Gay love, vibrating pants, Columbian connection — you could be forgiven for thinking the US political press were at a loss for news this week.

But with any positioning for the big seat in the White House comes the inevitable questions on Iraq, which provides one of the few real tests of the differences between the candidates, especially the Democrats. With General David Petraeus delivering another uncomfortable assessment of the situation on the ground, all three presidential hopefuls this week had a chance to prove their foreign policy smarts … while stories of gay love, vibrating pants and Columbian connections swirled around in the foreground.

Where’s the gay love?: Mark Segal didn’t want to wait. After weeks of requests to interview Barack Obama, the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News concluded the senator’s aides may never make him available. So even as the Obama campaign held out the possibility of an interview before the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, Segal published a half-blank front page to represent what he described in an editorial as Obama’s “disrespect of the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] local media.” — Politico

The Senator’s vibrating pants: Barack Obama appeared to have a bit of an awkward moment when his pants started vibrating during a campaign stop. The Senator was quick to point out he wasn’t being “fresh.” Last week the pool report picked up on Obama acting “very flirtatious” on the trail. — The Huffington Post

The Clinton-Columbia connection: A week ago, if you’d asked most people to say the first thing that popped into their heads when they heard the word “Colombia,” you might have gotten: “Bogotá,” “coffee,” “cocaine,” or maybe even “kidnappings.” Today that list would probably be led by “Clinton.” First came chief strategist Mark Penn’s “reassignment” following the embarrassing revelation of his side job advising the Colombian government on how to promote a trade agreement loudly decried by the candidate whose campaign has so far paid him and his firm $10,800,000 for his input. Then came word that Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson also has financial ties to Colombia via his involvement the Glover Park Group, a company founded by Clinton administration alum Joe Lockhart that has also been advising the Colombian government. – Arianna Huffington, Real Clear Politics

How Obama’s mum made him: It turns out that Obama’s nascent career peddling hope is a family business. He inherited it. And while it is true that he has not been profoundly tested, he was raised by someone who was. In most elections, the deceased mother of a candidate in the primaries is not the subject of a magazine profile. But Ann Soetoro was not like most mothers.  — Time

Can the Republicans win on Iraq? Are the Republicans politically suicidal? I don’t think so. The public can oppose you on a specific policy question but still favor you on the issue in general. Richard Nixon was fighting an unpopular war in 1972, but he still crushed George McGovern on foreign policy. Likewise, despite the unpopularity of the Iraq war, John McCain’s general hawkishness might still be an asset for him. – The New Republic

Obama not rising to the seriousness of Iraq: It is a political error for a candidate to believe that voters who agree with him will always end up supporting him.There is little doubt that Americans generally feel that the initial use of military force in Iraq was a mistake. Recent, paradoxical polls show a dramatic increase in the number of people who believe that the war is now going well alongside a hardening majority who believe it should not have been begun at all. Barack Obama’s strongest argument on Iraq is increasingly about the past. But presidential elections tend to focus on the future. In spite of their past failures, whom do you trust more to conduct a flawed, messy war in the years ahead? Lincoln or McClellan? Nixon or McGovern? Bush or Kerry? McCain or Obama? – Michael Gleeson, Real Clear Politics

McCain going where Republicans won’t: How many points do you get for just showing up? John McCain will get an idea at the end of the month when he travels to venues where Republicans don’t usually campaign. McCain is planning to speak in inner cities, heavily African-American sections of the South, and poor sections of Appalachia. Most of his stops will be in areas where voters have traditionally supported Democrats. Can McCain win over many new voters in these areas? Probably not. – John Dickerson, Slate

A political vow of silence? At a campaign event here tonight, a man rose from the audience to praise Senator Barack Obama for his oratory. In doing so, the Hoosier voter gently dismissed the criticism that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers about her rival: speeches don’t solve problems. “The reason that I talk the way I do is not just because I like to hear myself talk,” Mr. Obama said. “I promise you, after 15 months, I would be happy to take a vow of silence and not say a word. I’d be happy just to sit in an office somewhere and solve all kinds of problems without ever having to give a speech.” – Jeff Zeleny, NYT  

Peter Fray

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