Tales from the Trail

Obama walks in rain-soaked cemetery of U.S. war dead

President Barack Obama walked in the rain among the graves of U.S. casualties from the Iraq and Afghan wars at Arlington National Cemetery and took an unscheduled detour into section 60, a thicket of simple white headstones, to mark Veterans Day. OBAMA/

Underscoring the poignancy of the visit, Obama was due to hold a war council later on Wednesday as he tries to decide whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, where U.S. forces experienced their bloodiest month in October.

The president, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, bent down briefly at the headstone of 19-year-old Specialist Ross McGinnis, who was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor.

McGinnis was killed when he threw himself onto a grenade during a patrol in Baghdad in  2006.

The first couple, bareheaded and ignoring the miserable weather, spoke and shook hands with visitors they found by the gravesides, one of whom Michelle Obama hugged.

from Photographers' Blog:

Those left behind: The legacy of Arlington’s Section 60

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  George Orwell

Veteran’s Day is a time to remember “All gave some....Some gave all.”

Before reaching the new gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery’s ‘Section 60’ it’s easy to recognize why a simple, quilted, patch of green grass and white stones buried alongside the quiet banks of the Potomac River troubles the heart.

Obama admits to mistakes, but no big ones

Barack Obama says he probably makes one mistake a day, but doesn’t think he has made any fundamental ones in almost 10 months as president of the United States.

obamartrsToward the end of his first term, his predecessor George W. Bush famously said in answer to a question that he could not think of any mistakes he had made — a comment which long dogged him as the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 led to chaos in Iraq.

When Obama was asked the same question on Monday, he was quicker on his feet.

“Oh, we make at least one mistake a day,” he said with a smile.

“But I will say this, I don’t think we’ve made big mistakes,” he told Reuters in an interview in the Oval Office. “I don’t think we’ve made fundamental mistakes.”

FBI discussed advising Saddam Hussein of legal rights, decided no

Much has been made over the past few months by some Republicans in Congress about whether terrorism suspects arrested overseas by U.S. military forces must be read their legal rights and the answer has been largely no.IRAQ-SADDAM/

It turns out that the issue was debated at least as far back as early 2004 when American forces captured ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to a document released late Friday night under Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A few weeks after the former Iraqi leader was captured hiding in a hole in Tikrit, a memorandum was sent to the FBI’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, discussing whether Saddam would have to be advised of his legal rights.

The First Draft: No Decisions

Beau Biden, son of the vice president, says he is considering running for his dad’s Senate seat but hasn’t made a decision yet.

IRAQ/BIDEN“I’ve been away from my family for a year, first things first,” Biden said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” after returning from Iraq with the Army National Guard. “There’s time to make that decision.”

“Look, am I considering it? Absolutely. Absolutely,” Biden, who is Delaware’s attorney general, said. “But I’ll be making the decision in due course.”

The First Draft: Obama courts autoworkers, Biden visits Iraq

President Barack Obama courts autoworkers in Ohio and union leaders in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Obama meets workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and later addresses a convention of the AFL-CIO labor federation in Pittsburgh.
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Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq for visits with U.S. troops and Iraqi leaders.

Back in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefs lawmakers on the war in Afghanistan.

The First Draft: While Obama is away…

With President Barack Obama off in Italy during a weeklong diplomatic foray, Vice President Joseph Biden has the stage on Wednesday for an announcement of the administration’s agreement with the hospital industry for $155 billion in savings over a decade to help pay for a planned healthcare overhaul.

For Biden, it is a rare chance to gain the administration spotlight by design, rather than because of his famously loose lips and periodic departures from the Team Obama script.

He strayed again over the weekend when he told ABC News the administration misread the economy upon entering office. Obama, in a round of interviews with U.S. television networks on Tuesday, was forced to backtrack and explain those comments.

First draft: Obama slips into Iraq

OBAMA-TURKEY/After calling for Middle East peace and saying he believed in a dialogue with Islam, President Barack Obama ended his first international tour with a surprise trip to Iraq.

Obama took off from Istanbul and, instead of heading home to Washington, traveled to Iraq for a quick visit. He was due to meet U.S. commanders and troops and will speak to Iraqi leaders by telephone. Poor weather in the area caused him to scratch plans to take a helicopter to meet Iraqi leaders in person.

The White House said Obama — who won strong support during the presidential campaign for vowing to wind down the unpopular war in Iraq — would tell Iraqi leaders that there are political solutions to their challenges.

“I don’t want to screw up”, says Obama’s Iraq envoy

KOREA-NORTH/KIMSeasoned U.S. diplomat Chris Hill showed some jitters on Wednesday over being nominated as next U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

“I just don’t want to screw it up,” said Hill, in fairly undiplomatic language at a confirmation hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As new U.S. ambassador, Hill would oversee the drawdown of U.S. troops.

Hill has faced some opposition as next U.S. ambassador to Iraq but he had a fairly smooth hearing on Wednesday.

The First Draft: Down to business

The White House puts its focus back on the economy today, with a day-long conference to talk about how the money from the economic stimulus package is being spent.

President Barack Obama is due to speak at the “Recovery Act Implementation Conference” at 11:00 EDT (1500 GMT). He is expected to talk about the need to make sure all the money spent as part of the stimulus is transparent and used efficiently. Later in the day he will speak and take questios at a business roundtable.

The timing is perfect: a Reuters survey showed U.S. unemployment will approach 10 percent as the country endures its worst recession since World War Two.