Tales from the Trail

Reuters Washington Extra – Panetta’s pain

Leon Panetta, famous here in Washington for being a “budget guy”, has a budget challenge at the Pentagon that few would relish. He probably doesn’t relish it either, but it could be the crowning achievement in a remarkable career if he pulls it off.

Today he fired the opening salvo in what is expected to be a long budget fight in Congress for the American military of the future – a much leaner one at that. He’s trying to wear both hats, that of the budget guy (and historic deficit hawk) and that of a custodian of a strong military.

He will be hit with accusations of not cutting enough from a Defense Department that accounts for 20 percent of federal spending. But many on Capitol Hill are already blasting him for going too far, leading America toward irreparable decline.

Normally cool and collected, there is one type of cut that clearly makes Panetta uncomfortable – base closures – something he opened the door to doing today. As a former congressman, he knows the toll they take on a community, its jobs and its income. He called the process “a son of a bitch” in November. Today, there was no such tough language, but a clear acknowledgement that pain was on the way.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Pentagon cuts reshape military, trim costs

The Pentagon unveiled a 2013 budget plan to cut the size of the U.S. military by eliminating nearly 100,000 ground troops, mothballing ships and trimming air squadrons in an effort to reduce spending by $487 billion over the next decade. “Make no mistake, the savings that we are proposing will impact all 50 states and many districts, congressional districts across America,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a news conference at the Pentagon.

The First Draft: Preparing for a fall?

Are Democrats trying to soften the blow for President Barack Obama if the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, Creigh Deeds, loses in the November elections?OBAMA/

The Washington Post thinks so. It says in a front page story that top Democrats sense that Deeds is likely to lose in the key swing state so they’re trying to distance Obama from him.

The article cites senior administration officials who are frustrated with the way Deeds has handled his campaign, saying he refused some strategic advice. They also say he did not reach out to some key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in the 2008 presidential race — the first time in decades that a Democrat won in that state.