Fort Riley, Kansas (CNN) - A wartime defense secretary, it seems, has to learn a lot about classroom size, health care co-pays, and squashing rumors.
Of course, there are more traditional questions, like: When will the United States military be out of Iraq and Afghanistan?
For an hour or so Saturday at Fort Riley, Secretary Robert Gates patiently fielded questions, and a few complaints, from military spouses.
He made a little news that made the locals happy: announcing he was asking Congress next week for authority to transfer some Pentagon funds to the education budget to help alleviate overcrowded classrooms at the post by building a new elementary school and renovating existing schools.
He also promised to look into an array of concerns and complaints about the military health care system, including a lack of mental health counselors and specialists.
And he said alternative treatments like acupuncture and aromatherapy were proving successful in helping troops deal with post traumatic stress, and perhaps should be covered in health plans for spouses.
(CNN) - The Utah GOP convention has come to a close, and after the third round of balloting; no candidate reached the 60 percent threshold needed to avoid a primary runoff.
Tim Bridgewater captured 57.28 percent of votes during the third and final round, followed by Mike Lee with 44.72 percent.
The two will face off in a June 22 primary.
Salt Lake City, Utah (CNN) – Facing significant anger aimed at Washington and at some of his past votes, Utah's Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was eliminated Saturday from seeking re-election to a fourth term, becoming the first incumbent to fall victim to the growing anti-Washington mood ahead of the 2010 mid-term elections.
Bennett came in third in a second round of balloting at the state party convention behind more conservative candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee. Lee and Bridgewater now will face off in one final round of balloting to see if one can get 60 percent of the vote. If not, then they will face each other in a June primary.
Bridgewater garnered 37.42 percent of the vote while Lee got 35.99 percent. Bennett was eliminated with 26.59 percent of the vote.
Before the voting, Bennett told reporters "this is obviously a difficult political environment."
Salt Lake City, Utah (CNN) – Facing significant anger aimed at Washington and at some of his past votes, Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah survived a first test at the state party convention Saturday. He still, however, must overcome large obstacles in order to stay alive in his quest for re-election.
Facing seven other more conservative candidates, Bennett has been the focus of withering criticism from members of his own party as well as Tea Party activists.
Surviving the first test, Bennett is one of the three contenders who garnered enough votes in the first round of balloting from the nearly 3500 delegates to move on to the next stage later Saturday. If any candidate gets 60 percent of the delegates' support in any round, that candidate becomes the nominee. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the top two vote getters will face-off in a June 22 primary.
The candidate receiving the most support on the first ballot was Mike Lee, a lawyer running on a platform of strict adherence to the constitution and limited government. Both Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater, who have significant support from Tea Party activists in the state, got more votes than Bennett did in the first round. Lee received 982 votes, followed by Bridgewater at 917 and Bennett at 885.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday, after a meeting with U.S. troops and the top U.S. military commander in the country.
A statement from Pelosi's office said the delegation was briefed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. The talks with Karzai focused on the political and security situation in Afghanistan, the statement said.
In addition to Pelosi, the other members of the delegation are: Susan Davis of California, Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military
Personnel; Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Member of the Armed Services Committee; Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, Member of the Armed Services Committee; and Donna Edwards of Maryland, Member of the Science and Technology Committee.
At a news conference Thursday, Pelosi mentioned that she would be spending Mother's Day - which is Sunday - with U.S. troops.
Washington (CNN) – Former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean has penned an open letter to President Obama asking for immediate action on the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military.
The letter, released Saturday, expresses concern that the Department of Defense could, "indefinitely delay the possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy."
President Obama called for a repeal of the policy during his January State of the Union address. But some activists have grown impatient with the review process, a sentiment echoed by Dean.
"While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year," Dean writes.
In February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that laying the groundwork for a repeal of the policy would take more than a year. In the interim, however, the Defense Department was to start enforcing the policy "in a fairer manner," he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Congress will ultimately make the decision on whether to repeal the policy, a fact Gates has acknowledged. But Dean calls for immediate legislative action.
Salt Lake City, Utah (CNN) - It is part political town hall and part social gathering. And in order to take part, thousands of Utah Republicans trekked from across the state to participate in their party convention on Saturday.
In one of the country's more unusual systems, a candidate running for state-wide office in Utah must garner at least 60 percent of the delegates' votes if they are facing a challenger. If a candidate doesn't meet that threshold, then the top two vote getters will face off in a primary next month.
So the 3500 delegates and others interested in observing the activities gathered this morning to hear candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and Governor give one last pitch as they try to woo enough support.
All of the candidates had booths set up in a section of the exhibition hall and were taking questions from delegates who could pick up a t-shirt or a goody bag at the same time.
Incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett, who runs the real risk of not getting enough support to survive, stood in the middle of a group of delegates and defended everything from his political contributions, to his decision not to stand by his original promise to only serve two terms, to his use of earmarks.
Washington (CNN) – In this week's Republican address, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama pans the Wall Street reform legislation currently being debated in the Senate, saying it does nothing to fix the root cause of the recent financial meltdown.
"[R]eform should address the causes of the financial crisis, promote economic growth, and end bailouts for good," Shelby said in video released Saturday. "The legislation that the Democrats proposed failed each of these tests."
Twin mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are singled out by Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, as two institutions that need significant reform.
Washington (CNN) - President Obama wants you to know that the health care reform legislation, long fought over in Congress, is starting to deliver results.
"It has now been a little over a month since I signed health insurance reform into law. And while it will take some time to fully implement this law, reform is already delivering real benefits to millions of Americans," Obama said Saturday. "Already, we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control."
In the weekly White House address, Obama touts the closing of the prescription medication "donut hole" for seniors and a new provision that will allow young adults without their own insurance to stay on their parents' plan until the age of 26.
But Obama also emphasizes that not every provision of the new law has already been implemented.