Tales from the Trail

Iranian leader’s plane shares tarmac with Air Force One

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport after a visit to Latin American countries January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 – As President Barack Obama and passengers on Air Force One left for campaign events in Ohio on Wednesday, there was an unusual sight spotted from the presidential aircraft: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plane.

At Joint Base Andrews, which houses the U.S. president’s jet, reporters traveling with Obama spotted a plane marked “Iran Air” parked on the tarmac.

The 89th Airlift Wing, which oversees the runway at Andrews, confirmed the Boeing 747 was indeed Ahmadinejad’s plane, which was used for this week’s United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York before parking at the U.S. military base.

“It is something we afford all heads of state,” said Major Michelle Lai, a spokeswoman for the 89th Airlift Wing. “It’s a courtesy that allows them a place to put their aircraft and provides a little bit of extra security,” she added.

Happy Birthday, Mr President? Palin takes on State Dept in Twitterburst

palin

Sarah Palin has a beef — and a tweet or two — for the U.S.  State Department.

Palin tweeted her outrage following a tongue-in-cheek tweet from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley that wished Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a happy birthday.

Crowley, who regularly tweets as @PJCrowley to about 6,250 followers, marked the Iranian leader’s birthday on Thursday with a plea for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, two American hikers who have been detained in Iran for more than a year and face trial on suspicion of espionage.

Ahmadinejad says bin Laden in Washington

BINLADEN/Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has the answer to the question that has plagued the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. 

He knows where Osama bin Laden is — in Washington. OBAMA/

In an interview with ABC’S “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad rejected reports that the al Qaeda leader was in Iran.

“I heard that Osama bin Laden is in the Washington, D.C.,” Ahmadinejad said through an interpreter in a contentious give-and-take with his interviewer, George Stephanopoulos.

Iran’s nuclear plant and the definition of covert

Western powers are blasting Iran today for building another nuclear plant.

NUCLEAR-IRAN/OBAMA-STATEMENTPresident Barack Obama, flanked by the leaders of France and Britain, said to reporters in Pittsburgh for the G20 meeting that “Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.”

Iran, which revealed the existence of the uranium enrichment plant to the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Monday, unsurprisingly had a whole different take on the idea of covert.

“If it was a covert plant, we would not have informed the (International Atomic Energy) Agency,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters at the United Nations.

The First Draft: Missile defense, Iran and value voters

President Barack Obama’s decision to abandon a big, fixed-installation missile defense shield in Eastern Europe is drawing some angry reaction abroad.

Conservatives in Poland, where the Bush administration planned to base interceptor rockets, and the Czech Republic, where a radar installation was planned, accused Washington of buckling to Russian pressure.

OBAMA/Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets Friday afternoon with his Czech counterpart, Martin Bartak, as the administration works to explain its new thinking. It may be a hard sell.

Elections in Iran, Illinois? Obama very busy not picking sides

If you ever wondered what Illinois and Iran might have in common, here’s one answer: President Obama is most definitely not picking sides in their elections.
 
So insists the White House.
 
OBAMA/“Our response … on this has been, from the very beginning, consistent,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a briefing Thursday when asked about the post-election turmoil in Iran.
 
“The American people and this government are not going to pick the next leader of Iran,” he said. “That’s something that the Iranians have to do.”
 
That doesn’t mean they won’t tsk-tsk loudly from the sidelines as the opportunity permits.
 
The administration has voiced concern about how the election was conducted, but shied away from suggesting any fraud was involved in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defeat of challenger Mirhossein Mousavi.
 
They say they don’t favor either candidate, but insist the challenger’s supporters have a right to continue their protests a week after the vote.
 
“We have to ensure that we express our views, as I’ve said, about ensuring that people can demonstrate, have their causes and concerns heard,” the White House spokesman said.
 
Obama’s also steering clear of the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, Gibbs said, even though he met last Friday with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
 
Chicago papers say the Obama administration is pushing her to run for the president’s former U.S. Senate seat in 2010, but the White House begs to differ.
 
“Let me be explicit,” Gibbs said. “The president is not going to pick a candidate in the Illinois Senate race.”
 
And the meeting at the White House with Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser Valerie Jarret? Why, Madigan and Obama are just old friends and Obama has “enormous respect for what she accomplished,” Gibbs said.
 
And oh, by the way …
 
“I think she’d be a terrific candidate. But we’re not going to get involved in picking that candidate in Illinois.”
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama speaks at a fundraiser Thursday night)

Palin sees debate with Biden as ‘quite a task’

WASHINGTON – Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin sounds a bit wary about her upcoming debate with her really, really, really experienced Democratic rival.
 
“Senator (Joe) Biden has a tremendous amount of experience,” she told Fox News. “I think he was first elected when I was like in the second grade.”
 
If her running mate John McCain, 72, wasn’t hoping to be the oldest person to begin a first term as president, one might think Palin was suggesting Biden, 65, was old. 
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“He’s been in there a long, long, long time,” Palin said. “So he’s got the experience. He probably has the sound bites. He has the rhetoric. He knows what’s expected of him. He is a great debater, also.”
 
“So yes, it’s going to be quite a task in front of me,” she said.
 
Palin also said she didn’t mean to insult Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in her nominating speech when she belittled his experience as a community organizer. 

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” she told the Republican convention.
 
“I certainly didn’t mean to hurt his feelings,” Palin told Fox News. “Didn’t mean to offend any community organizers either.”
 
She said she did it because Obama had taken a shot at small town mayors.
 
The Alaska governor, little-known before being chosen as McCain’s running mate, said she respected former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton but disagreed with her on the issues.
 
Clinton has been campaigning on behalf of Obama since losing the Democratic nomination, but she has avoided direct confrontation with Palin.
 
Clinton planned to speak at a demonstration against the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, near the United Nations which convenes its annual General Assembly next week but she canceled the appearance on Wednesday after learning Palin would also address the crowd.
 
A Clinton adviser said the protest had not been billed as a partisan political event.
 
Organizers of the demonstration subsequently announced Thursday they had decided not to let any American political personalities appear.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.