WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) – It was never going to be a
relaxing day trip, but the presidential visit to Afghanistan
had something of a jinxed quality to it. First, President
Barack Obama got stranded at Bagram Air Base by high winds. He
addressed the troops and met commanders but was unable to make
the helicopter trip into Kabul to visit his increasingly
uncomfortable ally, Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Then, the military tried to set up a secure video
conference between the two men, only for technical difficulties
to scupper that idea. Finally, they had to settle for a simple
and apparently brief phone call. Critics may see symbolism in
the failure of the American leader, at his highly fortified
military encampment, to connect properly with his Afghan
counterpart, so near and yet so far away in his presidential
palace, a man whose distrust of Obama’s intentions and actions
seems to be growing all the time.
It seems slightly surreal to see a concerted attempt to rally support behind a radical plan to bring the U.S. budget deficit down to a manageable level, while at the same time Republicans and Democrats haggle over the extent of tax cuts which will achieve exactly the opposite.
But deficit hawks will be pleased to see support growing for the final draft Simpson-Bowles deficit-cutting plan, a plan all but written off a few weeks ago. Two more votes were pledged today, bringing the number of commission members in favor to 9. The hurdle of 14 votes that would trigger congressional consideration still looks elusive, but many of the proposals that form the plan may have legs.
The wrangling continues over the Bush-era tax cuts. President Barack Obama said he was confident Democrats and Republicans could break the deadlock and reach a deal soon. But with time running out, there is something of a game of chicken being played by the two sides. Each is watching to see who blinks first, and with the economy still struggling, both know the stakes are high.
Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling warned of the risks of failure: “In a lame duck session, a lame duck Congress should not turn our economy into a dead duck economy.”
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.
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.
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) – To an outsider, diplomacy
sometimes looks like an exercise in smiling and being nice to
people who you secretly dislike or even scorn. The trouble is,
these days your real feelings may not be a secret.
Perhaps it’s no surprise to discover that a U.S. diplomat
found Britain’s Prince Andrew to be cocky and verging on rude,
and maybe it doesn’t matter that much.
Happy Thanksgiving! Washington Extra will return on Monday.
Here are our top stories from Washington today…
U.S. vows unified response to North Korea, eyes restraint
The U.S. urged restraint following a North Korean artillery attack on South Korea and vowed to forge a “measured and unified” response with major powers including China.
For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Andrew Quinn, read here.
N.Korea pulls U.S. back to a “land of lousy options”
North Korea‘s artillery attack on South Korea poses the second test in three days of Washington’s vow that it will not reward what it deems bad behavior with diplomatic gestures, and underscores that options are limited without serious help from China.
“We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said today, after revelations that the world’s most reclusive state showed off its latest advances in uranium enrichment. “They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We’re not going to buy into this cycle.”
Those are sound intentions, although analysts are already predicting the United States will find a way to restart six-party talks in the next six months or so if only as a containment strategy, despite the fact that North Korea appears completely unwilling to talk seriously about denuclearization.
Not only does Barack Obama face a united and hostile Republican Party at home, he cannot easily take refuge in foreign policy in the second half of his term. From Afghanistan to Russia and the Middle East, from climate change to nuclear weapons, there are more problems than easy solutions out there.
But if all that wasn’t bad enough, the president is facing a few problems even keeping his fellow Democrats on side. As we report today, the Dems are in disarray about what to with the expiring tax cuts, and there is a distinct feeling of post-election disappointment with the president. As one aide told Reuters, many congressional Democrats felt they got their fingers burned for backing Obama’s healthcare plan and are wary of getting hurt again.
WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Not only does Barack Obama
face a united and hostile Republican Party at home, he cannot
easily take refuge in foreign policy in the second half of his
term. From Afghanistan to Russia and the Middle East, from
climate change to nuclear weapons, there are more problems
than easy solutions out there.
But if all that wasn’t bad enough, the president is facing
a few problems even keeping his fellow Democrats on side. As we
report today, the Dems are in disarray about what to with the
expiring tax cuts, and there is a distinct feeling of
post-election disappointment with the president. As one aide
told Reuters, many congressional Democrats felt they got their
fingers burned for backing Obama’s healthcare plan and are wary
of getting hurt again.
It must be more than a little frustrating to win the Nobel Peace Prize for your best intentions — ridding the world of nuclear weapons – and then struggle to even get the START Treaty ratified this year. Not surprising, then, that President Barack Obama told his deputy to work “day and night” to get this thing through.
But whatever the temptation to throw a little egg on the president’s face, many security analysts still find it amazing to see Republicans blocking a treaty that the U.S. military so strongly backs. Welcome to bipartisan Washington, again, I guess.