Tales from the Trail

McCain says troop increase in Afghanistan needed

Republican Senator John McCain is clashing with Democratic Senator Carl Levin over Levin’s comments that he does not want to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

McCain, the ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters a surge is needed like was done in Iraq and that Levin’s recommendations remind him of how then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to fight the Iraq war — “He thought that we could win on the cheap and at one point the entire Iraqi army collapsed,” McCain said. AFGHANISTAN/

“So in all due respect to Senator Levin and the others, we have to have a significant troop increase, otherwise we’re going to lose.”

McCain also took a dim view of the Obama administration’s lengthy deliberations on the issue, calling it “slow-rolling the whole issue.”

As for White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ comment that no decision should be expected for “many, many weeks,” McCain called that “kicking the can down the road.”

U.S. conservative talk radio: little fondness for Kennedy legacy

Ted Kennedy’s polarizing political legacy was on full display on Wednesday as some U.S. conservatives showed little restraint in their hostility for the veteran liberal senator who died late on Tuesday. 

USA

Conservative talk radio hosts blasted away at the policies of Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party and a standard bearer of liberal causes who died at age 77 after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

Nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the political left was “exploiting his death and his legacy” to advance President Barack Obama’s agenda for healthcare reform, which was also one of Kennedy’s signature issues.

Lionizing the Lion: tributes to Kennedy

KENNEDY/Tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy are pouring in after the 77-year-old pillar of the Democratic Party lost his battle with brain cancer. A schedule of events to remember the “Lion” of the Senate will be posted on www.tedkennedy.org as arrangements are finalized.

Here are some of the tributes and lessons learned from Kennedy’s statesmanship.

Crossing party lines: “The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party.  And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks.  But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle,” President Barack Obama said. “He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the cause that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.”

McCain sees N.Korea as using Clinton visit for propaganda

KOREA-NORTH/WASHINGTON – Republican Senator John McCain says North Korea was attempting to use former President Bill Clinton’s visit for propaganda purposes and enhance the prestige of Pyongyang.

In an interview with Reuters, McCain said the Obama administration should resist any temptation to engage in direct talks with the North Koreans but instead should push North Korea to rejoin stalled six-party negotiations over its nuclear program.

The six-party talks include the United States and North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Obama not first to say jobs not coming back to Michigan

The politician stood up in front of a crowd in Michigan and declared that lost auto jobs are not coming back.

“I’ve got to give you some straight talk: Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back,” he said. “They are not. And I am sorry to tell you that.”

The politician was Republican Senator John McCain. The date was Jan. 10, 2008, the place Grand Rapids, and he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination. He stressed the values of job retraining.  USA-STATES/BUDGETS-AUTOS

The First Draft: Trying again on healthcare

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMASenate Democrats will take up healthcare again today after a tough week.

Republican opposition is building after independent auditors estimated their initial efforts could cost more and cover fewer than initially hoped, reducing the chance of winning the bipartisan support that could ensure that any reforms will last.

Republican Sen. John McCain gave Reuters a grim prognosis last Friday and said the next few days will determine whether the effort succeeds or fails.

But Democratic Sen. Max Baucus still thinks he can get a bipartisan bill to President Obama by the end of the year.

Obama: Full story of sea captain’s rescue will never be known

President Barack Obama told a U.S. Naval Academy graduation Friday that the full story of the Navy’s recent rescue of commercial sea captain Richard Philips from Somali pirates will never be publicly known.
 
Speaking to graduating midshipmen at the academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Obama urged them to follow the example of those who had gone before them and cited several examples, including Philips’ rescuers.
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Philips was taken captive while fending off Somali pirates who attempted to seize his cargo ship. Held for days in a small boat shadowed a U.S. warship, Philips was ultimately freed when Navy snipers shot and killed three of his captors.
 
“I will not recount the full story of those five days in April. Much of it is known. Some of it will never be known,” Obama told the midshipmen.

The victory, Obama told the 1,036 graduates, belonged to “all the sailors — officers and enlisted, not on one ship, but several — who diligently stood their watch.”
 
“They did their duty. They performed their job. They stood their watch. They took their time and then they took their shot. And they brought that captain home,” Obama said.
 
The graduates included 833 men and 203 women. Among the 755 new Navy ensigns was John Sidney McCain IV, the son of Senator John McCain, who received a huge cheer from the crowd of some 30,000.
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McCain, who ran against Obama last year, is a Naval Academy graduate, as was his father and grandfather before him. Wearing a Navy cap, he sat in the front row with his wife Cindy and received a standing ovation when he was recognized by the 2009 class president.
 
Another 267 of the graduates become Marine second lieutenants and two others received an Air Force or Coast Guard commission.
 
Obama, who took delight in shaking each graduates hand and giving many a friendly slap on the back, embraced the younger McCain when he came to the stage.

Obama won over the crowd early with a display of his powers as commander-in-chief.
 
“Now, I know it’s customary at graduation for guests to bring a gift. And I have. All midshipmen on restriction for minor conduct offenses are hereby officially absolved,” Obama said.
 
Returning midshipmen got a bigger present.
 
After consulting  with Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler, the school’s superintendent, “I hereby grant you something extra — an extra weekend” of leave, Obama said.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

First Draft: Barack O’Bama’s St. Patrick’s Day

The water in the White House fountain is green today and the presidential schedule is loaded up with Irish agenda items. IRAQ/It’s St. Patrick’s Day, when the U.S. chief executive could be forgiven for spelling his name Barack O’Bama.

He’s set to meet with the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen, then attend a Shamrock Ceremony, followed by remarks to the annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon hosted by the office of the House Speaker on Capitol Hill. The president will also meet with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. This evening, there’s a White House St. Patrick’s Day reception.

Irish President Mary McAleese claimed Obama as a son of Ireland, “for sure, for sure,” in an interview on NBC’s “Today” program. “Even if he wasn’t, I think that we would have such faith and hope in him,” she said. “He arrived at a time when the world was in a very ugly mood of great despair. He’s really captured the imagination, particularly of young people, and that’s not easy to do.” McAleese said her son campaigned for Obama.

Senators escape being pinned down on bill full of earmarks

FINANCIAL/Much has been made in Washington over the last week in the U.S. Senate about which Democrats and Republicans would vote for the $410 billion bill to fund government operations because it includes thousands of lawmakers’ pet projects.

Some senators like Republican John McCain have excoriated the expenditures, roughly $7.7 billion according to a count by the independent group Taxpayers for Common Sense, as unnecessary spending or destined for projects that should have been properly vetted through regular congressional review.

Others like Democratic Senator Tom Harkin have defended their projects, arguing that they have worthy goals or are needed to address a problem.

Pork in budget bill has McCain twittering

WASHINGTON – With Congress likely to pass a big budget bill with a lot of pet spending projects in it, Republican John McCain is literally twittering away his annoyance at the legislation.

McCain, a strong advocate of controlling government spending, gave fair warning of his complaints to come in a tweet he issued on Thursday night: “Tmr I am gonna tweet the TOP TEN PORKIEST PROJECTS in theOmnibus Spending bill the Congress is about to pass” OBAMA-CLINTON/

When last we checked he was counting down from #10 and was at #4. Here you go, complete with his own editorial comments (His humor is back after it went away during the last months of last year’s presidential campaign):