Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Say it ain’t so

The White House says it knows that just telling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to go, doesn’t make it so.

LIBYA-GADDAFI/SONGaddafi “has clearly shown that he doesn’t intend to leave just because we said so,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The head of intelligence told it like it is, Carney said. “Director (James) Clapper stated what is true, that Colonel Gaddafi is hunkering down, we all know that.”

It appears the Gaddafi family would agree. “We will never ever give up. We will never ever surrender,” one of the Libyan leader’s sons told Reuters.

In fact, Clapper says Gaddafi’s forces are better-equipped than the rebels and will prevail over the long run. (Not words the administration wants to hear).

Washington Extra – Podium pieces

We learned a thing or two from briefings around town.

– White House spokesman Jay Carney has a sister, and today is her birthday. He announced it from the podium. “I spoke with her this morning, and we are very close.” LIBYA-USA/

– State Department spokesman Mark Toner is interested in the Georgetown basketball game. “Anybody got the latest score on Georgetown?” he asked, to break up some of the back-and-forth with reporters on questions about Libya.

– Republicans have noticed that Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t been around. House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy complained that Biden is supposed to be lead negotiator in government funding talks and no one will say who is filling in for him. “The vice president is out of the country. We’ll have to prepare for another two weeks but that’s not where we want to go.”

Locke family: from houseboy to U.S. ambassador in two generations

A century after his grandfather first left China for the United States, where he worked as a houseboy in exchange for English lessons, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was chosen by President Barack Obama to go to Beijing as U.S. ambassador.

USA/“More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamboat bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington state. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat,” Obama said in announcing the nomination.

Locke’s grandfather returned to China, but the family moved back to the United States. Locke’s father came as a teenager and enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly before World War Two. He saw action in Normandy and on the march to Berlin. Later, he opened a grocery story in Seattle, where Locke worked while attending Seattle public schools before going to Yale University and Boston University’s law school.

Reuters/Ipsos poll: Potential Republican candidates not quite household names

At least they know his name.

USA

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating fell to 49 percent in March from 51 percent in February, and dropped among independent voters to 37 percent from 47 percent over the same period, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Separate from their view on Obama’s job performance, a majority of Americans — 55 percent — had a favorable opinion of the president personally, according to the poll. That number was unchanged from December, when the question was last asked.

Potential Republican candidates who may seek to challenge Obama in the 2012 presidential race have their work cut out in the name recognition department.

Lugar warns U.S. against war in Libya

momarIn recent days  some U.S. senators have been urging President Obama to consider military intervention to help Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gaddafi.

Not Richard Lugar.

The top Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee said little  while a senior member of his own party, John McCain,  repeatedly urged the United States to pursue setting up a no-fly zone over Libya.

On Sunday Democrat John Kerry, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, suggested that Washington might want to  ”crater”  runways used by Gaddafi’s forces.

Top Navy officer hesitant to predict Libyan future

CNOU.S. Navy Admiral Gary Roughead lived in Libya as a child before Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, and says the experience only underscored how difficult it can be to predict the region’s future.

“Having spent some time in the Middle East, to include actually living in Libya, I am always hesitant to predict what the future may be there,” Roughhead, the Chief of  Naval Operations told a Senate committee Tuesday. “It’s still a very uncertain period that bears watching.”

Roughead lived in Libya in the 1960s when his father worked for Standard Oil, the company that later became Exxon. He left to attend high school at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1969, just months before Gaddafi overthrew Libya’s King Idris. He returned to the country during his college years at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Washington Extra – Women of power

Were the cosmic pranksters having a laugh when the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day happened to fall on the same date as Fat Tuesday?

Washington showed off its woman power. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed their delight at meeting on such an auspicious day. USA/

Britain’s former first lady Cherie Blair was also at the State Department for the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards ceremony.

Spending cuts an arrow through the heart of cowboy poets

Mean. That’s what Democrats say about Republican efforts to cut spending. They even want to rope in the cowboy poet.

OBIT AUTRYDemocrats have decried a spending bill passed by House Republicans that would slash money for education, heating and food assistance for the poor, community health centers, public television and alternative energy sources.

Most people are familiar with federal spending in those areas.

But who knew that federal funding for the arts and humanities helped provide a spotlight for cowboy poets. 

Then came social issues and ‘morality’…

RTR2CNMS_Comp-150x150The Tea Party’s November victories and the ensuing Republican drive for spending cuts are in large part the result of a political strategy that focuses tightly on fiscal and economic matters, while minimizing rhetoric on moral questions and social topics. But for how much longer can Republicans keep a lid on the culture war?

The 2012 presidential race, though lacking in declared GOP candidates, may be about to pry open a Pandora’s box bearing the name of social issues that have long divided Republican and independent ranks. And such an occurrence could work against the interests of fiscal conservatives, just as the GOP girds itself for a showdown with Democrats over spending cuts and the debt ceiling later this spring.RTXXP42_Comp-150x150

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, one of those Republicans who are running for president without actually running for president, tells NBC’s Today show that social conservatism is what built America and made it strong.

Testing their partnership, Obama and Australia’s Gillard disagree on…vegemite

They may be the strongest of allies, but U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard disagree on at least one thing: the culinary strengths and weaknesses of Vegemite.

The president, it turns out, is not a fan.obama_aussie

“It’s horrible,” Obama told a class of high school students on Monday after one asked the visiting Australian leader what the substance really was.

Gillard acknowledged the conflict.

“This is also a little bit of a division between the President and I.  I love Vegemite,” she told the student.