Tales from the Trail

With jobs the priority, Obama invites culture war?

AFGHANISTAN/Has President Obama opened a Pandora’s Box marked “Culture War” by moving — however slowly – to repeal the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military?
    
Conservative punditry hasn’t weighed in yet. But  there’s no reason to doubt  the issue will be red meat for those who want to sink the Obama agenda and send congressional Democrats to the unemployment office in November.
    
“Our service members wear the uniform to fight and win wars, not serve as liberal-social-policy guinea pigs,” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, tells Time magazine.
    
Sen. John McCain, a top Republican on military affairs, accused the administration of acting by fiat to circumvent Congress and the military’s chain of command after the Pentagon announced a year-long review of the policy.
    
“You’re embarking on saying it’s not whether the military prepares to make the change but how we best prepare for it, without ever hearing from members of Congress, without hearing from the members of the Joint Chiefs, and of course, without taking into consideration all the ramifications,” he told Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen at a Senate Armed Services hearing yesterday.
 
Polling data show most Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military. But the risk for Obama is that Republicans and their talk-show allies will cry up the issue and steer the now palpable frustrations of voters against him and his fellow Democrats.
    
Democrats, who got a taste of that voter frustration in Massachusetts last month, now hope to win favor by making the economy their USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSItop priority.
    
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer favors repeal but seems happy to let the Pentagon take the lead until after this year’s election.
    
“What I want members to do in their districts? I want them to focus on jobs and fiscal responsibility. Those are our messages,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters. “The American public clearly wants us focused on growing the economy, adding jobs. That is a principle responsibility.”

 Photo credits: Reuters/Andrees Latif (U.S. Marines in Helmand Province); Reuters/Jim Young (U.S. Capitol)

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Texas Tea Partiers organize by zip codes

In north Texas, the conservative protest Tea Party movement has organized itself by zip codes and hopes it is a model that will be used elsewhere in America as it sets out to “take the country back” neighborhood by neighborhood.

We break down our system by zip codes. This is unique to north Texas I think but we would like to see it adopted elsewhere,” Ken Emanuelson, who is on the steering committee for the Dallas Tea Party, told me on the sidelines of a “Leadership Tea Party” conference being held this weekend.

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The movement grabbed headlines last year as it channeled conservative opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies into natwion-wide protests against bank bail-outs, the drive to overhaul healthcare, and other aspects of the White House agenda.

If healthcare wasn’t enough, Obama just picked another fight

One thing is clear. President Barack Obama is not afraid of a fight.

He battled all last year with Republicans and some of his own Democrats trying to get healthcare reform through the political headwinds. OBAMA/

Now he’s going to take on Republicans with trying to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays serving in the military.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

How well was Palin vetted? McCain, um, doesn’t know

Republican John McCain says he doesn’t know whether his former vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was WASHINGTON-SUMMIT/adequately vetted. At least, he doesn’t know who says she wasn’t, and he doesn’t care. What he does know is that the 2008 presidential race was a tough fight. But now he’s very proud and very happy. Any more questions? Get lost. 
    
McCain just wouldn’t take the bait in an interview with NBC’s Today show when asked to comment on revelations about his failed 2008 White House campaign that appear in the new book, “Game Change,” by New York magazine writer John Heilemann and Time magazine reporter Mark Halperin .
    
NBC asked whether the book is correct where it describes the vetting process for Palin as hasty and haphazard, with no one bothering to speak to her husband or her political enemies.
    
“I wouldn’t know,” McCain replied.
    
Sorry? The Republican Party nominee wouldn’t know if his own running mate had been adequately vetted? 
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“I wouldn’t know what the sources are, nor care,” the Arizona senator explained.
    
“I am not going to spend time looking back at what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry. You’ll have to get others to comment.”
    
McCain’s decision to transplant Palin from political obscurity to the national limelight undermined his credibility even among Republicans. Some worried that voters would see the former Alaska governor as too inexperienced to become Veep and possibly, some day, take on the mantle of Commander-in-Chief during a national emergency. 
    
Palin has since become the most visible Republican figure in the national political firmament, publishing a best-selling book, landing a job as pundit on FOX News and attracting speculation about a possible White House run in 2012. USA-POLITICS/MCCAIN
    
“She will be a major factor in American politics in the future,” McCain predicted, with an apparent air of vindication.
    
