The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Sunday Talkies

Democrats Unsure, GOP United on Troop Levels

By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro

State of the Union (CNN) - McCain: We Won Iraq, We Can Win in Afghanistan

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged President Obama to speed up his decision on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, saying he must commit at least 40,000 troops to meet Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request. A "half measure" between filling McChrystal's request and pulling out is the "great danger," McCain said.

To disregard military assessments of Afghanistan in favor of a targeted counterterrorism approach (which Vice President Joe Biden advocates) would be akin to following Donald Rumsfeld's failing strategy in the beginning of the Iraq war and would be "an error of historical proportions," McCain said. A surge worked in Iraq, McCain asserted, and it will in Afghanistan -- a sentiment echoed by Republicans throughout the talk-show circuit Sunday.

Predictions of a flagging al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan are irrelevant if the Taliban come back into power, McCain said, calling the two "inextricably tied."

McCain acknowledged the friction between his vice presidential candidate in 2008, Sarah Palin, and his campaign staff, mainly campaign manager Steve Schmidt.

"With a high-pressure situation, there's always tensions that develop within campaigns," McCain said. "And there were clearly tensions between Steve Schmidt and people in the Palin camp."

More Sunday talk shows after the jump.

Both Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Robert P. Casey (D-Pa.) agreed that the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy of banning gays from serving in the military should be repealed soon, but neither were in favor of an effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The patchwork of state policies on same-sex marriage make a federal effort to repeal DOMA difficult, Stabenow said.

McCain on Obama's Nobel Prize:
"Oh, I'm sure that the president is very honored to receive this award, and Nobel Committee -- I can't divine all their intentions -- but I think part of their decision-making was expectations, and I'm sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we're proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category."

This Week (ABC) - Panel: McChrystal Should Get What He Wants

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the president and Congress almost have to take the recommendations of the military leaders. Obama must support McChrystal's assessment and "win" in Afghanistan.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said Afghanistan's imbalance is like Iraq's before the surge. The U.S. has to listen to the military and stop the safe havens for al-Qaeda in the Taliban. The strategy must be to stop the violence while adding more troops.

Ret. Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff said to convince Pakistan that the U.S. is there for them, more troops must be sent to Afghanistan. If Obama does not follow Gen. McChrystal's request, it is not clear that the general can confidently ask his troops to support a strategy he doesn't believe in himself.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said adding more forces without an exit strategy is counterproductive. An end date must be set.

Face the Nation (CBS) -
McConnell: Full Speed Ahead; Reed: Think It Through

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), citing the interconnectedness of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, said America should do whatever it takes to stop the Taliban from taking over Pakistan, much less Afghanistan. He said he hopes that the president will do what those who advocated a surge in Iraq are telling him to do now: send more troops to Afghanistan.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I. left his options open on Afghanistan strategy, saying a careful analysis must be done before he would commit to encouraging a certain way forward. Reed did say that while many are making "glib assertions" about sending more troops, they aren't paying enough attention to the high costs of such a plan. The president, Reed said, doesn't have the luxury of making assumptions about affordability.

Newsmakers (C-SPAN) - Harkin: I Have 60 Votes for Public Option

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) promised a public option will be included in a health care bill that reaches the floor for discussion. He said 65 percent of U.S. doctors approve of a public option and said four of the five bills to come out of committees had a public option included in them. Sen. Harkin said he thinks he has the 60 votes to include it in a health care reform bill. But he said whether or not the public option is amended or taken out completely during floor argument is out of his control.

Meet the Press (NBC) - Stabilizing Afghan Government is Key

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Chariman of the Armed Services Committee, said President Obama's thoughtful approach to Afghan strategy will pay off, and he said a combat troop surge is not necessary. He suggested adding more Afghan troop trainers and building up the NATO force would be a positive solution without risking significant American casualties.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) disagreed, saying Afghan troops "fold like a cheap suit" without American soldiers leading the way. He said improved security, in the form of Gen. McChrystal's troop surge suggestion, would stabilize the country like it did for Iraq in 2007.

Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former Southern Command chief, U.S. Army, and retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the Taliban threat to Pakistan, and a weak Afghanistan government, are obstacles to overall success in the region. They said President Obama should give Gen. McChrystal the resources he needs to properly implement his counter-insurgency strategy.

