Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – No victory lap

President Barack Obama will not be running a “victory lap” when he addresses the nation on Iraq this evening. Quite rightly, he points out that there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure Iraq “is an effective partner for us.” OBAMA/

There are several other reasons why tonight’s speech cannot be a victory lap. The first, Republicans argue, is that Obama is trying to take credit for the achievements of his predecessor George W. Bush, and specifically the “surge” in troop numbers (a policy Obama opposed at the time). The second, as the White House well knows, is that a victory lap might seem inappropriate in light of the nation’s economic woes. Indeed, Obama will be talking about the economy tonight, and the need to refocus resources back home.

 A third reason, perhaps, is that it could sound disingenuous to triumphantly declare the end of combat operations in Iraq while 50,000 armed American troops remain in the country. Not all of them will be working as trainers or instructors, and it is obvious that the troops will still be ready for combat if that should prove necessary.

Today’s other top story is our Reuters/Ipsos poll from Pennsylvania, where Republican Pat Toomey has opened a 10-point lead over Democrat Joe Sestak among likely voters in the race for Arlen Specter’s Senate seat. Specter first won this seat as a Republican 30 years ago before turning Democrat in 2009 and subsequently losing the Democratic primary, despite Obama’s endorsement. This was never going to be an easy seat for Democrats to hold, but defeat would be a disappointment after the state voted for Obama in 2008. Interestingly, nearly one in five Democrats said they were more likely to vote for Sestak because Obama had endorsed his rival in the Democratic primary.

Finally, a couple of stories to bring to your attention if fashion and decor are your thing. Read about the battle between a patent lawyer with a penchant for bow ties and Brooks Brothers, over the company’s exquisitely named “Adjustolox” bow ties. Or take a look at the newly upholstered and repainted Oval Office, pictured here. Less yellow, less blue, and lots more beige.  

Republicans still looking for answers about Sestak

Republicans want answers — and a little political mileage. The White House wants the whole thing to go away. And until somebody starts talking, neither side is going to get what they want.

On Wednesday, Republicans renewed their daily demand that Representative Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, and White House officials come clean about what Sestak said was a White House offer of a job if he dropped his primary challenge against Senator Arlen Specter. USA-POLITICS/

Sestak, who first made the allegation to a local interviewer three months ago and confirmed it in television interviews on Sunday, won the primary last week but has refused to provide any more details. The White House says only that it looked into the issue, and nothing inappropriate happened. But it won’t say what actually did happen, or who was involved.