Tales from the Trail

General headed to the woodshed, will he get the axe?

The sound of palms slapping foreheads could be heard all over Washington, the physical exclamation of ”what were they thinking?”

The spectacularly frank quotes from General Stanley McChrystal and his aides mocking Vice President Joe Biden and other top advisers to the president and commander-in-chief were jaw-dropping, not because that’s what they really thought, but because the views were uttered to a reporter working on a profile for Rolling Stone magazine. USA/AFGHANISTAN

Right from the first headline of the article titled “The Runaway General” it was apparent what was to come: “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

It’s one thing to talk truth to power — considered an admirable trait in military and intelligence circles – and quite another to make fun of  top civilian leadership behind their backs in a very public forum.

So the general has been summoned to Washington from the battlefields of Afghanistan to explain this serious breach in chain-of-command etiquette. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a warm welcome.

Even Congress gets weary of Congress…

It’s not just voters who get tired of Congress – members of Congress get tired of Congress.

USA-POLITICS/OBEY“I am bone tired,” David Obey said in announcing his retirement after 21 terms (that would be 42 years) as a Democratic congressman from Wisconsin.

Public opinion polls show that anti-incumbent sentiment is high going into the November congressional elections in which every House seat and one-third of the Senate are up for grabs. There’s also history to contend with – in the mid-term election during a new presidency the party of the president usually loses seats — that would be Democrats this year.

You never want to see sausages made – or laws

USA-STIMULUS/The war of words that broke out in the U.S.  House of Representatives late Tuesday and spilled into Wednesday over one of the government’s annual spending bills shows the widening gulf between Democrats who control the chamber and minority Republicans.

Republicans accused Democrats of trying to shut down their efforts to save money on the $64.4 billion spending bill for the Commerce and Justice Departments and science agencies. They argued that in a time of mounting deficits it was unacceptable to spend 12 percent more for these programs than last year.  Democrats accused Republican of trying to stall the bill by offering 100 or so amendments.
 
Republican Representative Mike Pence said it was “an outrageous abuse of the legislative process” for Democrats to cut off debate after 30 minutes during the first amendment. He insisted that it was not about the process but about “runaway federal spending.”
 
Democrats shot back that Republicans were making it harder to finish the annual spending bills and also complete healthcare and climate change legislation quickly. Republican demands for a recorded vote on even amendments they supported — taking additional time — also angered Democrats.
 
“We have to pass 12 major appropriations bills in six weeks and still leave enough time on the calendar to deal with healthcare, to deal with climate change, to deal with the military authorization bill and several other crucial issues,” said Democratic Representative David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
 
He said Republicans rebuffed Democratic attempts to reach a deal on handling amendments quickly. “We have tried every way we can to involve the minority,” he said. “We recognize a filibuster by amendment when we see it.”
 
When Pence was asked why seeking a recorded vote on an amendment that both sides supported wasn’t a stall tactic, he grinned and walked away from reporters.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Obey at a meeting earlier this year)