Tales from the Trail

Republicans seek more “skin” to tax

When it comes to reaching a deal to reduce the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt, Republicans say they won’t go along with raising taxes — except maybe for the 50 percent of Americans who they say pay no federal income taxes.

Two senior Republicans said this week that those folks on the lower end of the income scale need to have “skin in the game” and should pay their fair share of federal income taxes.

“I would not impose a significant tax on the lower half or certainly not the lower 10 percent,” explained Senator Jon Kyl in a Senate speech. “But I think it’s important for all Americans to know that we all have a stake in this and that more than half of the people can’t just expect the so-called wealthy to bear all of the burdens of government.”

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said House Republicans plan to push for tax reform that lowers rates for corporations and individuals, reduces a number of tax breaks and broadens the tax base.

“We have got nearing 50 percent of the people in this country who don’t pay income taxes,” Cantor told reporters. “I think most people would say everybody should have some skin in the game and pay their fair share.”

Looking to cash in on bin Laden bounty? Forget about it

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, it doesn’t look like anyone will be claiming the multimillion-dollar bounty the U.S. government put on his head.

White House spokesman Jay Carney signaled that no one was likely to receive the $25 million reward, which the Secretary of State had discretion to double, because it was U.S. intelligence work rather than a tipster that led to the deadly raid on the al Qaeda chief’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a week ago.

“As far as I’m aware, no one knowledgeably said, ‘Oh, Osama bin Laden’s over here in Abbottabad at 5703, you know, Green Avenue’,” Carney said, drawing laughs at the White House daily briefing.

Former CIA clandestine chief in memoir to explain why interrogation videos destroyed

Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service who landed in controversy over ordering the destruction of videotapes of terrorism suspects being interrogated, is writing a book in which he will explain why for the first time.

Rodriguez is unabashed that enhanced interrogation techniques used on top al Qaeda operatives produced information that ultimately led to Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces last weekend.

“The actions we took in the aftermath of 9/11 were harsh but necessary and effective. These steps were fully sanctioned and carefully followed.  The detention and interrogation of top terrorists like Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi yielded breakthroughs which have kept this country safe,” Rodriguez said in a press release.

Gonzales wishes Bush admin had gotten to bin Laden first

Andrew Longstreth in New York interviewed the former Attorney General.

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was grateful for the killing of Osama bin Laden even if he would have preferred it to have happened under the Bush administration.

“It was an important day,” Gonzales told Reuters on Wednesday. “We worked very hard to make this come about. I wished it happened under the Bush administration. But I’m grateful it happened when it did.”

Before Gonzales became attorney general, he served as White House counsel. In that position, he ordered a legal memo that was used to justify harsh interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Obama gets credit for bin Laden death, but not by much

President Barack Obama gave the order for a daring raid on a compound inside Pakistan in which the most wanted man on earth was killed, but only 32 percent of Americans say he deserves the most credit for Osama bin Laden’s death.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 13 percent of Americans gave former President George W. Bush credit, while 25 percent said neither.

Most Americans, 52 percent, said the killing of bin Laden in the Sunday secret operation did not change their view about Obama’s leadership, while 39 percent said it improved their view and 10 percent said it worsened theirs.

Bipartisanship on the White House menu

At a White House dinner with Senate and House leaders from both parties and their spouses, President Barack Obama got a standing ovation when he mentioned the demise of Osama bin Laden in his welcome.

“Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of  Osama bin Laden…” Obama said.

At that point, he was interrupted by the standing ovation.

“We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” Obama continued after the applause subsided.

“Minutes passed like days” for U.S. officials watching bin Laden op

It took almost a decade for the United States to find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But when it came to the final act, time went into slow motion  for U.S. officials holding their breath and hoping the raid in Pakistan would go off without a hitch.

White House counterterrorism official John Brennan, a former CIA officer who has been after bin Laden for 15 years, described the scene in the White House Situation Room where President Barack Obama and other national security officials gathered to monitor the U.S. operation in real-time.

“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” Brennan told reporters at the White House.

McCain says Trump having fun, Republicans have serious candidates for 2012

Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, made clear that he doesn’t see Donald Trump as a serious candidate for 2012.

“I think Mr. Trump is having a lot of fun and it’s pretty clear he enjoys the limelight.  We have very serious candidates.  And I think that, if Mr. Trump wants to run, he’s welcome to run,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

(Ouch!) 

That came a day after Trump attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where Obama and comedian Seth Meyers told cutting jokes about the New York real estate magnate.

Washington Extra – Syria slap

Reuters correspondent Mark Hosenball got early word that the White House was going to slap additional sanctions on Syria including on the brother and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials then told White House correspondent Matt Spetalnick that President Barack Obama had signed an executive order for sanctions today, showing that no Syrian official was “immune” from repercussions if the violence against protesters didn’t stop.

A not-so-veiled message was that while President Assad was not on the list, that shoe could drop too if the crackdown did not end. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 48 civilians were killed in pro-democracy demonstrations today.

Washington Extra – Changing hats

The national security musical chairs was made official today by President Barack Obama.

On stage was a daisy-chain of Washington insiders who have worn many hats over the years and criss-crossed different administrations. They all report to Commander-in-Chief Obama, who by comparison appeared a relative newcomer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former senator and first lady, was there to welcome back into the fold Ryan Crocker, who was chosen to be ambassador to Afghanistan.