fighting for.  He’s actually led the fight on them.
Santorum explained that his battles to advance a socially conservative agenda have come at a price.  Even though Santorum led the fight in the Senate on welfare reform and medical savings accounts, the media always referred to him as an ultra-conservative because of his efforts to fight for pro-life and pro-family causes.
“My kids used to think my first name was Ultra,” Santorum told the crowd.  “Once you fight for the moral fabric of your country, you’re labeled. I’m Ultra because I share your values, and I fought for them,” he told the audience.
Santorum’s pro-family accomplishments are more impressive then the other four candidates who shared the stage last night combined.  While Gingrich talked about what executive orders he would issue on day one of his presidency and Tim Pawlenty bragged about his fiscal stewardship while being the governor of a blue state, Santorum reminded people that he led the fight to end the practice of partial birth abortions that it was he who led the fight for the unborn victims of violence act, and it was he who led the charge on the born alive infant protection act, which simply states that if a baby is born alive during an attempted abortion, the child is extended legal protection.
Besides Newt Gingrich wanting to allow Israel the right to locate its capitol in the city of Jerusalem, Santorum was the only candidate to touch on foreign policy.  Santorum talked about how Republicans, including President George W. Bush, failed to understand that they were losing the battle in America, not Iraq in 2006.  Santorum said, “This isn’t a war on terror, just like WWII wasn’t a war on blitzkrieg.  We are at war with jihadist.  They hate us because of who we are.  I took on that battle and continue to do so.”
Santorum also mentioned that he supported the Iran freedom and support act, which sowed the seeds of freedom inside of Iran.  Santorum then criticized the current administration for sitting on the sidelines or siding with the mullahs in Iran and Libya.
Santorum is not as good of a speaker as Mike Huckabee was in 2007 and 2008, but what he lacks in that department he makes up for with substance and results.  His record of accomplishment matters to those that attended last night’s event.  Those people might not be ready to join his effort right now, but when people start making decisions on who they support, he’s going to be on their list.  Santorum performance last night reminded me a lot of what Huckabee did in April of 2007 when he shared the stage with nine other 2008 Republican candidates at a Republican Party of Iowa event.
2. Tim Pawlenty
Santorum was the clear winner last night, but the battle for second place wasn’t quite so clear.  I think Pawlenty earned the spot despite referring to Steve Scheffler, the event’s organizer, as Chuck Scheffler.  Not only did this occur three times during his speech, but was told it also happened a couple times in the private reception before the event as well.  It’s hard to understand how Pawlenty’s impressive Iowa staff allowed that to happen so often last night.
Like many of Pawlenty’s speeches, they start slow and finish strong.  For the first half of the speech, Pawlenty told a few jokes.  One was a hit, while the other one was a flop.  He then recounted stories about President Lyndon Johnson and President Ronald Reagan.  The stories were great, but it I can’t vote for Reagan in 2012.
Pawlenty then switched gears and became the candidate the field so desperately needs, a strong governor who is proud of what he accomplished during their time in office.   Some of the accomplishments that Pawlenty touted were reducing spending in Minnesota for the first time, actually cutting taxes twice, and paying teachers based on performance.
He also did the best job of any candidate in tying his record as governor to the current events of the day.  In 2005, Pawlenty’s differences with the Minnesota Democrats led to a state government shutdown.  He also didn’t budge when unionized bus drivers demand exorbitant retirement benefits.  His stance led to a 41-day transit strike.  Pawlenty also noted that he was one of only four governors who received an “A” from the CATO institute.
