Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Peace by piece

Not since Vietnam has the United States sat down with an enemy it was fighting on the battlefield and negotiated an exit from war. That long-standing policy might end this year if a carefully choreographed diplomatic dance takes U.S. and Afghan officials to a negotiating table with the Taliban.

As Reuters Washington correspondent Missy Ryan explains, President Obama’s peace gambit has the potential to be a significant development for U.S. foreign policy. But it turns out it is a policy borne out of necessity: two years ago, the Pentagon thought the Taliban could be defeated militarily, and today, it’s all too clear they aren’t going away.

There are many hurdles and not insignificant push back here at home to overcome. And Obama may want to don a helmet for the incoming fire… from Capitol Hill. As soon as he notifies Congress of plans to move Taliban detainees from Guantanamo to get the ball rolling, he is sure to face a torrent of attacks.

If the idea of talking with a fundamentalist group known for its brutality and repression is just too hard to conceive, consider this: it could have well happened a decade ago and possibly ended the war in Afghanistan.

As a former U.N. official and advocate of peace talks told Ryan: “When people start to add up cost of war in Afghanistan over the last decade, they will ask how on earth the new Afghan leadership and U.S. officials failed to take advantage of these early overtures by the Taliban.”

Gingrich offers “dream team” to supporters

For a $100 donation, this free poster of Newt Gingrich and his conservative “Dream Team” can be yours.

The poster — featuring the Republican presidential candidate flanked by endorsers of his White House bid  — was offered to supporters Tuesday in a new fundraising appeal.

The Dream Team photo was unveiled at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington last week. The Gingrich campaign said it was hit, and now conservatives across the  country are clamoring for a copy of their own.

Washington Extra – Post script

You’ve heard about the income divide and the digital divide. Now, get ready for the postal divide.

Nearly 80 percent of the 3,830 U.S. post offices slated for closure later this year are in sparsely populated areas where poverty rates are higher than the national average, according to our findings in the special report “Towns go dark with post office closings.”

One-third of them fall in areas with limited or no wired broadband Internet, leaving 1.7 million people in the lurch. One of them is Carlos Sandoval, a rancher in Trinchera, Colorado, who relies on his post office for everything except groceries.

Rick Santorum: birth control ruling has nothing to do with women’s rights

Forcing religious organizations to provide contraceptives has nothing to do with women’s rights, Republican presidential contender and vocal Catholic Rick Santorum said on Thursday.

The comment aligned Santorum with a lineup of conservative critics bashing Democratic President Barack Obama’s rule requiring religious institutions — but not churches — to provide health insurance plans that cover birth control.

The rule, announced in January, covers religious-affiliated groups like charities, hospitals and universities. The Catholic Church opposes most methods of birth control and conservatives have painted the rule as an attack on religious freedom from a secular president.

Romney goes after Obama on healthcare, contraception

Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney on Monday joined a battle over a part of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law that has outraged Catholic bishops.

Under new provisions outlined by Obama’s administration, Catholic hospitals, schools and charities will be required to provide health insurance for their employees covering contraception even if though it violates the church’s teachings.

Catholic bishops’ complaints about the law have filtered onto the Republican campaign trail to find a challenger to Obama in the presidential election next Nov. 6.

Washington Extra – God awful

As welcomes go, this might be one of the most colorful (and perplexing) in recent memory. One week before he is to help host Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden took a double jab at China’s economic growth prospects and its one-child policy.

“Because of that God-awful one-child policy they have, what happens now is in the next 20 years they’re going to have such an inverse proportion of the number of people working to the number of people retired that there is no way they can sustain that growth,” Biden said.

The apparently unscripted remarks came during a speech about college affordability in Florida. He was trying to make the case that the United States remains the world’s largest economy and is “better positioned than any other country in the world to lead the 21st century.”

Gingrich rejects “open marriage” question, blames media

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got the Republican candidates debate in Charleston off to a lively start Thursday night with an angry denial of charges a former wife made in an interview that came two days before the South Carolina primary.

Here’s an excerpt from the debate on CNN:



Ex-wife Marianne Gingrich accused the former House Speaker of week of asking her
for an “open marriage” when he was having an affair.

Here’s an excerpt from her interview with ABC’s “Nightline.”

As Iowa finishline nears, Perry compares self to Tebow

In the final debate before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Perry compared himself to Tim Tebow, the most-talked about quarterback in the NFL.

At the debate in Sioux City, the Texas governor said he was hoping to stage a late-game comeback — just like the Denver Broncos quarterback who has thrilled fans (and defied critics) with a string of wins after trailing in the fourth quarter.

“You know, there are a lot of people out there — I understand it. There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback.

Cain backers reprise ‘high-tech lynching’ theme

A group of Herman Cain supporters has pulled out the heavy artillery in defense of the Republican presidential hopeful against sexual harassment allegations.

“Americans for Herman Cain” — an outside group not affiliated with his campaign — released this ad comparing the media treatment of Cain to what Clarence Thomas went through during his 1991 U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. Thomas — who also faced sexual harassment allegations and a media frenzy — denounced his treatment as “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.”

The sponsors of the pro-Cain ad reprise the phrase and use video of Thomas speaking two decades ago. It urges Cain supporters not to let the “left” do it again.

Cain takes the lead in GOP race – poll

Businessman Herman Cain has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney and now leads the field of 2012 Republican candidates, according to a new New York Times/ CBS News poll.

Cain has 25 percent support among Republican primary voters,  compared with 21 percent support for the former Massachusetts governor.

The two candidates were tied at 17 percent in the previous NYT/CBS poll released on Oct. 3.