Tales from the Trail

from Left field:

Baseball brings ‘em together: all 5 U.S. presidents

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It's one thing they can agree on... baseball. 

Major League Baseball is bringing all five living U.S. presidents together at next week's 80th All-Star Game.

President Barack Obama and his predecessors George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter will appear in a 7-minute video presentation as part of the U.S. sports league's all-star festivities on Tuesday in St. Louis. Baseball called it the first time all living U.S. presidents would participate in a ceremony at a sporting event.

The video address will be part of a pre-game ceremony honoring 30 men and women being recognized by MLB and People magazine for acts of giving and service to their communities. Each person represents one of the sport's 30 teams.

President Obama will follow the video presentation by thorwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the game.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Bush hosted meeting at White House for all presidents after  Obama became president-elect)

No apology for CIA coup plotting? Well, how about a photo then…

President Barack Obama artfully dodged a request from Chilean reporters Tuesday for an apology for CIA meddling in Latin America, but he caved in to another demand.
 
“President Obama, can you take a photograph with the Chilean press, please?” one reporter OBAMA/asked at the end of an Oval Office statement by Obama and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
 
“A photograph with the press?” Obama asked. “OK, why don’t we go outside?”
 
The U.S. leader was less forthcoming on the matter of apologizing for the CIA’s long history of meddling in the affairs of Latin American governments.
 
The CIA has denied direct involvement in the overthrow and death of Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973 but has acknowledged trying to prevent him from assuming the presidency three years earlier.
 
And it has acknowledged supporting the military junta that took control of country after the coup.
 
Bachelet, then a college student, was imprisoned and tortured following the coup, as was her mother. Her father, who had been an air force general in the Allende government, was imprisoned and tortured to death.
 
Asked if it was time for an apology for the CIA’s activities in Chile, Obama said, “I’m interested in going forward, not looking backward.”
 
“I think that the United States has been an enormous force for good in the world. I think there have been times where we’ve made mistakes,” he said. “But I think that what is important is looking at what our policies are today, and what my administration intends to do in cooperating with the region.”
 
That said, he did manage a chuckle at U.S. expense — over the old joke that there’s never been a coup in the United States because it has no American Embassy.
 
Someone else told the joke, Bachelet insisted after it was attributed to her.
 
“I just said it was a good joke,” she said.
 
“Yes, it is,” said Obama, laughing.
 
For more Reuters political news, please click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama, Bachelet pose with Chilean traveling press)

Obama in bed with the press?

President Barack Obama poked fun at his close relationship with the press on Friday and teased radio and TV correspondents their industry “was more relevant than ever,” despite more and more Americans turning elsewhere for news.

Obama said he had trouble coming up with fresh jokes after delivering a similar routine just five weeks ago at the annual White House correspondents dinner, a glitzy affair attracting big Hollywood stars.

“The jokes may not be as good, but neither is the guest list,” Obama said at the Radio and Television Correspondents  Associations Dinner. “For me, there’s no contest. Why bother hanging out with celebrities, when I can spend time with the people who made me one?”

The First Draft: Obama recipe – take crisis-filled agenda, add one Iran

There is a new crisis on the agenda for President Barack Obama.

While trying to revitalize a nosediving economy, rebuild the collapsing auto industry, rein in North Korea’s unpredictable Kim Jong-il and overhaul the costly healthcare system, Obama now can ponder his response to an Iran reeling from a disputed election and the biggest street protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Several leading Republicans have hammered Obama for what they say is a too cautious approach to the disputed vote that gave hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a big win over former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi. Obama said on Monday he was “deeply troubled” by the post-election violence but it was up to the Iranians to work out who their leaders will be.

Republicans say that is not good enough.

“He should speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election.  The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights,” Senator John McCain said on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday.

The First Draft: Blank screens

BASEBALL/Millions of Americans could be staring at blank TV screens tomorrow, when broadcasters switch to digital signals.

The U.S. government has spent years preparing for the switch, which aims to free up airwaves for broadband and enhanced emergency communications.

The change-over will only affect those who get their TV over the air, rather than through cable or satellite connections.

The First Draft: From Gitmo to paradise

AUSTRALIABarack Obama and Joe Biden head to the Midwest today.

The Chinese Gitmo detainees are heading to paradise.

No, they’re not winging to heaven to enjoy the company of 72 virgins. The Uighurs, as they’re known, are being resettled in various beachy, tropical locales as the Obama administration seeks to empty the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison.

The United States has struggled for months to find a home for the Chinese Muslims, who were scooped up in 2001 during the invasion of Afghanistan. The Uighurs had no beef with the U.S., their lawyers say, but were instead part of an independence movement in China’s far west.

China wanted them to face the music back home, but it sounds like they’ll be facing the music of Jimmy Buffett instead. The Pacific Island nation of Palau agreed to take on all 17 detainees yesterday; today the Justice Department said four have already been resettled in Bermuda.

The First Draft: Hello, summer!

USA/It’s almost Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer. No bottlenecks yet at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the gateway to Maryland’s Eastern Shore beach towns.

Traffic out that way is likely to get worse around 10:00 a.m., when President Obama delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He’ll also sign bills to limit abusive credit-card practices and reform the Pentagon’s weapons-buying process.

Vice President Joe Biden is in Lebanon, where he’s already managed to tick off Hezbollah. No, he hasn’t said anything unwise yet, they’re just upset that he’s there.

The First Draft: Not in my backyard

USA/Former House speaker Tip O’Neill famously said that all politics is local, and President Barack Obama has encountered a phrase all too familiar to city councils and zoning boards: Not in My Backyard.

Obama’s plans to shutter the Guantanamo Bay military prison have foundered on fears, drummed up by Republicans, that terrorism suspects could roam the streets and parks of America if they are set free from U.S. prisons.

Now even Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress have said they won’t give him money to bring the Gitmo suspects into the U.S. legal system.

The First Draft: Navel gazers no more

USA/Republican Party chairman Michael Steele yesterday urged his fellow GOPers to stop “navel gazing” and go on the offensive against President Obama and his Democrats, and it appears they are getting right to it.

Today, the party votes on a resolution to ask the Democratic Party to rename itself “The Democrat Socialist Party.”

And Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, said current House speaker Nancy Pelosi should step down for accusing the CIA of lying to Congress about torture.

The First Draft: Obama and Netanyahu

OBAMA/ABORTIONBack from South Bend, Indiana, President Obama meets today at 10:30 with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The new/old Israeli leader wants to talk about Iran’s nuclear ambitions — his government has not ruled out military action, while Obama wants to emphasize diplomacy.

Netanyahu hopes the emphasis on Iran will mean that Obama will have less of an opportunity to press him on other issues, like Palestinian statehood and expanded Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.