Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Changing hats

The national security musical chairs was made official today by President Barack Obama.

On stage was a daisy-chain of Washington insiders who have worn many hats over the years and criss-crossed different administrations. They all report to Commander-in-Chief Obama, who by comparison appeared a relative newcomer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former senator and first lady, was there to welcome back into the fold Ryan Crocker, who was chosen to be ambassador to Afghanistan.

Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq, had worked closely with General David Petraeus, who was nominated to be CIA director to replace Leon Panetta.

Panetta — a former congressman, White House chief of staff, and director of the Office of Management and Budget — was chosen for Secretary of Defense to replace Robert Gates, a former CIA director.

Could Petraeus be too shiny for the CIA?

An agency all about cloak-and-dagger tends to be wary of the limelight.

So President Barack Obama’s choice of General David Petraeus for CIA director has raised some questions in intelligence and military circles.

How will a four-star general who has repeatedly been the subject of speculation as a possible future presidential candidate, and who doesn’t shy from the media spotlight, run an agency that prefers to stick to the shadows?

Will his boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a retired three-star general, be uncomfortable with a subordinate who has a much higher public profile that threatens to outshine him?

Holbrooke hits the airwaves in new push

When President Barack Obama snuck into Afghanistan unannounced last month, a notable omission on Air Force One was his special representative for the region, veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke. OBAMA-AFGHANISTAN

Leaving out the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Obama’s very first trip to Kabul as president raised a few eyebrows.

Was Holbrooke’s star fading? Were frictions between his office at the State Department and the White House coming to a head? Would tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has made a string of anti-Western comments over recent weeks, cause further problems for the Obama administration as it seeks to turn around the 8-year war?

The First Draft: Afghanistan inspires Freudian slips about that other battlefield – Iraq

President Barack Obama may have invoked Vietnam to banish that ugly specter of defeat from his shiny new Afghan strategy. But a day later, Iraq seems to be the wartime nightmare dogging two congressional veterans of the Bush wars.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was a Democratic senator from Delaware during Rummy’s “Shock and Awe” bombardment of Baghdad, let the musings of his unconscious psyche slip out Freudian style in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.

While refuting worries among critics that the Afghan strategy’s 18-month timeline might embolden the Taliban, Biden said: “How are they emboldened knowing that by the time we train up the Afghanis, we’re going to be gradually handing off beginning in 2003?”