“I am proud of everybody in my campaign. I’m proud of the campaign we ran. I’m so proud that I had the opportunity to represent my party in the election. And I’ll always look back on that period with pride and with satisfaction. It was tough. But I’m very happy and I’m very happy in my new role in the Senate and going back and fighting the good fight.”

Photo Credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (McCain); Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain and Palin) and (Palin)

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McCain vows to press fight against Democratic deal-making on health reform

A Senate healthcare vote in the wee hours Monday morning got Senator John McCain riled up and quoting Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones.

The 60-40 procedural vote let Democrats limit debate on the healthcare bill and quashed any Republican hopes for a filibuster, where they could grab control of the floor and talk the measure to death.
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The move prompted Republicans to cry foul. War hero McCain gave notice that he wasn’t letting go. He invoked war hero and naval Captain John Paul Jones, who famously rejected suggestions of surrender and told his British opponent, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

McCain was rather less pithy. He vowed to travel the country, visiting town halls, senior centers and Rotary Clubs to rally opposition to the healthcare reform bill.

McCain praises Palin…but calls her “irrelevant”

How’s this for faint praise?

Former Repubican presidential nominee  John McCain talked up Sarah Palin — his 2008 vice presidential USA/partner — on Sunday, saying she had earned an important place in the Republican party.

But he also called the former Alaska governor ”irrelevant.”

Huh?

“I think that Sarah Palin … has earned herself a very big place in the Republican political scene,” McCain said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

“I am entertained every time I see these people attack her and attack her and attack her.  She’s irrelevant, but they continue to attack her.  I am so proud of her and the work that she is doing,” he said.

The First Draft: Afghanistan inspires Freudian slips about that other battlefield – Iraq

President Barack Obama may have invoked Vietnam to banish that ugly specter of defeat from his shiny new Afghan strategy. But a day later, Iraq seems to be the wartime nightmare dogging two congressional veterans of the Bush wars.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was a Democratic senator from Delaware during Rummy’s “Shock and Awe” bombardment of Baghdad, let the musings of his unconscious psyche slip out Freudian style in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.

While refuting worries among critics that the Afghan strategy’s 18-month timeline might embolden the Taliban, Biden said: “How are they emboldened knowing that by the time we train up the Afghanis, we’re going to be gradually handing off beginning in 2003?”

Republican to seniors: “You’re going to die sooner” with healthcare reform

Republican Senator Tom Coburn doesn’t mince words. He was crystal clear about what he thinks ofcoburn1 healthcare reform being debated in the Senate, saying to seniors: “I have a message for you: You’re going to die sooner.”

Senators are debating an amendment by Republican Senator John McCain that would send the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee with instructions to strike the Medicare cuts from the bill.  Democrats defended the legislation saying the proposed spending cuts would not reduce seniors’ health benefits.

“I’d like to once and for all lay to rest this false claim that the pending bill is going to ‘hurt seniors’ and it is going to hurt providers and it’s going to be this long parade of horribles that the other side likes to mention,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said.

The First Draft: Talk shows help drive Palin’s popularity

If Sarah Palin were elected president of the United States, would conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck wind up in her cabinet?

That’s a toughie. But Palin already tops the list of Republican Party favorites and that fact is due in part to her popularity with Limbaugh’s and Beck’s audiences, according to a Washington Post poll.
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Seventeen percent of Republicans, including 23 percent of Republican women, say they would vote for Palin if their party’s 2012 state primary election or caucus were held today.

She out-guns Mike Huckabee who got 10 percent of the vote, Mitt Romney at 9 percent and John McCain with only 7.

‘Going Rogue’ Palin trumps best sellers in first week

Watch out James Patterson, Stephen King and Dan Brown. Sarah Palin has you beat — at least this USA-POLITICS/PALINweek.

All that experience on the campaign trail has served Palin well. The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, who is popular among many U.S. conservatives, has excelled in the first week of her multi-state, campaign-style media tour to promote her new book which was released on Nov. 17.

The former Alaskan governor’s memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life” topped the charts in its first week of publication.  Nielsen Bookscan said the new author eclipsed best-sellers Patterson and King whose books also debuted that week.