Tales from the Trail

First draft: If it’s Monday, it must be Turkey

President Barack Obama is on the final leg of his first European trip as president, traveling to Turkey for a two-day visit. On his first stop in a predominantly Muslim country, Obama sought to rebuild ties with Turkey – a country spanning Asia and Europe which the United States needs to help solve confrontations from Iran to Afghanistan.

OBAMA-TURKEY/He vowed to help Turkey resolve its differences with Armenia and said the United States was willing to provide further support against Kurdish separatist rebels based in northern Iraq.

In a nod to Turkey’s regional reach, economic power and diplomatic status Obama will spend the day in Ankara speaking to parlaiment and meeting with Turkish leaders before traveling to Istanbul in the evening.

At home, Obama’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates was set to announce his spending proposals at a 1:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) news conference. Gates has been putting the final touches on a fiscal 2010 core defense budget request of $533.7 billion which doesn’t include war funding.

North Korea’s rocket launch over the weekend may be good news for Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and other big Pentagon contractors that face possible program cuts. In light of Pyongyang’s missile test, the backers of a fledgling U.S. anti-missile shield have been pressing Gates to rethink plans to trim spending on missile defense.BASEBALL/

The First Draft: chilly winds and hot air

There’s a cold wind blowing in Washington on Tuesday morning, one day after a late-winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on the region. DC residents anticipate a thaw when our national leaders provide their daily dose of hot air. WEATHER-USA/SNOW

President Obama meets U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the White House at 11:30. They are expected to discuss their efforts to revive the global economy.

After that, Obama meets with Boy Scouts at 3 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies to Congress about the economy starting at 10:00, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies about Obama’s budget proposal at 12:30. Markets are continuing to swoon after yesterday’s plunge; will their testimony spark a rally?

What’s the difference between Obama and Bush?

If you want to know if there’s a difference between working for President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, ask the man who’s worked for both: Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates faced that question on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

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Gates, a former CIA official, first responded without really responding. “That sounds like the subject of a good book,” Gates said, and declined to say whether he plans to write one.

When pressed, the Pentagon chief said, “I think that probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical and we makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue and if they don’t speak up, he calls on them.”

The First Draft: A Beauty Way to Go

Good day you hosers!

President Barack Obama takes off to the Great White North today on his first foreign jaunt as president. Trade will top the agenda in Ottawa as Obama seeks to ease concerns about protectionism. He’ll also discuss the war in Afghanistan and clean energy technology with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian Parlaiment, but the one-day trip leaves little time to get into details. Too bad, eh?CANADA-MOUNTIES/

Obama’s foreclosure plan should start showing results as soon as next month, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Shelia Bair said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Poland, seeking help from allies for the war in Afghanistan. The United States is sending an additional 17,000 troops, but has now lost its last remaining air base in Central Asia after a “Yankee Go Home” vote was approved by Kyrgyzstan.

The First Draft: The first day

The inauguration celebrations are over and the clean up begins as Barack Obama prepares for his first full day of work. OBAMA/

It’s a big job. The recession shows no signs of easing and Wall Street ushered in the new presidency with a record Inauguration Day slide. Obama’s choice for treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, will likely be asked at his Senate nomination hearing about the state of the economy and the new administration’s plans to shore up banks sagging under the burden of bad investment decisions.

Obama’s first day in the Oval Office is expected to be busy. He begins with the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral and plans an open house for the public at the White House in the afternoon. He will also meet with economic advisers to discuss his proposed economic stimulus plan and proposals for dealing with bad bank assets.

The double life of Robert Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is leading a double life these days.
 
Maybe that’s not so tough for a former spymaster but it does make for some awkward moments.
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As the only member of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet asked to stay on under Barack Obama, Gates has to juggle working for the current White House and preparing for the next administration with the president-elect’s transition team.
 
“There’s only one commander-in-chief at a time and so I’m not forgetting at all, for a second, who is the president until noon on Jan. 20,” the former CIA director stressed to reporters on board his plane as he flew to Afghanistan this week.
 
But Gates admitted his dual role did “create some occasional awkwardnesses.”
 
Sometimes, he recounted, he has to say: “I would love to come to this meeting at the White House but I actually have a meeting with the transition.”
 
Gates made clear he had never missed a meeting with Bush.
 
But he added: “Let’s just say that if I’m faced with a choice between attending a principals’ meeting on an issue that I think is not particularly hot and meeting with the transition folks, I’ll opt for the latter.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Pool (Gates shakes hands with U.S. Air Force officials at a base in Kyrgyzstan on Dec. 11)