Tales from the Trail

US diplomat in Peshawar awarded heroism prize

Lynne Tracy was headed to work as principal officer at the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, in August 2008 when gunmen wielding AK-47 rifles ambushed her car.

The gunfire flattened her vehicle’s front two tires and riddled the body of the car with bullets as her driver jammed into reverse and sped away.
USA-PAKISTAN/TRACY
Tracy and her Pakistani driver and bodyguard all survived the Aug. 26, 2008, attack.

She made her way to the consulate later in the day and in the coming weeks led an effort to boost security even as some of her colleagues were moved to Islamabad or told to work from their homes.

For her efforts, Tracy was presented Monday with the Secretary of State’s Award for Heroism.

“Determined and unflappable, she stayed in Peshawar to look after the remaining consulate staff,” Hillary Clinton said in presenting the honor.

Clinton doesn’t blame Karzai for confusion over U.S. policy

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen by many as the Obama administration’s “good cop” when it comes to dealing with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leaving others to point fingers at his government over corruption, election fraud and other issues. AFGHANISTAN-USA/

On Thursday, she continued to show empathy for the embattled Afghan leader, telling senators she understood why Karzai was so confused about U.S. policy towards his war-torn country.

At a hearing on the new strategy in Afghanistan, which some say is doomed because of the weak Afghan government, Clinton said she didn’t blame anyone — least of all Karzai — for questioning past U.S. intentions.

Chelsea Clinton is engaged – for real

This time, it seems, it is for real. PHILANTHROPY-CLINTON/

Chelsea Clinton, the only child of former President Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has announced her engagement to long-time beau Marc Mezvinsky.

The pair delivered the happy news by a mass email sent out on Friday, a copy of which was provided by a spokesperson at the former president’s charitable foundation.

“We’re sorry for the mass email but we wanted to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving! We also wanted to share that we are engaged! We didn’t get married this past summer despite the stories to the contrary, but we are looking toward next summer and hope you all will be there to celebrate with us. Happy Holidays! Chelsea & Marc,” the email said.

‘Going Rogue’ Palin trumps best sellers in first week

Watch out James Patterson, Stephen King and Dan Brown. Sarah Palin has you beat — at least this USA-POLITICS/PALINweek.

All that experience on the campaign trail has served Palin well. The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, who is popular among many U.S. conservatives, has excelled in the first week of her multi-state, campaign-style media tour to promote her new book which was released on Nov. 17.

The former Alaskan governor’s memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life” topped the charts in its first week of publication.  Nielsen Bookscan said the new author eclipsed best-sellers Patterson and King whose books also debuted that week.

The First Draft: Will Giuliani try for the U.S. Senate?

He probably won’t run for New York governor but might for the U.S. Senate … or will he?
     
That’s the speculation swirling around Rudy Giuliani, the Republican former New York City mayor who walked tall after the Sept. 11 attacks and ran for U.S. president in 2008.
    
A spokeswoman says the 65-year-old former federal prosecutor has made no decisions.
    
But the New York Daily News, the New York Times  and the New York Post  all report that Giuliani has decided not to run for New York governor in 2010. USA-POLITICS
    
Analysts think he could defeat Democratic incumbent Governor David Paterson without much fuss. But overcoming a possible challenge from New York’s Democratic attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, could be have been difficult. Cuomo has not announced his candidacy.
    
The Daily News reports that Giuliani is strongly considering a Senate run against Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to fill out the remaining two years of Hillary Clinton’s term. Clinton, who lost in last year’s Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, is now U.S. secretary of state.

The Daily News cites poll numbers showing Giuliani losing to Cuomo 53 percent to 43 percent in a race for governor,  but beating Gillibrand 54 percent to 40 percent for the Senate.

But the Senate speculation may not last long.

The New York Post quotes people close to Giuliani as saying a run for the Senate is unlikely.

The First Draft: Crossing the Grey Line

President Barack Obama admits he has crossed the grey line.

In the well-worn tradition of those who entered the White House before him, the president’s hair has greyed. And it’s only his first year in office.

USA-POLITICS/OBAMAPerhaps not exactly the change he was hoping for.