Pawlenty then closed his speech with what has become his “New Birth of Freedom” close.  “My friends, none of this is going to be easy.  If prosperity were easy, everybody around the world would be prosperous. If freedom were easy, everybody around the world would be free. And, if security were easy, everybody around the world would be secure,” Pawlenty said.  He then added, “Valley Forge wasn’t easy. Settling the West wasn’t easy. Winning World War II wasn’t easy. Going to the moon wasn’t easy. This ain’t about easy.”
Pawlenty’s speech filled the room with energy, but by the end of it, he seems to be losing his voice.  It also seemed a little forced or unnatural for him.  Pawlenty is a very nice calm person, but his rousing close is most likely a tactic to overcome his perceived charisma deficit.  Overall, Pawlenty scored well with the crowd but didn’t have the pro-life record or testimony that Santorum was able to offer.
3. Herman Cain
If I was working for one of these candidates, the one speaking spot that would have made me grimace is one that followed Herman Cain.  Cain is a phenomenal orator, and his speaking abilities allowed him to fit right in with the more established candidates he shared the stage with last night.
Cain’s fiery and enthusiastic speech was extremely well received by the crowd.  He was interrupted twelve times by applause.  The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and former Chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, set a high bar that was difficult for the others to follow.   The other candidates spent the rest of the night trying to measure up to his performance, and none could match Cain’s performance quality.
Cain laid out a vision for America based on three guiding principles: (1) do the right thing, (2) lead the nation from an entitlement society to an empowerment society, and (3) it’s not about us, it’s about the grandchildren.  Much of the crowd was likely seeing and hearing Cain for the first time.  He made about as good an initial impression as one could make.  Herman Cain helped his presidential aspirations Monday night.
The only problem with Cain’s speech is that, once again, he failed to give credit to Benjamin Mays, with whose words Cain began his speech.  It would be one thing if Cain was so well known that the audience knows that the words he began his speech with were not his own, but neither he nor Mays, who is one of Cain’s heroes, is well known enough to forgo a proper citation.
4. Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich had the unenviable task of immediately following Cain.  He knew it would be a tough act to follow, so he started his speech by joking that he just told Cain, “I’m stealing as much of that as I can.” Gingrich’s speech lacked the fire and passion of Cain’s and seemed to drag a bit in the beginning.   However, the former U.S. House Speaker eventually won the crowd over by continually focusing on a “power of the people” theme.
Gingrich is the idea man of the Republican Party, and that was on full display Monday night. His promise to issue four executive orders on his first day in office drew cheers from the crowd.  They included eliminating White House “czars”, stopping taxpayer funding for abortions in foreign countries, restoring conscience clauses for healthcare workers and telling the State Department to respect the sovereignty of other nations, particularly Israel.  Gingrich was interrupted by applause 11 times during his speech.
Gingrich didn’t hurt himself at last night’s event but he didn’t do anything to set himself apart from the other candidates either.  Last month at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, Gingrich blew the doors off of the place.  He didn’t have the same sort of performance last night in front of a crowd that is sure to attend the caucuses next year.
5. Buddy Roemer
The biggest unknown of the group was former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer.  His speech drew the most laughs from the crowd.  Roemer’s message started to resonate with some, but it dragged on way too long.  He focused on his extensive resume as a former congressman and governor.  Then he shifted to Washington, D.C., corruption, which struck a chord with the crowd.
However, Roemer spent way too much time talking about how to grow his campaign.  His plan too closely resembled a pyramid scheme, and I wondered if he was going to ask people to buy some Amway products.   He also quoted a Robert Frost poem near the end that seemed totally lost on the crowd.  Roemer claims he would not accept any individual donations over $100 and no PAC money for his campaign.  The crowd appreciated his points, but the speech would have been much better if it was 10 minutes shorter.

