Tales from the Trail

Clinton jokes about Yemen stumble

Call it the Trip.

USA-YEMEN/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wrapping up a high-stakes trip to Yemen to discuss counter-terrorism cooperation on Wednesday, stumbled briefly upon re-entering her airplane. Clinton was unhurt and newswise it was a non-event — except that it was captured by television cameras.

Clinton’s video misstep ended up going out on YouTube and became a minor Internet sensation, prompting snarky headlines from some of the world’s headline writers (“Unexpected trip on Clinton plane!” joked one).

It’s the kind of pointless fingerpointing that public figures (and sometimes journalists) loathe because it distracts from real news, in this case Clinton’s effort to broaden the U.S. relationship with Yemen, which is gaining notoreity as one of the world’s main incubators of al Qaeda.

But Clinton obviously decided to take control of the meme, because she mentioned it herself on Thursday during a meeting at her next stop in the Gulf  state of Qatar.

Qatar’s ruler, welcoming Clinton to his palace, spoke about how he had fallen in his home and Clinton responded with her own story.
“It happened to me just yesterday actually. I was going up the stairs to the airplane and I was looking over my back and waving and then I turned and there was a bump in the, in the entry into the plane. You know, those things happen,” she added.

Qat joins al Qaeda as Yemen threat

YEMEN-QAT/U.S. lawmakers, convening a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen, found themselves focused on another problem stalking the impoverished Arab country:  the mild drug qat, which permeates Yemeni society.

Rep.  Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, launched the discussion of Yemen’s drug problem in his opening remarks, noting that qat was “a narcotic plant that produces feelings of euphoria and stimulation, but ultimately undermines individual initiative — sort of like being in Congress.”

Berman noted that many people chew qat regularly  in Yemen — pushed close to the top of the U.S. security watchlist after the Christmas Day bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner by a Nigerian with Yemeni links  –  and that cultivation of the drug consumes about 40 percent of Yemen’s fast diminishing agricultural water supplies.