Tales from the Trail

Senator Kyl: show me the money to modernize U.S. nukes

Where’s the money?

A key senator says the Obama administration needs to commit to more funding for modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons complex if it is to convince him that the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia is a good idea. USA-COURT/SOTOMAYOR

Republican Senator Jon Kyl said that in any case it’s debatable whether the new START treaty signed recently by President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev “is in the best interests of the United States.”

The new START treaty, which cuts the arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads in both countries by about 30 percent, must be approved by the Senate as well as the Russian parliament before it can go into force.

Obama will need some Republican support if he is to win the 67 votes needed for Senate consent. Kyl’s opinion matters because he is the Senate’s number two Republican, and he is considered something of an expert on nuclear weapons.

Administration officials already have proposed over $600 million in additional funding for maintaining the U.S. nuclear complex next year, as well as boosting funding for the complex by some $5 billion dollars over the next five years.
But in a speech to the National Defense University Foundation Tuesday, Kyl indicated he wants to see a modernization commitment lasting twice that long and involving a lot more money.

Chavez’s space plans have Foggy Bottom in stitches

Russian PM Vladimir Putin flew all the way to Venezuela for a quick 12-hour visit to boost oil and military ties with President Hugo Chavez, the loudest basher of U.S. “imperialism” in Washington’s backyard. 

VENEZUELA-RUSSIA/TIESBesides guns, tanks, jet fighters and missiles, Chavez wants a Russian hand in developing nuclear energy to cope with chronic electricity shortages in his oil-producing country, and technology to start a space industry.

“We are not going to build the atomic bomb, but we will develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” said the former paratrooper who has been in power for 11 years.

Hillary Clinton wouldn’t flee to Canada if Sarah Palin was president

What did students in Saudi Arabia want to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about? Republican Sarah Palin. SAUDI-CLINTON/

One young man asked Clinton:  “Does the prospect of  Sarah Palin one day becoming president, maybe, terrify you?” and whether the Secretary of State might consider moving to Canada — or even Russia — in response.

“Well, the short answer is no. I will not be emigrating,” Clinton replied with a smile. “I will be visiting as often as I can.”

The First Draft: Obama scaling back European missile shield

President Barack Obama is abandoning a Bush administration plan to build a big, fixed U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe.

The president announced the decision Thursday amid reports from Poland and the Czech Republic overnight that officials there had been informed about the final decision.

EU-PROTEST/Instead of a fixed missile shield, the administration plans a more mobile defense aimed at short- and medium-range rockets.

from Environment Forum:

Calling Dr. Strangelove!

Perhaps you've heard about the Russian submarines patrolling international waters off the U.S. East Coast (if you haven't, take a look at a Reuters story about it) in what feels like an echo of the old Cold War. The Pentagon's not worried about this particular venture, but there are concerns from the U.S. energy industry about another Russian foray -- this one in concert with Cuba. In rhetoric that may ring a bell with anyone who saw the 1964 satirical nuclear-fear movie "Dr. Strangelove,"
the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research is sounding the alarm about a Russian-Cuban deal to drill for offshore oil near Florida.

"Russia, Communist Cuba Advance Offshore Energy Production Miles Off Florida's Coast," is the title on the institute's news release. Below that is the prescription for action: "Efforts Should Send Strong Message to Interior Dept. to Open OCS in Five-Year Plan." OCS stands for outer continental shelf, an area that was closed to oil drilling until the Bush administration opened it last year in a largely symbolic move aimed at driving down the sky-high gasoline prices of the Summer of 2008.

Environmentalists hate the idea. So does Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has made opposition to offshore drilling one of his signature issues. But as it turns out, it's unlikely that anybody -- from Russia, Cuba, the United States or anywhere else -- is going to get petroleum out of the OCS in the immediate future.

The First Draft: postmortem

Did President Barack Obama step on his own healthcare message last night?

Morning TV shows led with his comments about  black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates who was arrested after trying to get into his own home.

OBAMA/Obama said police acted “stupidly,” a comment likely to lose him some friends in law enforcement, and that the incident was a reminder the race issue “still haunts us.”

It was a brand new comment from the president on a hot-button issue: race relations in America.

The First Draft: While Obama is away…

With President Barack Obama off in Italy during a weeklong diplomatic foray, Vice President Joseph Biden has the stage on Wednesday for an announcement of the administration’s agreement with the hospital industry for $155 billion in savings over a decade to help pay for a planned healthcare overhaul.

For Biden, it is a rare chance to gain the administration spotlight by design, rather than because of his famously loose lips and periodic departures from the Team Obama script.

He strayed again over the weekend when he told ABC News the administration misread the economy upon entering office. Obama, in a round of interviews with U.S. television networks on Tuesday, was forced to backtrack and explain those comments.

The First Draft: Palin goes fishing for cameras, Obama talks too

After catching the national media off guard with Friday’s pre-holiday weekend bombshell that she was resigning as Alaska governor, Sarah Palin gave the television networks a chance to catch up with a round of stage-managed interviews for the morning news shows.

Television correspondents lined up to land a few minutes with Palin, decked out in overalls and wading in the surf at husband Todd’s family fishing operation. With children in tow on the fishing trip/photo op, she explained her decision to bail out of office more than a year early.

USA/SENATE-GEORGIAIt had nothing to do with running for president in 2012, she said. She’s just unconventional. Once she had decided she was not running for re-election, she knew she could not “play the political game that most politicians do,” she told NBC.

The First Draft: As Congress returns, Obama leaves

After a week of holiday barbecue, hometown parades and constituent fence-mending, members of theUSA/ U.S. Congress begin to drift back to Washington on Monday for what promises to be its most severe test of the year — finding common ground on a mammoth overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.

The Senate is back in session on Monday afternoon and the House of Representatives returns on Tuesday to begin work on melding two different Senate bills and three House versions into legislation that can earn initial approval from each chamber before lawmakers adjourn for the month of August.

There are plenty of obstacles for the proposals, President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority this year, from trimming the potential $1 trillion cost to determining how to pay and whether to include a government-run public insurance option for approximately 46 million uninsured Americans.

Obama: Russia, U.S. should not ‘charge into’ other countries

LYNCHBURG, Virginia – Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again on Wednesday for invading another country’s sovereign territory while adding a new twist: the United States, he said, should set a better example on that front, too.

The Illinois senator’s opposition to the Iraq war, which his comment clearly referenced, is well known. But this was the first time the Democratic presidential candidate has made a comparison between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Russia’s recent military activity in Georgia.

“We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”