Tales from the Trail

Mark Kelly says he’ll leave NASA and the Navy to be by Gabrielle Giffords’ side

Three weeks after he landed space shuttle Endeavour at the end of its final voyage, Captain Mark Kelly said he’ll be retiring from NASA and the U.S. Navy to be with his wife, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, as she recovers from gunshot wounds suffered in January.

“As life takes unexpected turns we frequently come to a crossroads,” Kelly wrote in a post on Facebook. “I am at this point today. Gabrielle is working hard every day on her mission of recovery. I want to be by her side. Stepping aside from my work in the Navy and at NASA will allow me to be with her and with my two daughters.”

Giffords returned to her Tucson home last week for the first time since the shooting that severely injured her and killed six others on January 8.

Kelly said his retirement from the Navy and NASA would take effect October 1.

He mentioned possibilities for his own future — perhaps a return to some kind of public service — and expressed confidence in NASA’s.

“I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA’s future. I am not among them. There isn’t a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA. Exploration is a critical component of what makes our country great. We will continue to explore and NASA will continue to lead that effort,” Kelly wrote.

Former presidents Bush, Clinton team up for civility

presidentsFormer presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush are joining forces again — this time for civil discourse.

Democrat Clinton and Republican Bush have agreed to serve as honorary chairmen of The National Institute for Civil Discourse which opens Monday in Tucson, The Washington Post reports.

The privately-funded, nonpartisan facility at the University of Arizona will be a center for debate, research, education and policy about civility in public discourse, the Post says.

Why are these politicians smiling?

IMMIGRATION-USA/SECURITYSocial Security reform is coming. You can tell by the smiling nice guy personas being adopted around Washington in uncommon bipartisan fashion.

There’s Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. “If we’re smart, we can adjust those programs in ways that minimize the impact,” he reassures the viewers of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

After all, Sessions says there’s no reason seniors should have to worry about losing their Social Security (who says they would?) or see it “savaged in any significant way.”

“Through the eyes of a child”

President Barack Obama faced two tests when he spoke Wednesday night at a memorial service for the six people killed in the Arizona shooting — make an emotional connection and comfort a grieving community.
obamas1

Obama honored heroes and victims, but his tribute to the youngest victim may have helped him connect with people who attended the service in Tucson or watched on television.

“And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green,”   Obama said. “In Christina, we see all of our children.”

Palin’s choice of words raises new questions

RTR2DVXI_Comp-150x150It didn’t take long for Sarah Palin to go from an uncompromising response to critics of her campaign rhetoric to new questions about her choice of words.

Not the gun-toting choice of words that had already landed the former Alaska governor in hot water with political opponents who tried to blame her rhetoric for last weekend’s melee in Tucson, where a gunman tried to assassinate congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while killing six and wounding 13 others.

This time the questions surround two words that are charged with meaning:  blood libel.

U.S. public says Giffords shooting, rhetoric unrelated

RTXWDK6_Comp-150x150Most Americans see no relation between the attempted assassination of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the political tactic of lacing vitriolic rhetoric with firearms analogies.

That’s the conclusion of a CBS News poll that found most Republicans (69 pct), most independents (56 pct) and even a plurality of Democrats (49 pct) believe the two phenomena unrelated.

Those numbers add up to 57 percent of Americans overall — a true majority though not quite big enough to break a Senate filibuster.

Washington Extra – Sound of silence

The sound of silence is quite rare in Washington where talk is currency.

So it was perhaps the highest honor that the city can pay to the victims of the Arizona shooting by standing still for a moment of silence. USA/

President Barack Obama and the first lady stood heads bowed, joined by about 300 White House staffers on the South Lawn. A bell tolled three times.

Lawmakers and congressional staff gathered on the steps of the Capitol to remember the victims that included two of their own — congressional aide Gabe Zimmerman who was killed, and congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is fighting to recover.

Arizona sheriff sees others like Loughner

RTXWCIT_Comp1-150x150Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik sounds worried about the possibility of other attacks on elected officials like Gabrielle Giffords.

Not that he’s got evidence of another shooter or anything. But Dupnik says there are thousands of people like Jared Lee Loughner, the shooting suspect described as a mentally disturbed loner.

“These people are very susceptible to emotions like anger and paranoia and so forth, and I think that the tone of rhetoric that has occurred in this country over the past couple of years affects troubled personalities,” he tells NBC’s Today show.

Fed’s challenge to Arizona immigration law piles pressure on Democrats

When President Barack Obama’s administration sued Arizona over the state’s tough-as-nails immigration law this week, he piled pressure on House Democrats in the state facing a tough battle for reelection in November, analysts say.

OBAMA/The administration on Tuesday argued that the Arizona law, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone who they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally, is unconstitutional and would sap law enforcement resources.

Analysts say the move wrong footed several House Democrats locked in competitive reelection races in the desert border state, where the new immigration law consistently scores solid poll ratings among a broad spectrum of voters.