Tales from the Trail

Best of the debate: Ron Paul v. Michele Bachmann

Presidential debates allow voters to hear how candidates differ, and there are few policy differences as great as that between Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Iran. Take this exchange from last night:

Bachmann:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

For what it’s worth, Politifact has looked into Bachmann’s claim and rated it “false.”

Paul responded:

“I think this wild goal to have another war in the name of defense is the dangerous thing, the danger is really us overreacting.”

Bachmann shot back:

The problem would be the greatest under-reaction in world history if we have an avowed mad man who uses that nuclear weapon to wipe nations off the face of the earth.

Netanyahu on Obama ties: Under the bus? What bus?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to take the bait on Sunday when asked if he agreed with Republican presidential candidates that President Barack Obama is not pro-Israel enough.

He was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s recent comment that the Democratic president “threw Israel under the bus.”

“You are trying to throw me under the bus of American politics and, guess what, I’m not going to be thrown there,” Netanyahu joked.

Who’s afraid of Mitt and T-Paw…

It turns out that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the scariest pair of presidential prospects in the GOP field today, judging from a new Democratic ad and remarks by some Democratic Party hierophants.

Priorities USA Action, a political group founded by two former aides to President Barack Obama, targets Romney as a flip-flopper in a South Carolina TV ad that wields Republican Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms like a political cudgel.

The 30-second black-and-white spot begins with Newt Gingrich’s “Meet the Press” remarks opposing what he called radical right-wing social engineering on Medicare. The ad then recounts Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s defense of Ryan before turning finally to Romney: “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan … but with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder: which page is he on today?”

Washington Extra – The choice

President Barack Obama wants the “Arab spring” to bloom.

And that means having choice. The United States supports “the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran,” he said in a much awaited Middle East speech.

For Syria: “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”

In Libya, Obama didn’t think leader Muammar Gaddafi would be left with much choice. “When Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.”

Live: President Obama’s “Arab spring” speech

President Obama will lay out a vision for his policy toward the Middle East at 11:40 am ET.

Mideast peace veterans and handshake diplomacy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly referred to them as “veterans” of the Middle East peace process.

That description is probably one thing everyone can agree on. The process to bring Israelis and Palestinians to a lasting peace agreement has been going on for decades and every U.S. president hopes he’s the one who will finally achieve what those before him tried and failed. PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/

President Barack Obama is the latest to take up the baton. He’s already won the Nobel Peace Prize, but will he be The One to triumph on Middle East Peace?

Of diplomacy and baseball…

Timing is everything in diplomacy and baseball.

After months of prickly talks aimed at coaxing Israelis and Palestinians into direct peace talks, U.S. envoy George Mitchell finally had news to share.
MIDEAST/
But when the U.S. mediator par excellence took the stage for questions Friday at the State Department, reporters tossed him one out of left field.

“As tempted as I am to ask you about Roger Clemens…,” his first questioner began, to chortles from reporters and State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Mitchell, of course, between peacemaking stints in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, took a stab back in 2007 at resolving the conflict between Congress and Major League Baseball over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. lawmakers wonder, where did our love go? with Turkey

It almost sounded as if U.S. lawmakers felt jilted by Washington’s long-time NATO ally Turkey.

“How do we get Turkey back?” demanded Representative Gary Ackerman at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing exploring “Turkey’s New Foreign Policy Direction.”

“Why is Turkish public opinion … perhaps one of the most anti-American of any of the countries of the world?” asked the committee’s chairman, Representative Howard Berman.

When seen from Capitol Hill, Jerusalem looks a bit different

ISRAEL-USA/What’s the U.S. policy toward Israel? It may depend on which branch of government you ask.

On Capitol Hill, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a warm reception during his Washington visit this week. Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, says Congress is on “a different page” than the Obama administration over Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the overall U.S. relationship with Israel.

Netanyahu got a less obviously effusive welcome from the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met him at a hotel on Monday and his White House meeting with the president on Tuesday took place behind closed doors, without photographers present.

No “no” is final, U.S. mideast peace envoy says

President Barack Obama’s mideast peace envoy George Mitchell is an unlikely optimist.

PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/

Ten months into an assignment that has confounded generations of U.S. diplomats, Mitchell said on Wednesday he remained upbeat about bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks — thanks in part to his experience resolving another once-intractable crisis, the dispute between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Mitchell, credited with shaping the 1998 Good Friday Accord that ended that long and bloody conflict, said the key was not to lose heart.