Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Kids, cover your ears

It’s true, you learn much more out in the real world than you do in school. Just look at the kids who today attended the State Department press briefing for Take Your Child to Work Day. Instead of lessons in nation-building or food aid, they were treated to a discussion of prostitutes and strip clubs. 

With Washington gripped by a widening Secret Service scandal, reporters just couldn’t steer clear of the salacious story. Soon after spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saluted the handful of underage observers, the questions moved to charges that Secret Service agents and other government workers cavorted with strippers and prostitutes while on overseas assignments. Nuland lamented the topic du jour and one Department employee jokingly moved to cover his daughter’s ears.

The roughly half-dozen kids were models of decorum. There they sat, on the sidelines of the briefing room, staring down at the floor. None asked a question. But they might have been thinking “Mom, Dad, when we get home tonight, you’ll have some explaining to do.”

Here are our top stories from Washington…

US on guard for attacks ahead of bin Laden anniversary – President Obama has reviewed potential threats to the United States ahead of the anniversary next week of the killing of Osama bin Laden, but there is no concrete evidence that al Qaeda is plotting any revenge attacks, the White House said. Bin Laden’s killing last year by U.S. commandos is touted by the Obama administration as one of his top accomplishments and it may help inoculate the president from Republican election-year claims that he is weak on national security.  For more of this story by Alister Bull, read here.

Biden knocks Romney for “back to the future” foreign policy – Vice President Joe Biden blasted Mitt Romney’s foreign policy vision as backward-looking and tied to George W. Bush, hammering the presumptive Republican nominee for thinking like a CEO and not like a commander in chief. The remarks were Biden’s latest attempt to define Romney as out of touch with Americans, and his foreign policy critique marked a shift from the Obama campaign’s focus on economic and domestic differences with the president’s Republican rival.  For more of this story by Jeff Mason, read here.

Washington Extra – From Russia With(out) Love

Not a great day for US-Russia relations. The United States won the extradition of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout from Thailand against Moscow’s vehement objections. The Russian government said the extradition of the man known as the “Merchant of Death” was not only illegal but also the result of “unprecedented political pressure from the United States.” Earlier this month we had news that a key Russian spymaster and double agent had defected to the United States after unmasking the spy ring here. And then to top it all off, Republicans signaled they would block ratification of the START Treaty this year.  It looks like more of a meltdown than a reset in US-Russia relations.

THAILAND-BOUT/Not that START is dead yet, with Joe Biden leading the charge today to twist arms in the Senate and Hillary Clinton due on the Hill tomorrow. But if anyone was hoping President Barack Obama would rescue the second half of his presidency by focusing on foreign policy, it has hardly been an auspicious couple of weeks, after the debacle of the G20 meeting, the failure to strike a trade deal with South Korea and now this.  Still, here’s hoping the president can strike peace in the Middle East or negotiate a successful exit from Afghanistan.

The best news on the foreign stage so far this week has a British flavor (or a British flavour, to be more accurate). And no, I am not talking about the Royal engagement. It’s news that the Beatles will finally be available on iTunes. Three years after the two big Apples settled their trademark dispute, the Fab Four’s 13 albums will finally be available on the world’s biggest digital retailer. You don’t know how lucky you are boys…