Washington Extra – The choice

May 19, 2011

President Barack Obama wants the “Arab spring” to bloom.

And that means having choice. The United States supports “the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran,” he said in a much awaited Middle East speech.

For Syria: “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

In Libya, Obama didn’t think leader Muammar Gaddafi would be left with much choice. “When Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.”

On Israeli-Palestinian peace (something many U.S. presidents before him have tried to broker) the choice was left up to them. “Ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action.” And Obama saying any future deal should be based on Israel’s 1967 borders drew a swift Israeli retort that this was no choice at all.

Across the entire region, Obama said, was “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people…”

But when all is said and done, the evolving reality of the younger generation may leave no choice but change. “Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. And so a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.”

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama, in Arab outreach, presents Mideast peace vision

President Obama threw his weight behind the tumultuous drive for democratic change in the Arab world and presented his most detailed vision yet on the path to elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace. Obama hailed popular unrest sweeping the Middle East as a “historic opportunity” and said promoting reform was his administration’s top priority for the region. He also ratcheted up pressure on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and prodded U.S. allies Yemen and Bahrain for democratic transformation.

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

Obama’s Mideast speech had political message too

It may not have been a campaign speech, but President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address sent a series of political messages that could resonate in his 2012 race to retain the White House. By spelling out positions on the war in Libya, violence in Syria, and roadblocks in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama addressed voters who look at foreign policy when they go to the ballot box.

For more of this analysis by Jeff Mason, read here.

Former IMF chief Strauss-Kahn bail set at $1 million

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was granted bail by a New York judge, but the former IMF chief accused of trying to rape a hotel maid will spend one more night in jail before being released. The judge set $1 million cash bail and required 24-hour home detention with electronic monitoring for the Frenchman, who resigned as head of the international lender but has vowed to fight the sex assault charges that led to his arrest.

For more of this story by Lesley Wroughton and Basil Katz, read here.

U.S. pushes for speedy succession at IMF

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for an “open process” to select a new head for the IMF, although sources said the Obama administration would likely back a European. “We want to see an open process that leads to a prompt succession for the Fund’s new managing director,” Geithner said in a brief statement.

For more of this story by Lesley Wroughton and Mark Felsenthal, read here.

Data suggest US second-quarter GDP may disappoint

Weak data on home sales and factory activity showed the economy stuck in a slow-growth gear, although a drop in claims for jobless aid offered hope the labor market’s recovery was on track. “What you are looking at is second-quarter growth which may be a little softer than what people are expecting, but that’s going to be temporary,” said Rudy Narvas an economist at Societe Generale in New York.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Republicans to push Obama on “hidden” lobbyist meetings

Republicans will examine claims that President Barack Obama’s aides held hundreds of meetings with lobbyists away from the White House to keep them out of Secret Service visitor logs. Allegations that White House staffers scheduled time with lobbyists in coffee shops and other off-site venues to avoid public disclosure requirements will be the focus of an upcoming Capitol Hill hearing, a senior Republican told Reuters.

For more of this story by Tim Reid, read here.

Pile of US debt would stretch beyond stratosphere

President Ronald Reagan once famously said that a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government’s debt would be about 67 miles high. That was 1981. Since then, the national debt has climbed to $14.3 trillion. In $1,000 bills, it would now be more than 900 miles tall. In $1 bills, the pile would reach to the moon and back twice.

For more of this story by Emily Stephenson, read here.

Google-backed $5 bln power line clears U.S. hurdle

Google and its partners cleared the first major hurdle with regulators to build a $5 billion transmission line that would transport electricity from wind farms off the Atlantic coast. The companies backing the project can earn a 12.59 percent return on their equity investment in the proposed power line, FERC ruled. The project, which consists of two parallel transmission lines stretching from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia, could transport up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity that would provide power to 1.9 million households.

For more of this story by Tom Doggett, read here.

From elsewhere…

The two faces of DSK

They could be different men. To his colleagues in the world of global public finance, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is one of the most charismatic and impressive operators around. But there is another Strauss-Kahn, one whose womanizing was an open secret among colleagues and journalists. This man has sent female reporters flowers and made no secret of his weakness for women. This second Strauss-Kahn began his stint as the head of the Fund with an affair with a subordinate staffer. Now he faces far more serious allegations.

For more of this special report, read here

Photo credit: Reuters/Ali Jarekji (Jordanian man watches Obama’s speech on TV)

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/