Tales from the Trail

What would Gingrich do?

RTR2JLFO_Comp-150x150President Obama may be in hot water with lawmakers who think the U.S.-led military mission in Libya is a big mistake. But some GOP voices are calling for an escalation of U.S. involvement — or at least an expansion of U.S. goals.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination, tells NBC’s Today show that the United States will face defeat in Libya if the current mission ends with Muammar Gaddafi still in power.

People might have a hard time arguing with that point.

But what would he do now, if he were president?

Gingrich’s answer sounds just like the message John McCain conveyed on the same TV show a day earlier, when LIBYA-REBELS/GADDAFIhe called for arming the Libyan rebels to ensure the end of Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

“We should be very clear to the Libyans that Gaddafi is going to go,” Gingrich says. ”We should help equip the Libyan rebels.” Otherwise he’d let the Pentagon, the CIA, etc, determine what needs to be done “to win”.

But there may be problems with the arm-the-rebels idea. Reports from the field suggest the rag-tag Libyan rebel force wouldn’t be able to defeat Gaddafi in its present state.  According to accounts, some rebels are so innocent of martial tactics that they may not even be sure which end of the gun goes ‘Bang!”

As for Elizabeth Warren? Barney Frank says: “Let’s fight!”

RTXQB96_Comp1-150x150Is President Obama up for a Senate confirmation fight over Elizabeth Warren? Maybe not right now. But that’s just the sort of rhetorical rumble Barney Frank would like to see.

The former Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who co-authored the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Warren might survive a confirmation battle.

His reasoning? “This is not just the left and the right. The Republican Party is united against healthcare and united against the environment. They’re not united against financial reform.”

Washington Extra – Consequential choice

Truth or Consequences?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message on Libya’s ceasefire declaration was basically: she’ll believe it when she sees it.

“We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see actions on the ground. And that is not yet at all clear,” she said. USA

President Barack Obama put it in starker terms: “Muammar Gaddafi has a choice.”

Washington Extra – Changing palette

Not so very long ago a no-fly zone over Libya seemed like an option on the outskirts of what the United States was considering in trying to pressure Muammar Gaddafi.

OBAMA/Since last night, apparently a no-fly zone might not be enough, and the United States is now pressing for air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery. What changed?

“It is not our feeling … that a no-fly zone is a snap-your-fingers, one-size-fits-all solution to a problem. And what we want is action on a variety of items that can improve the situation in Libya,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, without agreeing with the premise that policy had shifted.

Obama celebrates Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day

President Barack Obama celebrated a small piece of his heritage this St. Patrick’s Day and announced he would visit Ireland, including the village of Moneygall, the homeland of his great-great-great-grandfather.

IRELAND-USA/Or maybe it’s five ‘greats’, as he said in the Oval Office this morning? Either way, he’s confident he’s a little bit Irish.

“Two years into my presidency, some are still bent on peddling rumors about my origins.  So today I want to put all those rumors to rest,” he joked at the Friends of Ireland luncheon that he attended at the Capitol with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. ” It is true my great-great-great-grandfather really was from Ireland.”

Washington Extra – Sticky situations

It is a natural instinct to review one’s own situation when a friend or neighbor is hit by a crisis.

NUCLEAR-USA/So the risk of a nuclear disaster in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami prompted the United States to look inward. The upshot is that President Barack Obama is committed to nuclear power, and “it remains a part of the president’s overall energy plan,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The administration is not going to switch gears on nuclear policy while a crisis unfolds, so that type of statement is to be expected while it assesses the situation.

Democratic congressman says he wants to make Obama ‘a better president’

Veteran Democratic Congressman John Conyers voiced some disappointment in President Barack Obama — and said he wants to help the leader of his party to do better. USA/

In a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, Conyers criticized Obama on a number of fronts — from his overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and management of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to agreeing to Republican demands last year to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was first elected to Congress in 1964 — three years before after Obama was born. He backs Obama, but says, “I just want to make him a better president.”

Dueling analyses over Libya’s future?

clapperThe  Director of National Intelligence dropped a bomb – metaphorically — in the  Senate on Thursday when he testified that Libyan rebels are not likely to oust Muammar Gaddafi and predicted that eventually “the regime will prevail.”

James Clapper’s  jaw-dropping prediction, as Washington, NATO and the United Nations search for a way forward and Libya lurches toward civil war,  prompted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to call for his dismissal.

And it prompted some flame-throwing from the White House.

Tom Donilon, Obama’s National Security Advisor, said Obama is happy with Clapper’s performance, but he had tough words for Clapper’s analysis.

Locke family: from houseboy to U.S. ambassador in two generations

A century after his grandfather first left China for the United States, where he worked as a houseboy in exchange for English lessons, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was chosen by President Barack Obama to go to Beijing as U.S. ambassador.

USA/“More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamboat bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington state. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat,” Obama said in announcing the nomination.

Locke’s grandfather returned to China, but the family moved back to the United States. Locke’s father came as a teenager and enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly before World War Two. He saw action in Normandy and on the march to Berlin. Later, he opened a grocery story in Seattle, where Locke worked while attending Seattle public schools before going to Yale University and Boston University’s law school.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Potential Republican candidates not quite household names

At least they know his name.

USA

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating fell to 49 percent in March from 51 percent in February, and dropped among independent voters to 37 percent from 47 percent over the same period, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Separate from their view on Obama’s job performance, a majority of Americans — 55 percent — had a favorable opinion of the president personally, according to the poll. That number was unchanged from December, when the question was last asked.

Potential Republican candidates who may seek to challenge Obama in the 2012 presidential race have their work cut out in the name recognition department.