Tales from the Trail

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.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to hand Hu an entire list of complaints in the form of a letter she sent to Obama ahead of the Chinese leader’s visit.

The letter from the Republican complains of Beijing’s “military posturing,” as well as reports that China allowed the trans-shipment of North Korean missile parts to Iran via Beijing aiport. It also calls for the closure of labor camps in China, the release of political prisoners, and “unrestricted religious freedom”.

McCain deeply regrets Lieberman decision to retire

Republican Senator John McCain has traveled the world as part of a “three amigos” group with Senate colleagues Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, and he is sad that Lieberman plans to retire when his term expires in 2012. POLITICS-LIEBERMAN/

McCain told us in a telephone interview that Lieberman told him that after 40 years in politics, “every once in a while you just get a little tired.”

Lieberman was Democrat Al Gore’s vice presidential nominee in 2000. In 2008, he backed McCain over Barack Obama and campaigned for him extensively.

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.

from The Great Debate:

John McCain, maverick survivor

In 2009, if you had asked the Tea Party movement regulars who their most hated Republican was the answer would have been John McCain in a landslide. For years, McCain has been the man much of the Republican conservative base loved to hate, thanks to his 2000 presidential run and his apostasy on campaign finance and other issues. Movement conservatives discussed a primary campaign in 2004. McCain’s losing the presidential race to Obama didn’t help his popularity one bit.

And yet, in this anti-incumbent tidal wave, where Republican incumbents and party regular front-runners (such as in Delaware, Nevada, Colorado) were taken down in record number, John McCain survived. Why?

Maybe because he knew he would be a target, or perhaps because he is more attuned to the danger, McCain acted differently than the other officials. He tacked hard to the right, ignoring a torrent of criticisms from his what he use to call his “base” – the media. He immediately took the fight to his opponent, going very negative, very fast. He called in chits – including an endorsement from Sarah Palin. The result was a crushing victory over a very well-known conservative. What’s surprising is not that McCain succeeded, it’s that others like Murkowski and Castle didn’t take notes.

O’Donnell: Not a witch but maybe a nut job?

USA-POLITICS/MCCAINLike father, like daughter?

Meghan McCain, the outspoken daughter of Senator John McCain, showed her father’s outspoken tendencies as she described Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware as a “nut job”.

“Christine O’Donnell is making a mockery of running for public office,” Meghan McCain said of her father’s fellow Republican, who recently ran an ad declaring, “I’m not a witch.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” McCain said  Tea Party favorite O’Donnell “has no real history, no real success in any kind of business.”

from Summit Notebook:

Lady Gaga may not be the only one singing a new tune in November

USA/
The 2010 Reuters Washington Summit included 4 days of on-the-record interviews with policymakers, congressmen and Obama Administration officials here in the DC bureau. The interviews covered a wide range of topics…from the impact of the mid-term elections to the importance of the Lady Gaga vote.

With less than six weeks to go before the mid-term elections the focus was on what a potential shift in power to a Republican-controlled Congress could mean for policy priorities in the coming year. We heard from Senators’ McCain, Dodd, Gregg and Bingaman. On the House side we spoke with the man responsible for getting Democrats elected…Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He called this election season a “tough and challenging environment,’ but predicted Democrats would retain control of the House.

From the Obama Administration, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened his comments by admitting that early on the administration did not have a “real understanding of the depth of what we were in.” News of Larry Summers’ departure as White House advisor came on the eve of our interview with a man who has worked with Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee said he expected that Mr. Summers’ replacement wouldn’t be part of “a dramatic change in direction.” On the economy, Goolsbee noted that he does not see a double dip on the horizon and that “pulling back on current spending programs could spook the markets.”

McCain, Napolitano shoot it out, rhetorically speaking, over US-Mexico border

OIL-RIG/LEAK

USA-SECURITY/When Arizonans John McCain and Janet Napolitano started arguing over border security in the Senate on Wednesday, it sounded briefly like the pair could be heading for a modern day shootout at the O.K. Corral.

But it ended in a Mexican stand-off instead, with each cow poke flanked by an imaginary posse of sympathetic sheriffs.

The trouble started when McCain, a Republican senator, got his chance to ask questions at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

from Summit Notebook:

McCain to Gaga: I’ll save my talking for the Senate

Don't expect Senator John McCain to respond to critical Twitter comments from pop star Lady Gaga as the U.S. SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/MCCAINSenate girds for a showdown over gays in the military.

"I only Twitter with Snooki, as you know," McCain said Monday at the Reuters Washington Summit.

The Senate is expected to take up the hot-button issue on Tuesday, and McCain said he expects to focus his efforts on the floor of the Senate, not the popular microblogging service.

Washington Extra – Gridlock and the fiscal deficit

summit

The term gridlock may have first entered the vocabulary during the 1980 New York transit strike, reportedly coined by “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, chief traffic engineer in the city’s transport department.  In those days it was definitely not something to aspire to. It is a different story in 2010.

“Gridlock’s not all bad,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby told the Reuters Washington Summit today, citing the need to “slow things down” politically.  His fellow Senator and Tea Party champion Jim DeMint would probably go even further.

But is that really what lies in store after the midterm elections?

Republican and Democratic speakers on the first day of the summit agreed on one thing above all else: that the other party is to blame for the lack of bipartisanship in Washington.

Florida, Arizona contestants set, still waiting on Alaska…

The contestants are set in Florida’s three-way race for the U.S. Senate and John McCain holds on to pursue a fifth term. USA/PALIN

But most of the chatter this morning is about the Alaska surprise where Joe Miller, an underdog candidate backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, edged into the lead over incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. It may take a week or more to determine the winner of the primary as rural and absentee votes are tallied. 

How Miller fares will be seen as a test of Palin’s clout in the Republican Party. She has backed a number of candidates in this primary season and her results are mixed.