“My hair has gotten a lot greyer because I was at the age where my hair was going to start getting grey. Having said all that, you know this has been an extraordinary year,” Obama said in an interview with NBC.

The economy, healthcare, Afghanistan war are all on his mind — “I would be lying if I said that those aren’t weighted questions that I carry around on my shoulders every day.”

The First Draft: Palin for President?

Is she running for president? Seeking a coffee summit with Hillary Clinton? Or just selling her book?

The only clear answer about Sarah Palin’s intentions is that the questions are drawing lots and lots of U.S. media attention. 
PALIN/  
This week, the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor is on the cover of Newsweek magazine. She’s also going on-air for separate interviews with TV’s Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters of ABC News.
    
It’s all about promoting her new memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” which goes on sale Tuesday. But the notion that she also might be testing the waters for a 2012 presidential run is what’s drawing the serious attention.
    
Supporters liken her to a populist 21st century Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. But not all the coverage is as she’d like it. OBAMA/
    
Newsweek, which pictures her on its cover as an attractive young woman in running shorts, scoffs at the idea of a Palin 2012 presidential campaign.
    
“Her brand of take-no-prisoners partisanship is not good for the Republicans in the long run and not good for the country,” Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham told MSNBC.
    
“When you have a kind of ‘death panel’ ideology, where you make pronouncements that are factually untenable and tend to inflame the conversation … that’s not good for governance.”
 
She got a warmer reception from another woman of the campaign trail, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom Palin thinks she might like to meet over coffee.
 
“I absolutely would look forward to having coffee. I’ve never met her. And I think it would be, you know, very interesting to sit down and talk with her,” Clinton, now U.S. secretary of state, said over the weekend. USA-GERMANY/
    
But the last word is likely to be Palin’s. Her book promotion is expected to draw huge crowds across the country. And while a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of Americans don’t think she’s qualified to be president, a similar percentage of Republicans say she is.
  

Photo Credits: Reuters/Nathaniel Wilder (Palin); Reuters/Jason Reed (White House); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Clinton)

Clinton open to coffee with Palin

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is open to having coffee with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose new book about the 2008 presidential campaign is stirring controversy.

“I absolutely would look forward to having coffee,” Clinton said from Singapore  Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Clinton told ABC’s “This Week” that she would look forward to having a chance to actually get to meet Palin.

Making peace with the MILF

Grappling with the alphabet stew of world insurgencies can have its pitfalls.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discovered as much Friday as she fielded questions about the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during a town hall-style gathering in Manila.
PHILIPPINES-USA/
MILF has the same acronym as an obscene phrase that gained currency in recent years. It was used in a Saturday Night Live political sketch last year in which characters playing Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton criticized sexism in the U.S. election campaign.

Questioned repeatedly about peace efforts with the MILF in the southern Philippines, Clinton struggled with how to speak the acronym.

“I’m encouraged by what I hear about the progress in the peace efforts that are going on between the government and MILF,” Clinton said, pronouncing it like a word — the same way as the acronym for the obscene phrase.

Clinton pays tribute to U.S. war dead at Manila cemetery

U.S.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid a wreath on Friday at the Manila American Cemetery,  paying tribute to American war dead in the Pacific two days after the U.S. Veterans Day holiday. 
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Most of the 17,202 Americans buried in the 152-acre (61.5-hectare) cemetery were killed in the defense of the Philippines and East Indies during World War II in 1941 and 1942 or in the battle to recapture the islands. 
 
The cemetery, located on part of the former Fort William McKinley U.S. military reservation, has a limestone tower at its center with a small chapel inside and a relief sculpture adorning one side.
 
The memorial courtyard is ringed by two hemicycles whose walls bear the names of 36,285 missing.
 
Clinton placed a wreath at the chapel during the ceremony, which was attended by a small group of veterans.
 
The Security and Escort Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines played “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Semper Fidelis” and a pair of buglers played “Taps.”

The site is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which oversees the U.S. military cemeteries in Normandy and other locations.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.
 
Photo credit: Reuters/Erik de Castro (Clinton at Manila American Cemetery ceremony)