Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 1

With the images of death and destruction in Mumbai last week fresh in everyone’s minds, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is set on Monday to name his national security team
 
At a 10:40 EST (1540 GMT) news conference in Chicago, Obama is expected to name former rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state and nominate Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in that role. In addition he is expected to name Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, Eric Holder as attorney general and adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations.
    
After a series of three straight news conferences last week focused on the ailing U.S. economy, Obama will switch gears today as he will likely face questions about India and Pakistan and his proposed policies toward the two nuclear-armed nations.     
    
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to India on Wednesday. She has been in contact with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in recent days to ease tensions between the states.

    
Indian investigators said the militants who attacked Mumbai underwent months of commando training in Pakistan, raising tensions between the neighboring nations as recriminations mounted in India. 

In an interview with the Financial Times , Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to India not to punish his country for the Mumbai attacks, saying militants have the power to precipitate a war in the region.
    
In economic news back home, stocks appeared set to fall after poor manufacturing figures from China and a raft of economic data expected in the U.S. this week.

Though retailers reported a solid start to holiday shopping with consumers spending more on bargains over the Thanksgiving weekend, overall holiday sales are likely to be worse than thought.

The Big Three U.S. automakers will try a second time this week to pursuade Congress to give them $25 billion to rescue their struggling industry. The Financial Times reported that GM, which owns Saab, and Volvo-owner Ford had approached Sweden’s government for financial help.

G20 family photo: Take 2

WASHINGTON – The G20 leaders found themselves in a predicament faced by many a family when trying to assemble everyone in one place at one time for a snapshot. Someone inevitably spoils the first take.

The leaders of the advanced and developing countries gathered in Washington on Saturday to talk about the global financial crisis started the day with a group photo.

They filed in to the National Building Museum and lined up smiling for the cameras to capture their bonding.

Michelle Obama brings Republican date to the debate

rtr20fdd.jpgIt’s no surprise that Michelle Obama will be rooting for her husband, Barack Obama, when the Democratic presidential candidate squares off against Republican John McCain in their final debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York tonight.

What is a little startling, however, is that sitting right next to her will be Lilibet Hagel, the wife of Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.

The Obama campaign said Lilibet Hagel, a Republican who has endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate, will attend the debate as Michelle Obama’s “special guest.”

Hagel questions Palin experience

Sarah Palin has energized the Republican base since John McCain picked her as his vice-presidential running mate, but one prominent Republican is not impressed.hagelobama.jpg

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is questioning whether Palin has enough foreign-policy experience to serve as the country’s second-in-command. “She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald. “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything.”

“I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,” he added. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”

Palin offers to play “stump the candidate,” but game doesn’t happen

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said on Wednesday she would be ready to deal with foreign policy if she and John McCain win the White House and offered to play “stump the candidate” to test herself on specific policy issues.

In their first joint “town hall meeting” with Palin taking questions from voters, an audience member asked Palin to dispel concerns that she lacked foreign policy experience. She responded by saying she expected critics to look for things to attack. “I think because I’m a Washington outsider that opponents are going to be looking for a whole lot of things that they can criticize,” she said.

palin.jpg“As for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared and I know that on Jan. 20, if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we’ll be ready,” Palin said.

Does Biden help Obama or raise experience questions?

rtr21kzo.jpgDemocratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s pick of former rival Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate taps his experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but drew quick critiques.

Almost instantly questions were raised about whether the selection opens Obama up to criticism that he is weak on foreign policy — and rival Republican John McCain’s campaign quickly seized on that point by launching an new television advertisement (see below).

Meanwhile, while news that former rival Hillary Clinton was not vetted by Obama for his short-list of vice presidential contenders was probably going to irk her supporters already bitter that she is not the nominee, Clinton was one of the first to issue a supportive statement of the ticket.