Tales from the Trail

Brzezinski sees encouraging signs emerging from Haitian catastrophe

QIUAKE-HAITI/

It might sound Pollyannaish coming from anybody other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hard-nosed intellectual who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. But he says the gigantic catastrophe in Haiti may suggest some good things about the state of the modern world.

“As I look at this tragedy and as I look at this enormous human suffering, I’m also a little bit encouraged by the symbolism of the collective global response,” Brzezinski said in an interview with MSNBC.

Help has arrived quickly not only from the United States, the country’s biggest and richest neighbor, but also from other countries including Brazil and China. That could be a hopeful sign of an emerging international template for responding to turmoil around the world, including in hot spots like Afghanistan.

“There is this surfacing in the international community of this sense of collective responsibility, of kind of shared appreciation of the obligation to help others. And that’s encouraging,” he said.

It could also be very good news in the long run for Haiti, which the United States had been trying to help stabilize before the quake hit this week. Actual stability would mark an unusual break in the country’s sad and violent history.

Gallup poll gives Obama some good news on terrorism issue

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings may have slipped in some polling data. But there’s a tiny bit of good news for him on an issue that his Republican critics have been whacking away at for weeks now: terrorism. USA HEALTHCARE/

A USA Today/Gallup poll says public approval for Obama’s handling of terrorism has risen since the Christmas Day bomb attempt, with more Americans than not giving him their approval on a political issue likely to rank high in this year’s congressional election campaign.

The numbers still aren’t great for the president, however. The thumbs up comes from less than half of the public — 49 percent – and those expressing disapproval are close behind at 46 percent. That three-point gap is well within the Jan. 8-10 survey’s 4 percentage point sampling error. Approval is also way down from May, when 55 percent of Americans endorsed his handling of terrorism.

How well was Palin vetted? McCain, um, doesn’t know

Republican John McCain says he doesn’t know whether his former vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was WASHINGTON-SUMMIT/adequately vetted. At least, he doesn’t know who says she wasn’t, and he doesn’t care. What he does know is that the 2008 presidential race was a tough fight. But now he’s very proud and very happy. Any more questions? Get lost. 
    
McCain just wouldn’t take the bait in an interview with NBC’s Today show when asked to comment on revelations about his failed 2008 White House campaign that appear in the new book, “Game Change,” by New York magazine writer John Heilemann and Time magazine reporter Mark Halperin .
    
NBC asked whether the book is correct where it describes the vetting process for Palin as hasty and haphazard, with no one bothering to speak to her husband or her political enemies.
    
“I wouldn’t know,” McCain replied.
    
Sorry? The Republican Party nominee wouldn’t know if his own running mate had been adequately vetted? 
USA-POLITICS/MCCAIN    
“I wouldn’t know what the sources are, nor care,” the Arizona senator explained.
    
“I am not going to spend time looking back at what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry. You’ll have to get others to comment.”
    
McCain’s decision to transplant Palin from political obscurity to the national limelight undermined his credibility even among Republicans. Some worried that voters would see the former Alaska governor as too inexperienced to become Veep and possibly, some day, take on the mantle of Commander-in-Chief during a national emergency. 
    
Palin has since become the most visible Republican figure in the national political firmament, publishing a best-selling book, landing a job as pundit on FOX News and attracting speculation about a possible White House run in 2012. USA-POLITICS/MCCAIN
    
“She will be a major factor in American politics in the future,” McCain predicted, with an apparent air of vindication.
    
“I am proud of everybody in my campaign. I’m proud of the campaign we ran. I’m so proud that I had the opportunity to represent my party in the election. And I’ll always look back on that period with pride and with satisfaction. It was tough. But I’m very happy and I’m very happy in my new role in the Senate and going back and fighting the good fight.”

Photo Credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (McCain); Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain and Palin) and (Palin)

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

Blago says he’s “blacker than Barack Obama”

Believe it or not, Rod Blagojevich is African-American — and more so than President Barack Obama. At least, that’s what the former Illinois governor tells Esquire magazine in a new interview.
BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/
“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of (expletive deleted) and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the (expletive deleted)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Esquire quotes Blago as saying about the president, without the expletives deleted.