Potential GOP presidential candidates visit Iowa

                              By MIKE GLOVER
The Associated Press
updated 3/8/2011 1:05:49 AM ET

Several Republicans mulling 2012 presidential bids descended on Iowa Monday to test their strength among social conservatives who hold the key to the state's lead-off caucuses.
Whether any of them manages to stand out from the crowd hints at how a scattered and as-yet undeclared GOP field will eventually shake out. Five of the potential candidates took the stage for a forum at a church in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee, hoping to set themselves apart.
"I do believe we have an extraordinarily fundamental choice to make in this election," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of those who participated. "We are at a crossroads that we cannot hide from: What kind of country do we want to leave to our children and grandchildren?"
The forum hosted by The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition also included former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, businessman and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
For the first time in the 2012 election cycle, several potential contenders for the White House shared a stage to make their case to hundreds of activists. All five argued that they can be best trusted to follow the conservative path, going out of their way to talk about religion in a state where social and religious conservatives play a heavy role in GOP politics.
"The American dream is under attack, that's the bad news," Cain said. "The good news is we are on the attack. We have got to lead this nation from an entitlement society to an empowerment society. We must defend those principles this nation was founded on."
Cain said he had no plans to run for president, but "was compelled" because the nation was on the wrong track.
Meanwhile, Gingrich said he was "in the process of exploring" a presidential bid. "We're all going to have to be on the same team after this is over," he said.
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer got some of the loudest response with his folksy speech. "I'm the only person thinking about running for president who has been elected as a senator and a governor," he said.
Pawlenty quoted heavily from the Bible. "We need to be a nation that turns toward God, not one that turns away from God," he said. "Our freedom comes from our creator."
Santorum praised the Faith and Freedom Coalition, saying the group "means a lot to me."
"This is a group that I've been attached to at the hip for long, long years," he said, urging a tighter focus on social issues.
"America has to be about shared values or what is it," Santorum said. "Once you stick your head out on moral issues, you're labeled."
Steve Scheffler, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said the event was just the beginning of the 2012 caucus campaign and few would be making commitments on candidates so soon.
"No one is going to make up their mind after tonight," Scheffler said. "Most of them are coming from pretty similar positions."
Activists likely are looking for a candidate they think will actually carry out campaign promises after elected, he said.
"We're looking for somebody with some backbone, who has a little iron in his spine," Scheffler said.
Earlier Monday, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who sought the GOP nomination in 2008, spoke at three events scattered throughout Iowa and sponsored by The Family Leader.
"The role of government is to protect liberty," Paul said. "Put the responsibility at the local level, not in the king in Washington who has gone astray."
The Family Leader is a high-profile social conservative group that is inviting potential Republican presidential candidates to address family issues. The group will host Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in coming weeks.
"We have accepted the reality that government will provide for us," Paul said. "Today we are at a point where the family has been under pressure."
Also Monday, a top aide to billionaire real estate developer and potential candidate Donald Trump landed in Iowa for a series of meetings. Trump aide Michael Cohen met with such key Republicans as state chairman Matt Strawn and his business partner Jeff Lamberti. Cohen also met with high-profile GOP lawyer Doug Gross.
Trump last week said he was "very seriously" considering a run for president and was dispatching key aides to view the landscape in Iowa, where precinct caucuses traditionally launch the presidential nominating season.
Cohen said his testing of the waters was "really fantastic" after his meeting with key activists.
"People in Iowa really want to see Donald Trump run for president," he said. "When the time comes to caucus, my hope is Mr. Trump will have a substantial head start."

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility Report

Senate Committee Budget
The co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, testified on the commission's final report. The commission was a bipartisan group created by President Obama to address the federal debt.
2 hours, 18 minutes | 169 Views

Report on Debt Challenges Goes Before Congress

co-chairs launch project to implement changes

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
With Congress still working on the federal budget for last year, the Senate Budget Committee heard today  from the Co-Chairmen of the President’s commission on fiscal responsibility and reform on their final report.
Co-Chairman Erskine Bowles told Senators the “fiscal path we are on today is simply not sustainable” and that our federal debt was a “cancer that will destroy us.” Bowles was joined by co-chairman and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson at a hearing chaired by North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, a fellow member of the fiscal commission who voted for the report last year. The final report, which did not receive enough commission votes to be officially issued, calls for $4-trillion dollars in deficit reduction over ten years.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform met early last December for a vote on its report recommendations. In order for the commission to submit its suggestions to Congress, 14 of the 18 members were required to vote in support, but only 11 members favored the recommendations.
Also today, the commission's co-chairmen host an event to launch their new self-developed "Moment of Truth Project." The project's initiative is designed to build on the momentum created by the Fiscal Commission and promote bipartisan action on the debt and deficit.