Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Say it ain’t so

March 10, 2011

The White House says it knows that just telling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to go, doesn’t make it so.

LIBYA-GADDAFI/SONGaddafi “has clearly shown that he doesn’t intend to leave just because we said so,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The head of intelligence told it like it is, Carney said. “Director (James) Clapper stated what is true, that Colonel Gaddafi is hunkering down, we all know that.”

It appears the Gaddafi family would agree. “We will never ever give up. We will never ever surrender,” one of the Libyan leader’s sons told Reuters.

In fact, Clapper says Gaddafi’s forces are better-equipped than the rebels and will prevail over the long run. (Not words the administration wants to hear).

The State Department took some action. “We are suspending our relationships with the existing Libyan Embassy, so we expect them to end operations as the embassy of Libya,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. Note that the Libyan ambassador has already denounced Gaddafi.

What that means, Carney said, is, “we will not accept representatives put forward by Muammar Gaddafi in Washington, we will not recognize them as representing Libya.”

(Sounds like a one-glove slap…)

Here are our top stories from Washington…

U.S. says better-equipped Gaddafi forces may prevail

Libyan rebels have lost momentum and appear unlikely to dislodge Muammar Gaddafi from power, intelligence agencies said as the United States backed further away from military action. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said better-equipped forces loyal to Gaddafi were likely to prevail against the rebels, who include enthusiastic but ill-trained civilians and dissident military units. “We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul,” he said. “He appears to be hunkering down for the duration.”

For more of this story by Ross Colvin and Andrew Quinn, read here.

No consensus seen in Congress for U.S. Libya action

As the Obama administration wrestles over what to do about Libya, the voices on Capitol Hill offer no consensus on military action. Influential senators John McCain, a Republican, and John Kerry, a Democrat, have kept up a drumbeat for military action such as a “no-fly” zone to aid the rebels fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. But other senior lawmakers, like Republicans Senator Richard Lugar and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, are warning against getting the United States into a Libyan war. Analysts say Congress may be waiting for a clear steer from the commander in chief, President Obama.

For more of this story by Susan Cornwell, read here.

House panel delves into Muslims radicalization

Muslim Americans must do more to combat Islamic radicalization as al Qaeda targets them to help carry out terrorism plots, a lawmaker said during a hearing critics said unfairly singled out Muslims. “Moderate leadership must emerge from the Muslim community,” Rep. Peter King said. “Today, we must be fully aware that home-grown radicalization is part of al Qaeda’s strategy to continue attacking the United States.” Some lawmakers said King’s hearings unfairly demonize a religious group, tarnishing them in their communities and instilling a sense of fear that deters them from coming forward to report suspicious activity.

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

Tea Party pressures Boehner in US budget battle

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner is under pressure from fiscal conservatives in his own party to push steep spending cuts, with a Tea Party stalwart likening him to “a fool” for not taking a sharper knife to public programs. Republicans have proposed cuts of $61 billion in fiscal year 2011 from current levels, a step President Obama says would choke the faltering economic recovery. But for some in the Tea Party, it is not enough. They say the figure should be at least $100 billion.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro, read here.

Clinton to stress democracy on Egypt, Tunisia trip

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to travel to Egypt and Tunisia next week, the most senior American official to visit the region after revolts toppled U.S.-allied governments. “I intend to convey strong support of the Obama administration and the American people, that we wish to be a partner in the important work that lies ahead as they embark on a transition to a genuine democracy,” she said. “We have an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy that we want to see.”

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

House Republicans to push series of energy bills

Republicans in the House of Representatives said they would seek to combat rising oil and gasoline prices with a series of bills this year aimed at spurring domestic energy production. For years, Republicans have urged an “all-of-the-above” approach to easing dependence on foreign oil by fostering more development of domestic oil, natural gas and nuclear power. They also have said that alternative energy sources should be part of the mix. “The average price for a gallon of gas is on its way to $4,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “Republicans have a plan to help lower gas prices and create new jobs.”

For more of this story, read here.

Trade gap widens on imports, jobless claims up

The trade deficit widened much more than expected in January as surging imports of oil, capital goods and cars overpowered record exports. A second report showed a rise in new claims for jobless benefits, but not enough to suggest the labor market’s recovery was running off the rails. While strong import growth came as a sign of improved domestic demand, it suggested production in the first quarter softer than economists expected. “To the extent that this surge reflects the strength of domestic demand, particularly restocking, it isn’t necessarily a disaster,” said Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics in Toronto.

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

Madoff missteps hobble SEC in funding fight

Newly revealed missteps by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in its handling of the epic Bernard Madoff fraud undermined its pleas for more funding before a trio of congressional panels. Seizing on questions about a former top SEC lawyer’s financial ties to the Madoff affair, Republicans opposed to more money for the SEC — and to dozens of new financial rules it is implementing — grilled agency officials.

For more of this story by Sarah N. Lynch and Kevin Drawbaugh, read here.

U.S. farmland boom may carry long-term risk-FDIC

The steep rise in farmland prices creates the potential for credit problems if there is a sharp downturn in the sector, a regulator said. Farmland prices doubled in the past decade, reaching an average value of $2,140 an acre in 2010. Record-high crop prices and low interest rates make farmland an attractive investment. Observers worry a price bubble may be forming. “While we don’t see a credit problem in agriculture at this time, the steep rise in farmland prices we have seen in recent years creates the potential for an agricultural credit problem sometime down the road,” FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair said.

For more of this story by Charles Abbott, read here.

From elsewhere…

Dalai Lama plans to quit as Tibet political leader

The Dalai Lama said he would step down as Tibet’s political leader, a move seen as transforming the government-in-exile into a more assertive, democratic body in the face of Chinese pressure. Tthe Dalai Lama would give the prime minister greater clout as the region seeks autonomy. Tibetans will vote for a new prime minister this month, with the elections seen as ushering in a generation of younger, secular leaders and strengthening the movement’s global standing.

For more of this story, read here.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, gave Reuters a wide-ranging interview. “The French, the Europeans, they should talk to the Libyan people. … If they want to support the militia, do it. But I tell you: you are going to lose. We will win. And we are not afraid of the American fleet, NATO, France, Europe. This is our country. We are here, we will die here,” he said, among other key quotes from the conversation.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Chris Helgren (Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam in an interview with Reuters)

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