Tales from the Trail

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Obama seen as cautious commander-in-chief

The military operation on Libya has once again put President Barack Obama’s commander-in-chief credentials to the test, and nearly half of Americans — 48 percent — describe his style as “cautious and consultative,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Obama was seen by 36 percent as “indecisive and dithering”, and the fewest, 17 percent, viewed Obama as a “strong and decisive” commander of the armed forces. USA/

The Reuters/Ipsos poll interviewed 975 adults online and was conducted on March 22, three days after the bombing campaign was launched against Libya to impose a no-fly zone.

When it comes to spending for military operations on Libya, Americans say the financial cost is justified 51-49 percent. But when they are told the price tag is $100 million a day, the number who say it is justified falls to 43 percent with 57 percent disagreeing.

A majority, 60 percent, support U.S. and allied military action in Libya and there is little difference between Democrats, 65 percent, and Republicans, 63 percent. An even greater number, 79 percent, say U.S. and Western allies should seek to remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

AfPak — It’s his baby now

ruggiero

On a day when the most powerful people in Washington were discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan, there was one man who might be excused for looking a little shell-shocked.

Frank Ruggiero, who stepped in as acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) following the sudden death of his boss Richard Holbrooke on Monday, had little time to prepare for his first big outing as President Barack Obama’s  pointman for the biggest foreign policy headache facing the administration.

Ruggiero spoke to the press after Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally unveiled  their official review of the year-old Afghan strategy, which said enough progress was being made to begin withdrawing U.S. troops in July despite fragile and uneven gains against the Taliban insurgents.

McCain hails Palin power in the mid-term elections

Arizona Senator John McCain says his former running mate former Alasaka governor Sarah Palin is a “visionary” for the United States.

“She has had a tremendous impact on this election cycle, as you well know, by supporting certain candidates,” McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “Nightline. “It is really a remarkable thing to observe.”

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee again defended his decision to pick the then relatively unknown Palin for the number-two spot on the ticket.

Beyond the talk show fireworks, Cheney supported some Obama decisions

Former Vice President Dick Cheney swapped barbs with Vice President Joe Biden on the morning talk shows Sunday.

Beyond the fireworks, however, there were interesting things they didn’t argue about.

Cheney endorsed President Barack Obama’s approach in Afghanistan.

He backed an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that limits the ability of homosexuals to serve in the military.

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.”

Plan B for Afghanistan: cut and run?

In Monday’s blog, I looked at McChrystal’s recommendation for a significantly stepped up effort to stabilize Afghanistan, and a major shift in strategy to win over the Afghan people.

But many people, including influential actors within the administration and several readers who left comments on Monday, are advocating a different approach: pull out, and leave Afghans to their own devices. This blog looks at Plan B.

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“The Russians were in Afghanistan for 10 years. The Americans have been here for seven, and we will send them home in just three more years”.

Obama settles into military role

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is not yet commander in chief of the armed forces, but he appears to be warming up to the role as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20 and begin withdrawing troops from Iraq and sending more to Afghanistan.
 
First, he used his Christmas message to pay tribute to the “selfless sacrifice” of the men and women in uniform, and then on Christmas Day, in his only public outing, he visited a Marine Corps base in Hawaii, where he is holidaying, to thank the Marines and sailors stationed there for their service.
 
He spent 75 minutes shaking hands, chatting with the servicemen and posing for photographs at their cafeteria, where they had been enjoying a traditional Christmas dinner before his surprise arrival.
 
Obama is no stranger to the base. He has been visiting it every day since his arrival to work out at the gym there. He broke that routine on Christmas Day, resetting the clock on the seven-day-a-week workout regimen that he religiously follows when at home in Chicago.
 
Some of the servicemen appeared bemused to see him, while others whipped out their camera phones to snap pictures after he walked into the cafeteria with a bellowed “Hi everybody, Merry Christmas.”
 
Local media reported that a Marine stationed at the base, Lance Corporal Thomas Reilly Jr, 19, had been killed in an attack in Iraq’s western Anbar province on Sunday.

In apparent shift, Cindy McCain invokes sons in criticism of Obama

cindy.jpgBETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania – Republican John McCain’s military history is famous, but the service of his sons is less well known. And until recently, that’s exactly how the presidential candidate and his wife, Cindy, wanted it.
 
But on Wednesday, Mrs. McCain made a rare reference to her sons when criticizing the Illinois senator for his 2007 vote against a war funding bill. McCain has two sons in the military, and one has served in Iraq.  “The day that Sen. Obama decided to cast a vote to not fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body,” McCain told a crowded rally in Pennsylvania, an electoral battleground state.
 
“I would suggest that Sen. Obama change shoes with me for just one day and see what it means … to have a loved one serving in the armed forces and more importantly, serving in harm’s way,” she said. “I suggest he take a day and go watch our fine young men…and women deploy, get on those buses and leave with a smile.”
 
McCain also invoked vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s son, who recently deployed to Iraq.
 ”We have a lot in common, the McCain family and the Palin family,” she said. “We represent between us the Army, the Navy and the United States Marine Corps.”
 
Obama voted against the funding bill in 2007 but supported a version that included a timetable for withdrawal for U.S. troops from Iraq.
 
The son of Obama’s vice presidential running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, has just been sent to Iraq with the Army National Guard, and will be there for about a year. Obama has two young daughters. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Hillary Clinton declares war on paperwork

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Say goodbye to the FAFSA form if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

Reducing student loan paperwork may not qualify as a marquee issue like ending the Iraq war and establishing a universal health-care system. But it’s one way Clinton can portray herself as a detail-oriented policy wonk who will make voters’ lives easier.

While her rival Barack Obama delivers a broad message of hope and change, Clinton’s speeches are so laden with specifics you can almost see the bullet points.