Washington Extra – No victory lap

August 31, 2010

President Barack Obama will not be running a “victory lap” when he addresses the nation on Iraq this evening. Quite rightly, he points out that there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure Iraq “is an effective partner for us.” OBAMA/

There are several other reasons why tonight’s speech cannot be a victory lap. The first, Republicans argue, is that Obama is trying to take credit for the achievements of his predecessor George W. Bush, and specifically the “surge” in troop numbers (a policy Obama opposed at the time). The second, as the White House well knows, is that a victory lap might seem inappropriate in light of the nation’s economic woes. Indeed, Obama will be talking about the economy tonight, and the need to refocus resources back home.

 A third reason, perhaps, is that it could sound disingenuous to triumphantly declare the end of combat operations in Iraq while 50,000 armed American troops remain in the country. Not all of them will be working as trainers or instructors, and it is obvious that the troops will still be ready for combat if that should prove necessary.

Today’s other top story is our Reuters/Ipsos poll from Pennsylvania, where Republican Pat Toomey has opened a 10-point lead over Democrat Joe Sestak among likely voters in the race for Arlen Specter’s Senate seat. Specter first won this seat as a Republican 30 years ago before turning Democrat in 2009 and subsequently losing the Democratic primary, despite Obama’s endorsement. This was never going to be an easy seat for Democrats to hold, but defeat would be a disappointment after the state voted for Obama in 2008. Interestingly, nearly one in five Democrats said they were more likely to vote for Sestak because Obama had endorsed his rival in the Democratic primary.

Finally, a couple of stories to bring to your attention if fashion and decor are your thing. Read about the battle between a patent lawyer with a penchant for bow ties and Brooks Brothers, over the company’s exquisitely named “Adjustolox” bow ties. Or take a look at the newly upholstered and repainted Oval Office, pictured here. Less yellow, less blue, and lots more beige.  

Here are our top stories from today…

POLL-Republican leads Senate race in Pennsylvania

Republican Pat Toomey has opened a 10-point lead over Democrat Joe Sestak among likely voters in a Senate race in Pennsylvania dominated by economic worries, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Toomey, a conservative former congressman, leads Sestak, a former admiral elected to Congress in 2006, by 47 percent to 37 percent barely two months before the Nov. 2 election to replace Democrat Arlen Specter.

For the full story by John Whitesides, click here.

Obama: No Iraq victory lap as combat mission ends

President Barack Obama declared the U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially over but said he would not take a “victory lap” because a lot more work remained to be done inside the country. Obama, thanking troops in Texas before delivering an evening address to the nation, said Iraq now had the opportunity to create a better future for itself, and the United States, as a result, was more secure.

For more of this story by Caren Bohan, read here.

Banks’ troubled loans decline: FDIC

Troubled loans held by banks declined for the first time in more than four years, pushing bank industry earnings up to $21.6 billion in the second quarter. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp’s latest quarterly report showed banks putting away less money to cover expected loan losses, relieving an important drag on industry profits.

For more of this story Dave Clarke and Karey Wutkowski, read here.

Fed mulls stimulus if outlook worsens appreciably

The outlook for the economy would have to deteriorate “appreciably” to spur fresh support from the Federal Reserve, according to minutes of the central bank’s last policy meeting released said.

For more of this story by Mark Felsenthal and Glenn Somerville, read here.

Obama adviser warns against tax cuts for wealthy

An economic adviser to President Barack Obama said there was a worry that even a temporary extension of lower tax rates for the wealthy would be a “foot in the door” to permanent extension. Jason Furman, deputy assistant to Obama for economic policy, backed on the president’s stance to extend lower tax rates enacted under former President George W. Bush for lower- and middle-income groups only — and not for wealthier Americans.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

Clinton confers with leaders on Mideast peace push

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a U.S. push for Mideast peace, holding talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before they begin direct negotiations on Thursday. Clinton met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his hotel near Washington on Tuesday. She was also set to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived following news of a shooting attack that killed four Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

For more of this story by Andrew Quinn and Jeffrey Heller, read here.

Obama administration appeals stem cell injunction

The Obama administration appealed a ruling that blocked federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, asking the judge who issued the injunction to put it on hold pending the appeal.

For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here.

U.S. turns down China currency probes in two cases

The Commerce Department, in a decision that could provoke congressional action, said it did not see strong enough legal grounds to investigate if China’s currency practices subsidize its exports.

For more of this story by Doug Palmer, read here.

From what we are blogging…

Iraqi political haggling a big headache for American spies

What keeps U.S. spies awake at night? Iran. Al Qaeda. The bickering of Iraqi politicians. With the United States officially ending its combat role in Iraq, one senior American spy said he was more worried about the lack of political reconciliation in Baghdad than whether Iran gets more meddlesome in Iraq or al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate makes a new, violent push there.

For Susan Cornwell’s full blog, click here.

From elsewhere…

Consumer confidence and home prices edge up

Consumer confidence rose modestly in August and homes prices gained more than expected in June, easing some worries the economy is headed for another downturn soon. Another report showed the pace of growth in business activity in the Midwest slowed in August, but economists said the data overall did not present new worries about the path of the economy.

For the full story, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama thanks troops at Fort Bliss)

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