Tales from the Trail

Conservatives bash Obama for gay rights stand

Conservative groups and Republican White House hopeful Rick Perry wasted no time in panning the Obama administration for its move on Tuesday to stand up for gay rights abroad – the first-ever U.S. government strategy to tackle LGBT human rights abuses worldwide.

In an seven-point executive order on Tuesday, Obama told U.S. diplomats and foreign aid workers to do more to advance rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons abroad – a move that promotes U.S. human rights policies and speaks to a key Democratic constituency at home.

“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world…No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” Obama said in the memo, which will be published in the Federal Register. “I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”

Obama’s memo coincided with a visit to the White House by pop singer and gay icon Lady Gaga. She was scheduled to meet officials from the White House public engagement office to discuss her new “Born This Way” foundation, which focuses on fighting bullying and homophobia.

Texas governor Rick Perry took time out from his presidential campaign to decry a “war on traditional American values” and termed Obama “out of touch” and “at war with people of faith.”

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.

Guess who’s not coming to dinner with Hu

Usually politicians flock to a high-profile event like moths to a flame.

But we’re learning that isn’t quite the style of the new Speaker of the House.

OBAMA-CHINA/The White House is rolling out the red carpet for China’s President Hu Jintao with one of the most formal of all events — the State Dinner.

This will be only the third hosted by President Barack Obama during the two years of his presidency — the previous ones were for the leaders of India and Mexico.

The First Draft: Swearing-in is one thing. A White House do is another.

USA-SOTOMAYOR/For those who may have missed it — and don’t laugh, there could be quite a few who did — there’s a new Supreme Court justice in town. After months of speculation, debate, a Capitol Hill grilling and finally a vote to confirm her, Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in as the first Latina and only the third woman to serve on the U.S. high court.

The problem, for public-awareness purposes, is that it happened on Saturday in an eye-blink ceremony in a conference room at the Supreme Court building. That was a departure from decades of tradition that has dictated a White House oath-taking for new justices, reportedly on President Barack Obama’s say-so.

That doesn’t mean Sotomayor won’t get her time at the White House. That happens this morning in an East Room reception hosted by the president and first lady Michelle Obama.

Obama handles China delicately

It’s too early to tell whether President Barack Obama’s new approach to China will be more successful than his predecessor’s. But this week’s high-level dialogue in Washington underlined how the balance of power is shifting. CHINA-USA/OBAMA

The U.S. side, determined to be more respectful and less confrontational, tiptoed around the sensitive issue of China’s currency, avoiding any public appeal for an upwards revaluation in the yuan.

There was a passing reference to the rights of China’s ethnic and religious minorities, but no sign the other side would take any more notice of foreign interference in its internal affairs than it has in the past.