Tales from the Trail

Missiles before talks — what’s the message from Iran?

September 28, 2009

Everyone has their own way of broaching subjects they don’t like.

Iran has decided the best prelude to upcoming talks with Western powers that are inevitably going to end up in a finger-pointing session over Tehran’s nuclear program, is to test fire a bunch of missiles.

Obama handles China delicately

July 29, 2009

It’s too early to tell whether President Barack Obama’s new approach to China will be more successful than his predecessor’s. But this week’s high-level dialogue in Washington underlined how the balance of power is shifting. CHINA-USA/OBAMA

Do looks matter in China?

July 16, 2009

BEIJING – Does having “a Chinese face” help two top U.S. officials in hard bargaining on energy and trade issues with the Chinese?

Governor Sanford’s walk in the woods

June 23, 2009

When Governor Mark Sanford walks out of the woods tomorrow, he’s sure for a big surprise.

from FaithWorld:

Almost two million vanish from Obama’s estimate of U.S. Muslims

June 22, 2009

dawn-front-page002 (Dawn front page for Sunday, 21 June 2009)

Almost two million people have inexplicably disappeared from the estimates of the U.S. Muslim population that President Barack Obama has given recently. In his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, he spoke about "nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today." On Sunday, the Karachi daily Dawn published an interview with him where he said "we have five million Muslims."

German, U.S. ties strong, never you mind the wild speculation

June 6, 2009

DRESDEN, Germany – Were you under the impression that relations between the United States and Germany have been a bit frosty since President Barack Obama took office?
That Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t trust Obama because he went to Germany during his election OBAMA/GERMANYcampaign and cozied up to her opposition?
Or that Obama was offended by her refusal to let him deliver his big Berlin speech last year at the Brandenburg Gate, so he returned the snub by refusing to go to Berlin on this trip?
Well pish, posh. You’ve clearly been reading wildly speculative media reports.
“They are very wild and based on no facts,” Obama told a news conference Friday standing next to Merkel.
“The truth of the matter … is that the relationship, not only between our two countries but our two governments, is outstanding,” he added.
And Merkel’s assessment? Working with Obama is fun, in an analytical sort of way.
“Allow me, if I may, to … say that it’s fun to work together with the American president because very serious, very thorough analytical discussions very often lead us to draw the same conclusions,” she said.
Since they get along so well, why did Obama not travel to Berlin on this visit?
Simple matter of logistics. He was going to Dresden, going to Buchenwald, traveling to a U.S. air base and had to be in Normandy the following day for D-Day celebrations.
“There are only 24 hours in the day. And so there’s nothing to any of that speculation beyond us just trying to fit in what we could do on such a short trip. That’s all that there was,” Obama said.
A day after he spoke boldly to the Muslim world in a speech from Cairo, the U.S. president found himself boldly speaking again — this time to journalist speculators.
“So stop it. All of you,” he said, drawing titters from the assembled reporters. “I know you have to find something to report on, but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems.”
Speaking of those problems, what about those Guantanamo prisoners Germany had said it would take?
“Chancellor Merkel has been very open to discussions with us,” Obama said. “We have not asked her for hard commitments, and she has not given us any hard commitments beyond having a serious discussion about are there ways that we can solve this problem.”
Washington submitted a formal request in early May for Germany to take some Guantanamo prisoners.
“There are talks going on,” Merkel told the news conference, “and at the very end I am absolutely confident that we will find a common solution.”
For more Reuters political news click here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Merkel listens to Obama during news conference; Merkel, Obama tour Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) in Dresden)

Michelle Obama’s close encounters with Elmo, Big Bird and U.S. diplomats

May 6, 2009

Michelle ObamaU.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience at the U.S. mission to the United Nations that she was “thrilled” to be back in New York for the first time since her husband Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. president in January. But she said some things are even more exciting than addressing an audience of 150 U.S. diplomats, military advisers and other government officials.

from MacroScope:

Watch out for the G20 spin

March 30, 2009

Be careful this week about buying wholeheartedy into any G20-related spin about supposedly savvy, free-spending Britain and America doing more to combat the world economic crisis than supposedly stubborn, overly cautious Germany and France. The actual figures show it is much more complex than that.

Obama thanks Canadians who campaigned for his election

February 19, 2009

71OTTAWA – As if he were out on the campaign trail again, Barack Obama gave a special thanks on Thursday to people who helped him win the 2008 U.S. presidential election — in Canada.
The president, on a visit to the United States’ northern neighbor, ended a news conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper by thanking Canadians who came across the border to volunteer for his campaign.
“I want to also, by the way, thank some of the Canadians who came over the border to campaign for me,” he said, to laughter. “It was much appreciated.”
After the news conference, the president made a campaign-style trip to a local market where he shook hands with excited shoppers and looked for souvenirs for his daughters.
But Obama, whose whole trip lasted just several hours, did slip up a bit — campaign style — at the beginning of his remarks.
When saying it was good to be in Ottawa, he stumbled briefly, and started to say “Iowa.”

from FaithWorld:

Can the United States fix Durban II?

February 18, 2009

The United States has decided to participate in planning meetings for the United Nations Conference on Racism in April in order to influence its final declaration. The conference, a follow-up to the 2001 meeting in South Africa that the U.S. and Israel walked out on because the draft declaration called Israel racist (that language was later dropped). Israel and Canada have already announced they would boycott "Durban II," as the conference is being called, and the Bush administration was opposed to the conference. But the Obama administration has decided to wade into the debate in the hopes of getting a better result.