Tales from the Trail

Trump accepts high marks for CPAC

USA-POLITICS/Donald Trump went to CPAC this week and aced his performance as a prospective White House Wannabe. Any doubts? Just ask him.

“I tell the truth. I tell it like it is, and people understand what I’m saying, and the place did go crazy,” The Donald tells MSNBC’s Morning Joe today.  ”That’s what I said in the speech. And that’s why I got 10 standing ovations.”

Remarks like that, taken out of context, might sound like the words of a talking ego.

But the billionaire New York real estate developer’s speech did get high marks from Politico. An A-minus, in fact,  which put him right up there with Newt Gingrich and out in front of former Senator Rick Santorum (C-plus) and House Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann (B).

Bully for him, especially when you consider the seemingly tenuous circumstances that brought him to Washington.

Washington Extra – Natural allies, but not always comfortable ones

The United States and India are, to borrow the phrase of a recent paper by the Center for a New American Security, “natural allies.” The world’s two biggest democracies, with proud traditions of free speech, separation of religion and state, and racial and ethnic diversity, have much in common, and Indians tend to have more favorable views of the United States than most Europeans.

indiaTies had deepened first under President Bill Clinton and then improved significantly under President George W. Bush, but progress seemed to have stalled in the first two years of the Obama administration. So it was heartening for Indiaphiles to see President Barack Obama finally putting some weight behind the relationship on his trip there, with an array of business deals and an endorsement of India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Obama is right in seeing relations between the two countries as one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, and there will be real power in their alliance where they can find common ground. But the relationship will not always be an easy one. Not only do they see countries like Iran, Myanmar and Pakistan in very different ways, they have often found themselves in opposite corners on trade and climate change. India also has a long tradition of non-interference, a byproduct of its anathema to internationalizing its own conflict in Kashmir. The CNAS paper also noted that in the past year, Indian and U.S. votes matched in the U.N. General Assembly just 30 percent of the time.

Obama remembers Gandhi, and King, in Mumbai

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U.S. President Barack Obama spent part of his first day in India visiting a museum dedicated to the memory of one of his heroes, Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, and walking in the footsteps of another, U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, as he did so.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai on Saturday afternoon, located in a home where Gandhi stayed during his nonviolent campaign for India’s independence from the British.

The two Obamas were given a tour of the museum, stopping in the library in front of a bronze relief of Gandhi’s face to sign a guest book.

McCain sees India, U.S. teaming up against “troubling” China

SUMMIT-WASHINGTON

As President Barack Obama begins his visit to India, his erstwhile rival John McCain is voicing hope that Washington and New Delhi will tighten up their military cooperation in the face of China’s “troubling” assertiveness.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a think-tank audience in Washington on Friday that the two huge democracies were natural allies in the quest to temper China’s ambitions.

“While India and the United States each continue to encourage a peaceful rise for China, we must recognize that one of the greatest factors for shaping this outcome and making it more likely is a robust U.S.-India strategic partnership,” McCain said.

Golden Temple off Obama’s India agenda, Gandhi on

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U.S. President Barack Obama will not visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar during his trip to India next month, the White House confirmed on Wednesday

But he will make several other cultural stops, including two related to the revered Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who is a hero to many African-Americans and was an inspiration to the U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Obama is visiting the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai and will also lay a wreath on Gandhi’s grave in New Delhi during his visit.

Washington Extra – Analyze This

A confusing labyrinth. That is how the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) described the American development effort in Afghanistan, in a damning report on how $17.7 billion in aid and reconstruction money was doled out to 7,000 contractors between 2007 and 2009 with little or no coordination.kabul

With all the criticism that surrounds the Afghan government and the tactics employed by the U.S. military, the major shortcomings in the West’s development effort in Afghanistan sometimes seem to get too little attention. The U.S. Special Representative to the region Richard Holbrooke once said he had “never seen anything remotely resembling the mess” he inherited in terms of the development effort, while former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani once described the aid effort to me as “dysfunctional and lacking accountability.” It is a view shared by many experts, who see it as a major reason why the West has failed to win more Afghan hearts and minds, and why things are now not going as well as President Barack Obama would have hoped.

Incredibly, SIGAR had tried to analyze contracting in Afghanistan for the years 2002-7, but found much of the data the government agencies had compiled prior to 2007 was “too poor to be analyzed.”

Green energy aspirations for Obama’s India visit

INDIAWhen Barack Obama heads for India next month, he’ll be carrying a heavy policy agenda — questions over the handling of nuclear material, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and India’s status as a growing economic power, along with regional relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace laureate who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hopes the U.S. president has time to focus on clean energy too.

Even as Pachauri and the U.N. panel evolve — and as Pachauri himself weathers pressure from some quarters to resign — he urged Obama to work on U.S.-India projects that he said would enhance global energy security.

Given India’s red-hot economic growth rate — 8 or 9 percent a year, Pachauri told reporters during a telephone briefing — he said it makes sense for the United States to work with India to head off an expected soaring demand for fossil fuels.

No decision yet on Obama Golden Temple visit: White House

Hold onto your, er, hats.

Talk that U.S. President Barack Obama has canceled a visit to The Golden Temple in Amritsar because of a dispute over headgear may be premature, the White House said on Wednesday.temple

“We pick sites on foreign trips based on what the president wants to accomplish,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling on Air Force One. Not, presumably, the outfit he might have to wear at a given site.

Obama had been expected to visit the Golden Temple in northern India, a pilgrimage site for Sikhs, during his tour of the country next month. But Indian media reports said Obama’s handlers balked at the idea of the U.S. president wearing a headscarf or skullcap while touring the site.

Time-traveling Larry Summers envisions “Mumbai Consensus”

larry2White House economic adviser Larry Summers took a break from his busy schedule on Wednesday to engage in a bit of time travel — visiting the year 2040 when much of the world is run according to a new “Mumbai Consensus”.

Speaking at the U.S.-India Business Council, Summers envisioned a world in which India’s experience in promoting rapidly rising living standards, coupled with its strong democratic traditions, make it a new example for how countries should run their affairs.

“In the economic history of the last millennium, this is an event that ranks only with the Renaissance and with the Industrial Revolution,” Summers said, describing the fantastic gains in living standards across the globe.

Is Holbrooke’s “bulldozer” style working?

Dubbed the “bulldozer” for his tough guy tactics in Balkan negotiations, U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has been making waves in South Asia recently.

holbrookeU.S. embassies in New Delhi and Kabul have been scrambling over the past week to deal with local fallout from statements made by Washington’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Statements that often go by unnoticed in Washington are parsed word for word in a region where there are deeply-held suspicions over U.S. intentions.