Tales from the Trail

A ‘critical moment’ in Afghanistan

U.S. General David Petraeus made no mention of July 2011 as he formally took command of international troops in Afghanistan fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.petraeus1

“We are in this to win,” Petreaus said at the change-of-command ceremony on Sunday in Kabul.  Petreaus is also charged with starting a drawdown of U.S. forces a year from now — President Barack Obama’s stated goal.

That date does not sit well with Republican lawmakers, who adamantly oppose any timetable for withdrawal.

In Kabul, two top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee addressed their concerns as Petreaus was saying the war in Afghanistan had reached a “critical moment.”

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said they’re all for setting goals for a transition — but only after the mission is complete. And they both repeated their view that talking about a “date certain” for withdrawal sends the wrong signal.

McCain opposes former rival’s first Supreme Court nominee

OBAMA/Nine months after losing the U.S. presidential election to Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain is still taking center stage to voice disagreement with his former U.S. Senate colleague.

On Monday, McCain announced in a Senate speech that he would vote against Obama’s first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge for the past 17 years.

“She is an immensely qualified candidate,” McCain conceded.

But he added: “I do not believe that she shares my belief in judicial restraint.”

The First Draft: chilly winds and hot air

There’s a cold wind blowing in Washington on Tuesday morning, one day after a late-winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on the region. DC residents anticipate a thaw when our national leaders provide their daily dose of hot air. WEATHER-USA/SNOW

President Obama meets U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the White House at 11:30. They are expected to discuss their efforts to revive the global economy.

After that, Obama meets with Boy Scouts at 3 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies to Congress about the economy starting at 10:00, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies about Obama’s budget proposal at 12:30. Markets are continuing to swoon after yesterday’s plunge; will their testimony spark a rally?

Obama, McCain face rematch in Senate race

WASHINGTON – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and his defeated Republican rival, John McCain, are engaged in somewhat of a rematch. The two are trying to help their respective parties win a razor-close U.S. Senate race in Georgia. 

McCain has accepted an invitation to attend a rally in Atlanta on Thursday for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, while Obama aides are being dispatched to the state to provide a hand to Democratic challenger Jim Martin, a former state senator.

A Dec. 2 runoff is being held because neither Chambliss nor Martin obtained the majority required under state law in the Nov. 4 election to be declared the winner.

McCain “disappointed” that media declared debate a tie

mccain3.jpgWASHINGTON – Republican White House hopeful John McCain, fresh from his first debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama in Mississippi, expressed regret on Saturday that his performance didn’t win over all the pundits in the press.
 
“I was a little disappointed the media called it a tie but I think that means, when they call it a tie, that means we win,” McCain said during a telephone call that was caught by cameras filming him at his campaign headquarters.
 
Both camps claimed victory after the 90-minute debate on Friday.
 
Meanwhile, Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, sought to lower expectations for the next debate in Tennessee on Oct. 7. It will be conducted in a town-hall style with questions from an audience.
 
“We will be a decided underdog in that encounter, and John McCain is the undisputed town hall champion,” Plouffe told reporters on a conference call, noting that McCain — who is fond of the format — had challenged Obama to do joint town hall meetings throughout the summer.
 
“He clearly feels, even more than the foreign policy debate, this is his home turf. So if we can just escape relatively unscathed against the undisputed town hall champion in Tennessee, we’ll be thrilled.”
 
Obama has held regular town halls of his own throughout the 2008 campaign and does not appear to struggle with the format.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain talks on the phone at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 27)
 

Witchgate? Another day, another Palin video …

DALLAS – Another day, another video showing Sarah Palin in church.

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The latest Palin You Tube video to show up on the Internet features grainy footage of John McCain’s vice presidential running mate receiving a blessing against witchcraft in a Pentecostal church in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska.

You can see the video here. Palin says nothing in it and keeps her head bowed throughout the blessing that was reportedly given by a Kenyan pastor and witch hunter.

The video, like a previous one in which Palin tells a congregation that U.S. troops in Iraq were on a “task from God,”  has been widely reported and commented on. It reportedly was made in 2005 before she was elected governor of Alaska. It began circulating on the Internet this week.

‘Gaffe Machine’ says election is so about the issues

biden3.jpgFORT MYERS, Florida – Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, mocked by Republicans as a “gaffe machine,” took a swipe Wednesday at a remark by John McCain’s campaign manager that “this election is not about issues.”
 
“This election is not about issues?” Biden asked rhetorically, drawing hoots and hollers at a town-hall style meeting with several hundred people in Fort Myers, Florida. Noting Americans have difficulty paying for such basics as health insurance and gasoline for their cars, Biden said, “Where I come from, that’s an issue.”
 
Campaign manager Rick Davis, in an interview with The Washington Post, said, “This election is not about issues.” He said, “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” He predicted that the more voters get to know McCain and Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama, the more they will like the Republican ticket.
 
Biden bristled. “You have the greatest character in the world, but you are not going to give me a fighting chance that would keep my job. I love ya, but I don’t want you as president,” he said.
 
During 35 years in the Senate, the fast-talking, often long-winded Biden has earned a reputation for gaffes. Republicans count two since last week’s Democratic National Convention — when he referred to Obama as “Barack America” and put himself on the top of the ticket by saying he was “running for president.”
 
On Wednesday, Biden made another slip of the tongue. In promising to help Americans if elected, he said, “the Biden, excuse me, the Obama-Biden administration.” Amid laughter, he added, “Believe me, you all got it right: Obama-Biden.” 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young 

Faith on full display at Republican convention

ST. PAUL – Faith was on full display at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night with prayers from a pastor and tunes belted out by a Christian pop star.

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Miles McPherson, a senior pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego and former professional football player, evoked patriotism and faith while leading the convention in prayer:

Thank-you God for always being there for us. And thank you for making America the greatest country in the world. We pray these things in Jesus’ name,” he said to warm cheers from the crowd.

Powell not necessarily in McCain’s corner

Colin Powell was President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s supporting the presidential bid of fellow Republican John McCain.

“I’m looking at all three candidates, I know them all very, very well, I consider myself a friend of each and every one of them, and I have not decided who I will vote for yet,” Powell said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Powell, like McCain, is a military veteran who publicly supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and he served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War in 1991.powell.jpg

McCain’s Veep? The clear favorite is … nobody

WASHINGTON — Speculation about who would make a good vice presidential running mate for Republican John McCain ranges all the way from party also-rans Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney to Democrat Bill Richardson. But a new Gallup survey shows the largest bloc of rank-and-file Republicans — 31 percent — are those who cannot name a candidate for the job.

mccainflagThe next biggest group, 21 percent, prefer the choice marked “other.”

Huckabee and Romney, who were both defeated by McCain in the Republican presidential primary race, led the pack of named choices with 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in the telephone survey conducted March 24-27.