“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up,” he explains.

Blago is, in fact, a white Democrat who gained prominence for introducing big male hair to the national political arena during a corruption probe that led to his indictment on charges of trying to sell Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. He denies the accusations.

Hizzoner Rudy says Obama lags Bush on security

Has President Barack Obama been softer on security than his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush? Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani makes the answer sound simple. USA-POLITICS/

“We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We’ve had one under Obama,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Giuliani’s remark glosses over important details, including reports that Guantanamo detainees released by Bush renewed ties with al Qaeda in Yemen where U.S. officials believe the Christmas Day bomb plot was hatched.

Democrats may face a new challenge: rising conservatism

The Democratic Party’s hopes of retaining control of Congress in November are already reeling from a spate of Senate retirements and the political flap surrounding last month’s failed bomb attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. Now comes a potential new hurdle: growing conservatism among the American public.

Gallup polling data show that conservatives became the biggest potential voting bloc in 2009. Forty percent of Americans called themselves ‘conservative’ last year, compared with 36 percent who said they were ‘moderate’ and 21 percent who described themselves as ‘liberal.’
USA/
The findings, which have an error margin of 1 percentage point, come from an aggregate of 21 separate Gallup and USA Today/Gallup surveys, spanning nearly 22,000 interviews.

Gallup polling data also show that the number of Americans calling themselves moderate has fallen over the past decade, while conservatives and liberals have gained ground.

Obama admits security “screw up,” but some wonder who’ll pay

President Barack Obama may have hoped to limit the political fallout from last month’s attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by admitting there was a “screw up.” Will firings follow? Some think Obama’s unusually sharp rhetoric raises the odds that heads will roll.

One such observer is U.S. Rep. Peter King, an influential New York Republican.
SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA
“If the situation is as bad as the president says it was, as far as so many dots not being connected, so many obvious mistakes being made … I would think once the president set that stage, that to show that he’s serious, someone will have to go now,” King told ABC’s Good Morning America.

But the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee says he can’t tell which official should pay because the Obama administration hasn’t let Congress know who did (or didn’t) do what, when.

Obama’s security tweaks unlikely to quiet political opponents

President Barack Obama will tighten airline security today in a bid to thwart any future attack like last month’s plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner. But will that silence his political opponents? Not likely. With congressional elections looming in November, the stakes may be too high.

Take Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, for example. He’s running for governor of Michigan and criticizing Obama’s handling of the bomb plot in hopes of making Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, look soft on security.

“If you agree that we need a governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security, please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign,” he said in a widely quoted letter to prospective supporters.
USA
The letter caused an uproar among critics who accused Hoekstra of playing politics with national security. But the security issue seems destined to become a leading theme for Republicans in this year’s election battle for control of Congress, which they hope to turn into a referendum on Obama’s policies.

Obama’s tweets hit milestone, but Ashton is the twitterer-in-chief

President Barack Obama may be the leader of the free world, but actor Ashton Kutcher is the king of twitter and pop princess Britney Spears is, USA/OBAMAer, its princess.

 Obama’s twitter feed recently attracted its 3 millionth follower, which was announced with this tweet — “As we kick off 2010, our Twitter community has grown to over 3 million. I continue to be grateful for your partnership as we work for change” — on Monday afternoon.

The development made Obama’s feed — actually run by the Democratic Party’s National Committee — only the fourth ever to garner such attention. But he still remains far behind the leaders, the Hill newspaper noted on its “Twitter Room” blog.  They each have 4 million followers, the blog said, citing TwitterCounter .  

Bomb plot thrusts Obama into political storm

President Barack Obama is weathering a political storm over last month’s suspected al Qaeda plot to bomb a Detroit-bound plane, particularly from Republicans who say he dropped the ball on security while pursuing healthcare and climate reforms. But how much substance there is behind the allegations may depend on who’s talking.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told NBC’s Today show that he believes Obama just woke up to the gravity of the al Qaeda threat. SECURITY-AIRLINE/OBAMA

“A lot of us have been concerned over the last year that the president did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn’t use the word anymore. He hesitates to say that there is a war on terror,” DeMint said.