Religion's role in U.S. politics was on full display on Thursday as President Barack Obama spoke and prayed at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
Global News Journal
The slow pace of talks between Hamas and Egyptian mediators on Cairo’s proposal for a Gaza ceasefire is raising speculation in Israel over whether the Islamist group is playing for time, hoping to get a better deal once Barack Obama is sworn in as U.S. president on Tuesday.
The end of the Bush administration will likely bring an end to one of my favourite guilty pleasures of reporting on North Korea, which is the verbal battle between Washington and Pyongyang. Prickly North Korea will undoubtedly fire rhetorical volleys at Barack Obama’s team but it may be hard to match the vitriolic language it has levelled at the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush, which in North Korean parlance is “a bunch of tricksters and political imbeciles who are the center of a plot breeding fraud and swindle”.
from Tales from the Trail:
Barack Obama went to a gym at a military base in Hawaii the other day and did something positively Reaganesque -- he returned a Marine's salute.
In so doing, he wandered directly into the middle of a thorny debate: Should U.S. presidents return military salutes or not?
Longstanding tradition requires members of the military to salute the president. The practice of presidents returning that salute is more recent -- Ronald Reagan started it in 1981.
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time. Dwight Eisenhower, a former five-star general, did not return military salutes while president. Nor had other presidents.
John Kline, then Reagan's military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.
Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.
Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute -- or any sign of respect he wished -- to anyone he wished, Kline wrote, adding he was glad for the change.
Every president since Reagan has followed that practice, even those with no military experience. President Bill Clinton's saluting skills were roundly criticized after he took office, but the consensus was he eventually got better.
The debate over saluting has persisted, with some arguing against it for protocol reasons, others saying it represents an increasing militarization of the civilian presidency.
"The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform," author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The New York Times in 2003.
"But there is more to this than a decline in military manners," he added. "There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president's military role."
Garry Wills, the author and Northwestern University professor, echoed those remarks in the Times in 2007.
"The glorification of the president as a war leader is registered in numerous and substantial executive aggrandizements; but it is symbolized in other ways that, while small in themselves, dispose the citizenry to accept those aggrandizements," he wrote.
"We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of Marines."
What do you think? Is returning a salute a common courtesy? Or should Obama reconsider the practice?
For more Reuters political news, click here.
President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia. Some quite interesting comments have come in since then.
Now here's an interesting question. The New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama wants to make "a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office." But from which one? As NYT staffer Helene Cooper explains, it's a question that's fraught with diplomatic, religious and personal complications. After a day of calling around Washington, she found a consensus:
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
As if the challenge facing President-elect Barack Obama of stabilising Afghanistan was not difficult enough, it may have just got much, much harder after the Mumbai attacks soured relations between India and Pakistan -- undermining hopes of finding a regional solution to the Afghan war.
The U.S. Democratic Party has gained a larger following over the past two decades but America's ideological landscape has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. You can see the analysis here.