Tales from the Trail

Santorum explains “phony theology” comment

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says he wasn’t questioning Barack Obama’s faith on Saturday when he said the Democratic president’s agenda was based on “some phony theology.”

Santorum explained his comments during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, saying he was questioning the president’s world view — not his faith.

“I accept the fact that the president’s Christian,” Santorum said. “I just said that when you have a world view that elevates the earth above man says that, you know, we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the earth by things that are frankly just not scientifically proven.”

A devout Roman Catholic and social conservative, Santorum brought up the theology issue a day earlier in Columbus, Ohio, as he addressed supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement. (Here’s the story from Reuters’ Sam Jacobs)

On ABC’s “This Week,” Robert Gibbs, a senior advisor to Obama’s re-election campaign said Santorum’s “phony theology” comment crosses a line and was dragging the presidential campaign down.

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.

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.

Tending to China-US relations

Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any for China and the United States to work on the kinks in their relationship.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping signaled beforehand that tending to the state of the  “dynamic and promising” U.S.-China connection would be the at the heart of his White House visit on Tuesday.

The economic and trade relationship between the two countries is far too important to be frayed by “frictions and differences,” Xi wrote in a Q&A submitted to the Washington Post and published on the eve of his White House meeting with President Barack Obama.

Washington Extra – A Deng Xiaoping Moment?

By Warren Strobel

Maybe it’s the careful, consensus-oriented system that produces them, but China’s leaders in recent years have not exactly exuded personality. President Hu Jintao is famous for his stiff manner and scripted speaking style. Jiang Zemin was slightly more relaxed, and enjoyed showing off his English language skills and knowledge of U.S. history.

Washington on Tuesday will get its first close look at China’s next president, current Vice President Xi Jinping, who has a reputation for being more open and refreshingly direct than some of his predecessors. It may be too much to hope for a “Deng Xiaoping moment,” a 1979 turning point in Sino-American cultural relations when the diminutive Deng, China’s great modernizer, attended a rodeo in Simonton, Texas, donned a giant cowboy hat and wowed the crowd. Deng was then China’s vice premier.

Xi has conflicting needs on this visit. He wants to show peers and the public back home that he can handle the American account, China’s most important relationship. He visited Iowa in 1985 and, by all accounts, the experience affected him. He also wants to strike a good working relationship with the White House and Capitol Hill, which could help both sides handle a daunting array of disagreements: human rights, the South China Sea, China’s currency, and Obama’s more aggressive posture in Asia, to name a few.

Michelle Obama likes just being “Meesh”

ORLANDO – First lady Michelle Obama craves normalcy sometimes. The woman who has seemingly endless options living at the White House loves it most when she can hang out and just be “Meesh” to her family and friends.

Obama, who realizes her life will get even busier leading up to the Nov. 6 election, said she tries to get away from the “bubble” created by security and media at the White House and be as much of a regular person as she can.

“I go shopping. I go to my friends’ houses for dinner,” she said in an interview with a few reporters.

Not all smooth sailing for Romney in Maine

Republican Mitt Romney found it was not all smooth sailing in Maine on Friday night when he was heckled repeatedly at a town hall meeting in Portland at a marine storage and repair facility.

Romney jetted in from Washington to fire up his base a day before the Maine Republican Party announces the results of a week-long caucusing process. But the well-attended meeting wasn’t without some unexpected drama that showed the candidate’s testy side.

The event’s second question centered on “stashing your money away in Cayman Islands,” based on investment strategies revealed when Romney recently released his 2010 tax returns. “ First of all, first of all, I’ll have to take a look at what the trustee says,” Romney said, adding that his fortune — estimated to be as high as $250 million — has been managed in a blind trust for ten years.

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.

What? No salsa? Obama 2012 releases playlist

 

President Barack Obama’s re-election team has issued its 2012 campaign playlist, the two dozen or so songs it will play to pump up supporters at his speeches and rallies.

The tracks include some old favorites — like Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” which Obama sang himself at a recent New York fundraiser, and “Your Smiling Face,” by James Taylor, a supporter who has sung at Obama fundraisers and appeared at a state dinner in June in honor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The campaign said its goal is to have something for everyone. Although, with a nod to its younger fans, the campaign posted the list on its Tumblr site with the note “No casting aspersions on Earth, Wind & Fire, now.”

Romney endorsed by Citizens United adviser Bopp

 

The morning after President Barack Obama’s campaign said it would start supporting Priorities USA, a Super PAC fundraising group designed to keep him in office, Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign announced it had been endorsed by James Bopp, a lawyer who advised Citizens United in the Supreme Court case responsible for the creation of the outside fundraising groups.

“Mitt Romney is a true conservative,” Bopp wrote in an “open letter” explaining the endorsement. “One does not have to guess what Mitt Romney would do in office. He served for four years as Governor of Massachusetts and has a record that conservatives should be proud of.”

Obama opposed the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in a case that erased limits on corporate and union money in federal elections. His campaign said he had made the switch because Republicans had raised and spent so much Super PAC money.