Tales from the Trail

Could Petraeus be too shiny for the CIA?

An agency all about cloak-and-dagger tends to be wary of the limelight.

So President Barack Obama’s choice of General David Petraeus for CIA director has raised some questions in intelligence and military circles.

How will a four-star general who has repeatedly been the subject of speculation as a possible future presidential candidate, and who doesn’t shy from the media spotlight, run an agency that prefers to stick to the shadows?

Will his boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a retired three-star general, be uncomfortable with a subordinate who has a much higher public profile that threatens to outshine him?

Will Petraeus secretly harbor resentment at not getting the “ultimate job” for a military officer – Joint Chiefs chairman? Admiral Mike Mullen is expected to retire later this year and there had been some speculation about Petraeus being a contender to replace him.

“Is this a consolation prize?” one former U.S. official said.

Petraeus is not likely to make too many friends at CIA if he comes in with a restructure and fix-it mentality. “They’ve got a little fix-it fatigue,” a former U.S. intelligence official said.

Obama has ‘better stuff’ to do than birth certificate ‘sideshows’

President Barack Obama tried to put the kibosh on birther speculation by releasing his Hawaiian birth certificate and calling questions about the authenticity of the document a distraction from bigger issues by “sideshows and carnival barkers.”

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he said to reporters after the White House released a long-form copy of his birth certificate. Potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stirred up the controversy in recent weeks by demanding Obama prove he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

“We’ve got better stuff to do.  I’ve got better stuff to do,” Obama said. “We’ve got big problems to solve, and I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them, not on this.”

Wanted: New FBI director ‘ready to go’

The search for a new FBI director is under way, and Attorney General Eric Holder wants someone “ready to go” to fill some large shoes.

Robert Mueller, the current FBI chief who took office right before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is limited by law to serving a 10-year term.

The goal was to have somebody nominated and “ready to go” by the time Mueller steps down, Holder said. President Barack Obama’s nominee must be confirmed by the Senate.

Attorney General Holder says he plans to stick around for a while

Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s attorney general, has been castigated by liberals and conservatives for his decisions about prosecuting terrorism suspects in criminal courts, defending a law that effectively bans gay marriages and then dropping it, and efforts to go after fraud in the financial markets that have resulted in few senior corporate executives going to jail.

Despite all of that, he still professes a love for the job at the Justice Department and made it clear to reporters on Tuesday that he has no intention of going anywhere, at the very least until his wife says otherwise.

“I’m happy. I’m content. My wife says that I’ve got some more time and as long as she’s in the same place, I’ll be around,” Holder said during his first pen and pad briefing with reporters in over a year. “I like this job. This is my last swing through this great department and a lot of ways is a bittersweet experience.”

The White House and the silver bullet defense

Verbal silver bullets were flying all over the White House press briefing today.

“There is no silver bullet” has become the White House phrase for telling the public it has no magical solution for combating rising gasoline prices. With gas prices at the pump over $4 a gallon, the translation for the 2012 presidential campaign is: don’t blame us.

“The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away,” President Barack Obama said in his weekend address.

White House spokesman Jay Carney latched onto the phrase during the daily media briefing, and reporters ran with it too.

Bernanke and the media — Round One coming up

The Federal Reserve needs to burnish its image, but press conferences aren’t entirely a public relations exercise.

For Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the emphasis on greater openness predates the financial crisis. After his notoriously cryptic predecessor Alan Greenspan, Bernanke has made the Fed more open and his own statements easier to parse.

Many economists, Bernanke included, believe financial markets function more smoothly when the Fed makes its intentions, and its expected reaction to twists and turns in the economy, crystal clear.

Haley Barbour not running, lacks ‘absolute fire in the belly’

Scratch Republican Haley Barbour off the list of presidential hopefuls for 2012.

The Mississippi governor made it official, he’s not running. It’s apparently all about that ”fire in the belly,” or lack thereof.

“A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else.  His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate.  I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required,” Barbour said in a statement.

Shake-up strikes House Republican legal team for gay marriage ban

After a week of questions and criticism, the legal team hired by Republicans in the House of Representatives to defend a law banning gay marriage suffered a shake-up of sorts on Monday when the law firm dropped the case and the lawyer who was going to lead the effort resigned from the firm.

Just a week ago Paul Clement, U.S. solicitor general during the Bush administration, and his firm King & Spalding signed up to work for  Republicans trying to overturn a court ruling that found the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman unconstitutional.

After criticism mounted from gay rights advocates, King & Spalding Chairman Robert Hays said the firm was dropping the case because of “vetting” issues.

Clinton doesn’t want Iran taking ‘one iota of credit’ for Mideast revolutions

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says when it comes to the pro-democracy movements sweeping through the Middle East give credit where credit is due. And that means not to Iran.

The United States has long been at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program — the West suspects Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, Iran says it is trying to provide energy for its people. USA/

Now the United States, which sees Iran as a major threat to the region,  is also suspicious that Tehran is trying to capitalize on the Middle East revolutions.

Washington Extra – Major breach

pentagonIn this post-9/11, ultra-high security era, it is hard to believe that the bomb-proofing specs of a new Defense Department building in the DC area would be on public view. Then again, the Internet is a tough beast to manage.

Reuters reporters Mark Hosenball and Missy Ryan discovered the sensitive information about Mark Center — where 6,400 Defense Department personnel are scheduled to move later this year — on a public website maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Out of concern for the security of personnel who will work there, Reuters is not disclosing most of the details in the 424-page document stamped “For Official Use Only.”