Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Farewell to arms

Some memorable lines in the farewell tribute for Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

President Barack Obama said when he took office, Gates had already served seven presidents and when asked by a reporter whether he might stay on, Gates replied “inconceivable.” (Turned out to be a case of famous last words…)

Gates, true to his reputation as a plain-spoken guy, said his views about the State Department “evolved” over four decades. “For much of my professional life, the Secretaries of State and Defense were barely speaking to one another,” he said.

But that changed. “In the case of Secretaries Rice and Clinton, I’ve not only been on speaking terms with these two formidable women, we’ve also become cherished colleagues and good friends.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen revealed this gem: “He can throw a barb with the best of them. Like the time he called Washington the only place in the world where someone can walk down lover’s lane holding their own hand.”

And today’s word from Washington is … stalemate

BRITAINCongress has it. Gaddafi wants it. And President Obama is trying to figure out how best to avoid it. What is it?  The answer: stalemate (noun \ˈstāl-ˌmāt\) … that unsatisfying state of affairs in which there can be no action or progress.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the four-star U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman, conceded the possibility of a stalemate in Libya way back on March 20, a day after U.S. forces and their allies started raining high explosives on Muammar Gaddafi’s military infrastructure and ground forces.

The acknowledgment raised worries that a stalemate would allow Gaddafi’s government to live to fight another day — in perpetuity – while delivering an embarrassing defeat to the U.S. and its allies.

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)

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

The First Draft: Obama courts autoworkers, Biden visits Iraq

President Barack Obama courts autoworkers in Ohio and union leaders in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Obama meets workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and later addresses a convention of the AFL-CIO labor federation in Pittsburgh.
USA-POLITICS/OBAMA
Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq for visits with U.S. troops and Iraqi leaders.

Back in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefs lawmakers on the war in Afghanistan.