Beltway Briefing

The top five stories from US politics today.

1. President Barack Obama announced a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. He said 10,000 US troops would pull out this year, with another 23,000 leaving by the end of September 2012 -- just before the presidential election. This will still leave 70,000 troops there, roughly equivalent to pre-surge levels.

Republican presidential candidates rushed to give their views. Here is how they have responded so far.

Tim Pawlenty: "I thought his speech tonight was deeply concerning. Look how he phrased the outcome of this war. He said we need to end the war 'responsibly.' When America goes to war, America needs to win."

Rick Santorum: "We cannot let those who've given the last full measure die in vain by abandoning the gains we've made thus far."

Mitt Romney: "I look forward to hearing the testimony of our military commanders in the days ahead."

Jon Huntsman: "We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility."

Ron Paul: "Afghanistan was the downfall of the Soviet Union. We must act now so it is not the same for America."

Gary Johnson : "Thanks to our quick and totally justified action in 2001, al Qaeda essentially left Afghanistan nine years ago. We should have done the same."

Herman Cain : "Sadly, I fear President Obama's decision could embolden our enemy and endanger our troops."

2. Sarah Palin has denied reports that her One Nation bus tour has been cancelled. On her Facebook page, she wrote: "The coming weeks are tight because civic duty calls (like most everyone else, even former governors get called up for jury duty) and I look forward to doing my part just like every other Alaskan."

palin

3. Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota representative and White House hopeful, will launch a three-state tour on Monday to formally announce her presidential campaign.

The tour will go through key battleground states for the upcoming primary season. Starting in Bachmann's birth state of Iowa, it will move to New Hampshire on Tuesday and conclude with a town hall meeting in South Carolina on Wednesday.

The Tea Party doyenne's trip to South Carolina will involve stops in five cities, including Rock Hill, an area where former Governor Mike Huckabee drew considerable support during his 2008 run for the White House.

Meanwhile, in Rolling Stone magazine, Matt Taibbi described Bachmann as "one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau", describing her as a "religious zealot" who is "grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy".

4. Herman Cain, another Republican presidential candidate, has hit out at Jon Stewart, claiming that the comedian mocked him because he is a "black conservative."

Stewart had some thoughts about Cain's suggestion that he'd only sign bills that were three pages or under if elected president. "If I'm president, treaties will have to fit on the back of a cereal box," said Stewart. "From now on, the State of the Union address will be delivered in the form of a fortune cookie. I am Herman Cain and I do not like to read."

Speaking at the Iowa Falls Fire Department below, Cain says that "the joke is on him" if he thought it was a serious suggestion, adding "I've been called every name in the book because I'm a conservative, because I'm black."

 

 

5. Jon Huntsman has been busy distancing himself from his former boss, Obama, ever since he officially entered the race for the Republican nomination, having previously described him as a "remarkable leader". But, The Note blog points out, his new logo bears more than a passing resemblance to once we've seen before.

See for yourself -- Huntsman 2012 and Obama 2008:

huntsmanobama

Imitation is the best form of flattery.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: When Corbyn met Obama

The Labour leader chatted socialism with the leader of the free world.

Child labour isn’t often a subject for small talk, and yet it proved an ice-breaker when Jeremy Corbyn met Barack Obama. The Labour leader presented the US president with a copy of What Would Keir Hardie Say? edited by Pauline Bryan and including a chapter penned by Comrade Corbyn himself.

The pair, I’m informed by a reliable snout, began their encounter by discussing exploitation and how Hardie started work at the tender age of seven, only to be toiling in a coal mine three years later.

The book explores Hardie’s relevance today. Boris Johnson will no doubt sniff a socialist conspiracy when he learns that the president knew, or at least appeared to know, far more about Hardie and the British left than many MPs, Labour as well as Tory.

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Make what you will of the following comment by a very senior Tory. During a private conversation with a Labour MP on the same select committee, this prominent Conservative, upon spotting Chuka Umunna, observed: “We were very relieved when he pulled out of your leadership race. Very capable. We feared him.” He then, in
a reference to Sajid Javid, went on: “We’ve got one of them.” What could he mean? I hope it’s that both are young, bald and ambitious . . .

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To Wales, where talk is emerging of who will succeed Carwyn Jones as First Minister and Welsh Labour leader. Jones hasn’t announced plans to quit the posts he has occupied since 2009, but that isn’t dampening speculation. The expectation is that he won’t serve a full term, should Labour remain in power after 5 May, either as a minority administration or in coalition in the Senedd.

Names being kicked about include two potential newcomers: the former MEP Eluned Morgan, now a baroness in the House of Cronies, and the Kevin Whately lookalike Huw Irranca-Davies, swapping his Westminster seat, Ogmore, for a place in the Welsh Assembly. Neither, muttered my informant, is standing to make up the numbers.

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No 10’s spinner-in-chief Craig “Crazy Olive” Oliver’s decision to place Barack Obama’s call for Britain to remain in Europe in the Daily Telegraph reflected, whispered my source, Downing Street’s hope that the Torygraph’s big-business advertisers and readers will keep away from the rest of the Tory press.

The PM has given up on the Europhobic Sun and Daily Mail. Both papers enjoy chucking their weight about, yet fear the implications for their editorial clout should they wind up on the losing side if the country votes to remain on 23 June.

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Asked if that Eurofan, Tony Blair, will play a prominent role in the referendum campaign, a senior Remainer replied: “No, he’s toxic. But with all that money, he could easily afford to bankroll it.”

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism