Tales from the Trail

Would Congress swing its spending ax at the war in Afghanistan?

AFGHANISTAN/You’d think the war in Afghanistan would be the sacred cow of  federal spending. The Republicans now in charge of the House have always embraced “Support Our Troops” and “Defeat Terrorism” as two of the most serious ”Thou Shalts” of their political playbook.

But could the times be a-changing? Two influential conservative voices suggest they might be, as lawmakers search for the right balance between spending cuts and their own job preservation.

Grover Norquist, the influential political hierophant at Americans for Tax Reform, says in a Newsmax interview that the time has come for a serious cost-benefit discussion about Afghanistan.

IRAQ USANorquist says the United States will spend $119 billion this year in Afghanistan, a country with a GDP of just $14 billion. In his view, supporters of the war should not be afraid to debate their position, to come up with good reasons to stay and the benefits of doing so. “Only (conservatives) can convince the country to stay the course or to take a different approach,” he says.

Then there’s House Republican Ron Paul of Texas. He’s long been a voice crying in the wilderness about the need to scale back on America’s overseas military commitments. Except now, with the Tea Party’s ascent, Paul is no longer a political backwoodsman.

Barbara Bush says Sarah Palin should stay in Alaska

barbaraFormer President George W. Bush has carefully steered around the subject of Sarah Palin during interviews about his memoir. But his mother, Barbara Bush, aka the “Silver Fox,” is showing no restraint.

“I sat next to her once,” Mrs. Bush told CNN’s “Larry King Live” in an interview that also included her husband, former President George H.W. Bush. “Thought she was beautiful. And I think she’s very happy in Alaska — and I hope she’ll stay there.”

Palin is weighing a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,telling ABC’s Barbara Walters last week that she thinks she could defeat President Barack Obama. She has a book, “America by Heart,” coming out Tuesday and is starring in a reality TV show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Obama may want to cover his eyes, poll numbers not good

A standard public line for presidents is that they don’t make policy based on opinion polls.

But we’re fairly certain no president likes to see his poll numbers drop. Well, President Barack Obama may want to cover his eyes for this one.

OBAMA/The latest Quinnipiac University National Poll found that Obama’s approval rating has dropped to a net low, with 44 percent saying they approve compared with 48 percent who disapprove of how he’s doing his job.

Pennsylvania primary: undecideds may decide it

The Pennsylvania Democratic primary may end up decided by the undecideds.

Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak are vying for the Democratic vote in Tuesday’s primary, which will determine who  runs against the Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat in November. SPORT BASEBALL

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows the race is too close to call — with Sestak at 42 pecent versus Specter at 41 percent. Add to the mix 16 percent undecided and 25 percent saying they might change their mind, and the vote could go any which way.

“Sen. Arlen Specter has the party organization behind him, which should help with turnout. But Congressman Joe Sestak could benefit from the relatively large group of undecided voters.  Generally, incumbents don’t do all that well with undecideds, who are more likely to vote for the challenger or not vote,”  said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.