Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Fall and rise

That’s not hot air emanating from the Capitol today, it’s the huge sigh of relief from the Democratic leadership that Congressman Anthony Weiner decided to resign.

And gone with him are the difficult decisions about whether to strip him of committees or think up other pressure tactics to end the weeks-long distraction.

“Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

On the other side of the world (we think that’s where he is, but we really don’t know) Ayman al-Zawahri got promoted to head of al Qaeda.

The U.S. government acted all nonchalant about the successor to Osama bin Laden. “Frankly, it barely matters who runs al Qaeda because al Qaeda is a bankrupt ideology,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

Washington Extra – Lying game

Allies lie.

Those words of wisdom came from outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a congressional hearing. “I would say based on 27 years in CIA and 4 1/2 years in this job — most governments lie to each other. That’s the way business gets done,” Gates said.

“And sometimes they send people to spy on us and they’re our close allies,” he said.

Gates was responding to questions about how the United States can trust and support governments like Pakistan and Afghanistan where the relationship is laced with duplicity.

House lawmakers tussle over Medicare mailings

House Democrats are accusing the Republican majority of censoring language in mailings to constituents about a Republican plan to privatize Medicare for future retirees.

At issue is official mail that goes to constituents with taxpayers picking up the cost of postage. Any materials mailed at taxpayer expense have to have bipartisan approval.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, five Democrats complained that previously approved language describing the proposal by Republican Representative Paul Ryan no longer was okay.

Republicans hold debt school for lawmakers

Pop quiz: What’s the debt limit?

As the August 2 deadline for raising borrowing authority nears, House Republican leaders have been holding a series of workshops for their 240 members to help “educate” them on the debt limit, according to senior aides.

In the past couple weeks, a few dozen House Republicans have attended each of the meetings to hear House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan discuss options for cutting spending and field questions about the debt limit.

“Any member (can) come in and have a presentation on debt limit,” one aide said, adding, “they can get facts and have a conversation about what it means.”

Washington Extra – One more for the road

Jon Huntsman is in. Well, technically, the Republican announced that he will announce that he is in next Tuesday.

“I intend to announce that I will be a candidate for the presidency a week from today,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a Thomson Reuters event in New York.

He advocated “getting our own house in order” to improve ties with China. “As we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States,” Huntsman said.

Washington Extra – Seven up

Ready… Set… Go… And they’re off to the races for 2012. The Republicans went north. The Democrat went south.

Seven Republicans go head-to-head in New Hampshire tonight in the first major debate in the battle for their party’s presidential nomination.

The One they hope to unseat next year, President Barack Obama, sought a head start by talking jobs (he said the word 21 times) in the battleground state of North Carolina, before attending three back-to-back Miami fundraisers in fickle Florida.

George Mitchell returns to law firm after 2 years as Mideast envoy

George Mitchell says he doesn’t believe in retirement.

After two years focusing on Middle East peace for President Barack Obama, he returned Monday to the law firm DLA Piper as chairman emeritus.

In an interview with Leigh Jones of Reuters, Mitchell said Israelis and Palestinians have mutual interests. Palestinians won’t get statehood unless Israel gets security, and vice versa.

“If you can make sure the agreement has the central demand of each side, you can get an agreement,” he said.

Governor Perry’s call to prayer

Financial debt. Terrorism. Natural disasters — all big problems for the United States.

Texas  Governor Rick Perry,  a potential Republican presidential candidate, thinks prayer might help.

“There is hope for America… and we will find it on our knees,”  Perry says in an invitation to fellow Americans to join him for “a solemn gathering of prayer and fasting” for the country in August in Houston.

Palin sees U.S. economy as “sinking ship”

Fresh off her “One Nation” bus tour that may or may not have been a precursor to a 2012 presidential campaign, Sarah  Palin on Sunday likened the sputtering U.S. economy to a sinking ship.

“It’s very noble of President Obama to want to stay at the helm and maybe go down with this sinking ship,” said Palin, who herself  resigned as Alaska governor in 2009 with more than a year left in her first term.

“I prefer, many Americans prefer, that we start plugging the hole, that we start powering the build pump and start getting rid of this unsustainable debt that is sinking our ship. We don’t have to go the way of the Titanic,” Palin said in a  Fox News interview.

Mitt Romney launches 2012 presidential campaign

It was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s day in New Hampshire, but the presidential hopeful ended up sharing the spotlight with a potential rival.

Sarah Palin’s “One Nation” family bus tour just happened to roll into the Granite State on Thursday — the same day  as Romney’s  big announcement.  The former Alaska governor  says the timing of her arrival was just a coincidence.

Romney  formally tossed his hat into the ring to compete for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination under clear blues skies at a New Hampshire farm. The main event was an informal cook-out where the candidate  served up chili and charges that “Barack Obama has failed America.” The former Massachusetts governor blamed the Democratic president for high unemployment,  home  foreclosures and other economic woes, highlighting Obama’s main weakness.