Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – ‘Wild ride’ ends

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (L) and his wife, Callista walk together after he suspended his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in Arlington, Virginia, May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The sharpest debater in the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates exited the race touting a hodgepodge of initiatives that made his failed race so colorful. 

“Suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship,” Newt Gingrich warned in his long-awaited announcement that he was quitting. He then ticked off the vision of America he will continue to pursue as a private citizen:

His fabled U.S. colony on the Moon, holograms in houses, cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, not to mention a national energy policy/balanced budget that would free the United States from “radical Islam, Saudi kings and Chinese bondholders.”

The bombastic former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives brought an element of unpredictability to the Republican presidential nominating contest. His come-from-behind victory in South Carolina in January briefly led some to wonder whether Mitt Romney really could be knocked off.

Washington Extra – Gift of the gas

 

Gasoline drips off a nozzle during refueling at a gas station in Altadena, California in this March 24, 2012 file photo. Picture taken March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

After negotiating a tricky stretch of road, the Obama campaign may be easing into the straightaway in the gas-driven presidential race.

News on Monday of a delay in the planned closure of the largest refinery on the East Coast could mean an end to skyrocketing gas prices. And that would effectively take the wind out of a forceful Republican line of attack — that the president is to be blamed for $4 a gallon gas, arguably the most visible price in the American economy today.

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.

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.”

Huntsman wouldn’t be the only U.S. president to speak Chinese

 

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman’s language skills have been in the spotlight since Saturday, when he said during a presidential candidates’ debate that his rival Mitt Romney does not understand U.S. relations with China — underscoring his point by saying so in Mandarin.

Huntsman is a former U.S. ambassador to China who learned the language as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan in the late 1980s. His campaign says the former governor of Utah also speaks Hokkien, a Chinese dialect used in Taiwan. 

Polls give Huntsman only a slim chance of making it to the White House, perhaps because some Republican voters view him as too moderate for serving as Democratic President Barack Obama’s emissary in Beijing. He has only about 3 percent support in the race for the Republican nomination to oppose Obama’s re-election bid, according to polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com.

Newt goes back to school

Newt Gingrich may not have thrilled a crowd of Iowa school kids with all of his answers on Tuesday, but he cannot be accused of pandering to them.

Gingrich didn’t score points with the 200 or so middle and high schoolers  in Osage, Iowa, with his answer to the U.S. falling behind in the brain race with China.

“You’ve got to study more,” he told the kids, who stared back. “Scores in the end aren’t the teacher’s problem; they are the student’s problem.”

Washington Extra – One more for the road

Jon Huntsman is in. Well, technically, the Republican announced that he will announce that he is in next Tuesday.

“I intend to announce that I will be a candidate for the presidency a week from today,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a Thomson Reuters event in New York.

He advocated “getting our own house in order” to improve ties with China. “As we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States,” Huntsman said.

Washington Extra – Royal news

bahraintowerCalling Bahrain.

As is increasingly the case, the United States is finding that talking pro-democracy is one thing. Dealing with the aftermath of uprisings another.

U.S. officials have been on the telephone with officials in Bahrain urging restraint after police attacked anti-government protesters.

The tiny Gulf kingdom that is home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet becomes another U.S. ally in the Middle East seeing unrest with protesters wanting their leaders gone.

Trump accepts high marks for CPAC

USA-POLITICS/Donald Trump went to CPAC this week and aced his performance as a prospective White House Wannabe. Any doubts? Just ask him.

“I tell the truth. I tell it like it is, and people understand what I’m saying, and the place did go crazy,” The Donald tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe today.  ”That’s what I said in the speech. And that’s why I got 10 standing ovations.”

Remarks like that, taken out of context, might sound like the words of a talking ego.