Tales from the Trail

Hillary says Congressional gridlock challenges U.S. world stature

USA/The partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Congress during much of the Obama administration may have far-reaching implications for America’s stature in the world, according to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton said U.S. partners overseas have been confused about the Senate’s inability to approve President Barack Obama’s appointments to top diplomatic jobs, including assistant secretary of state positions and ambassadorships.

“It became harder and harder to explain to countries, particularly countries of significance, why we had nobody in position for them to interact with,” Clinton told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Obama budget plan for fiscal year 2011.

She said the U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers U.S. civilian foreign aid to countries including quake-stricken Haiti, still lacks a complete team to run its operations.

Clinton als0 went further, under questioning from Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a former Republican who jumped to the Democratic Party in 2009.

Hillary Clinton wouldn’t flee to Canada if Sarah Palin was president

What did students in Saudi Arabia want to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about? Republican Sarah Palin. SAUDI-CLINTON/

One young man asked Clinton:  “Does the prospect of  Sarah Palin one day becoming president, maybe, terrify you?” and whether the Secretary of State might consider moving to Canada — or even Russia — in response.

“Well, the short answer is no. I will not be emigrating,” Clinton replied with a smile. “I will be visiting as often as I can.”

What does Michelle Obama think of Sarah Palin? We may never find out…

It’s pretty clear what defeated Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin thinks of President Barack Obama, but did you ever wonder what first lady Michelle Obama thinks of Palin?

Don’t count on finding out anytime soon.

OBAMA/Asked for her “read” on Palin during a round of television interviews Tuesday, Obama was frustratingly diplomatic.

“You know, I don’t have a read,” she told CNN’s “Larry King Live” program. “I mean I try not to make or set opinions about people that I haven’t had any … substantive interaction with.”

Clinton says Haiti’s development prospects can still be good

Former President Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate global relief for Haiti with former President George W. Bush, CLIMATE/COPENHAGEN-BILLCLINTONsays the quake-stricken country could bounce back much more quickly than people might think.

Clinton told NBC’s Today show that Haiti had made it onto the path to modernization when the earthquake struck on Tuesday. But he denied claims that the devastation may have set the impoverished country’s development back by half a century.

“Because they started from a low base, we can reconstitute where they are quicker than everyone thinks. I just do not agree that they’ve been set back 50 years,” he said. “If we go back to work, we’ll be all right.”

Brzezinski sees encouraging signs emerging from Haitian catastrophe

QIUAKE-HAITI/

It might sound Pollyannaish coming from anybody other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hard-nosed intellectual who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. But he says the gigantic catastrophe in Haiti may suggest some good things about the state of the modern world.

“As I look at this tragedy and as I look at this enormous human suffering, I’m also a little bit encouraged by the symbolism of the collective global response,” Brzezinski said in an interview with MSNBC.

Help has arrived quickly not only from the United States, the country’s biggest and richest neighbor, but also from other countries including Brazil and China. That could be a hopeful sign of an emerging international template for responding to turmoil around the world, including in hot spots like Afghanistan.

Well it’s nice to be in Hawaii anyway…

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought her diplomatic cavalcade to Honolulu, where on Tuesday she and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada traded notes on South Pacific paradise. USA-PACIFIC/CLINTON

Clinton welcomed Okada to Hawaii, noting the state’s particularly close connection with one of its most famous sons, President Barack Obama — who recently spent his Christmas break nearby.

“He was born here. He grew up here. So we’re especially pleased to have this opportunity to be in Hawaii together,” she said at the start of their talks.

Well, she didn’t get what she wanted LAST year….

The State Department took a swerve into Christmas season silliness on Tuesday, announcing a previously unscheduled appointment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the North Pole.

“During the meeting, in a formal demarche sung to the tune of the ’12 Days of Christmas’, the secretary outlined her aspirations for the new year,” spokesman P.J. Crowley said with scarcely a smirk.

USA-POLITICS/CLINTONClinton’s wishlist, according to Crowley, was lengthy:

Open and Accountable Governments

Middle East Negotiations

More Civilians in Afghanistan

Empowerment of Women

Fewer Nuclear Weapons

Respect for Human Rights

Resolution of Historic Grievances

Treaties passed by the U.S. Senate

Six Party talks with North Korea

Dialogue with Iran

Enough Food for the People of the World

Climate Change Legislation

And — Crowley conceded this was his own — a Championship for the Boston Red Sox.

Off hours, Diplomat families teach swimming in Baghdad, Battle of the Bulge

If you wondered what U.S. diplomats and their families do in their spare time in the exotic, less exotic and sometimes really difficult places where they live, here’s a partial answer.

They volunteer in their communities.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented awards Tuesday recognizing half a dozen American foreign service workers or their family members for outstanding volunteer work abroad.

Clinton said the award recognized those who “have furthered our nation’s diplomacy and development efforts.”

Ghosts of Christmas past haunt State Department

Ghosts of Christmas past are hovering in the halls of Foggy Bottom this week.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was among those who materialized at the State Department on Monday for the unveiling of the official portrait of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a swank affair that also drew former German and Russian foreign ministers, former network anchors and a former White House chief of staff (not to mention a former First Lady in the person of current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). USA/

On Tuesday, it was time for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now reincarnated as the special envoy of the “Quartet on the Middle East” – the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

“It’s a pleasure to be back here in the State Department, I’d like to thank Secretary Clinton for welcoming me,” Blair told reporters before starting discussions with Clinton.

Powell’s official portrait as secretary of state unveiled

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the official portrait of former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday, noting there were few Americans as admired and celebrated.

“There’s an elementary school named after him in Virginia, there’s a couple more named after him in Texas,” Clinton told a crowd in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Room.

“A middle school in Illinois. A street in Gelnhausen, Germany, where Second Lieutenant Colin Powell reported for duty 50 years ago,” she said.