The roundtable also discussed the "Don't ask, don't tell," policy, but it ended in a stalemate. President Obama promised: "I will end this." But the round table wasn't as sure it would happen soon.

The generals said the policy is a legislative topic that needs to be addressed on Capitol Hill. "Change the law," Gen. McCaffrey said, and the military will be obligated to follow up. But Sen. Levin said Congress won't move forward without clear support from military leaders.

Fox News Sunday (FOX) - Governors: Economy Improving, Still Needs Attention

Governors Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) and Mitch Daniels (R-IN) along with McCain economy adviser Mark Zandi agreed the stimulus package has helped the American economy at the state level. The governors said if unemployment benefits, tax cuts and tax credits for first time home buyers were extended, these moves would continue to help their states' fragile economies.

Zandi said that because of the stimulus package, the "recession is over." He said recent poll numbers suggesting a peak unemployment rate of 10.5% by June 2010, and a decrease to 8.1% in 2013, proved the economy has reversed its downward slide.

But Gov. Daniels said improved consumer confidence must come next: "Government spending doesn't create jobs, doesn't create wealth. We've got to maintain and, I think, improve the conditions and the environment in America in which people will invest and take risks so they can create wealth for each other."

Posted at 12:52 PM ET on Oct 11, 2009  | Category:  Sunday Talkies
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What is (are the goal(s) of U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, and what troop strength is required by the goal(s)? ANd how is the linkage between goal(s) and troop strengh required determined?

How is progress toward the goal(s) to be measured?

What U.S. troops are to deployed to Afghanistan? Our troops have been deployed repeatedly and our worn. It is unreasonable to ask more of them (and their families). The choices are:
(a) deploy them anyway
(b) launch an intensive and extensive recruitment effort that, with benefit of massive unemployment among young (and other) adults, has increased prospects for some success.
(d) hire more military contractors.
(d) activate the draft (hopefully with very few ways to avoid service) to provide troops needed in Afghanistan and to provide an adequate force level for other deployments that may be called for.

How will the U.S. and NATO troops and the increasing number of Afghanistan military and police forces -- and nation building efforts -- be supplied. Afghanistan is landlocked. The choices are:
(a) Pakistan. Attacks have devastated convoys in Pakistan, so that route seems uncertain at best.
(b) Russia. Seems agreeable, but the route through Russia is very long. And what is the price -- in policy, in cash, and in other forms -- for this avenue. And remember, despite agreements, the Russian closing of roads, RR lines and canals between West Germany and Berlin (requiring the Berlin airlift to supply the Western zones of Berlin), and, more recently, Russia cutting off natural gas to Europe.
Whatever the route, it will be long, complex and expensive.

How will the activities in Afghanistan be paid for?
(a) more borrowing of massive amounts (from China)?
(b) cuts in expenditures for programs, e.g., Medicare. Our seniors may be too old to serve in Afghanistan, but they can suffer and die early because of insufficient care as a result of cuts.
(c) a war tax to pay for current operations and future VA and other expenditures for services required by those who served their country, and so that our children and grandchildren do not have this additional debt (and the cumulative interest) added to the burdens of the Federal debt.

Posted by: jimb | October 12, 2009 9:37 PM

WillSeattle, I think he was referring to grown-up Democrats. So you want to lose both wars. Which of these overseas bases do you want to close? All of them?

Posted by: emmet1 | October 12, 2009 2:41 PM

Democrats are not unsure on troop levels.

We want our troops home - from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of them.


Stick your heads outside the beltway sometime, boys.


Posted by: WillSeattle | October 12, 2009 2:27 PM

Obama needs to man up. He decided on the current counter-insurgency strategy and replaced the commander in Afghanistan with McChrystal back in March. Now Mcchrystal has reported to him on what force level is required to complete the mission.

COIN is man-power intensive. We didn't win in Iraq until we put in enough forces to provide security for the population. The same dynamic is at play in Afghanistan.

Losing is not a reasonable option. It would destabilize Pakistan, encourage jihadists everywhere, and demonstrate to our allies that they can't count on our courage and steadfastness.

Biden's hare-brained counter-terrorism, light-footprint approach can't work according to McChrystal, who is the acknowledged master of that approach. He hunted down hundreds of AQ and Saddam loyalists in Iraq, including Saddam, but it didn't bring us victory until we put in more troops.

So, don't wimp out Obama.

Posted by: emmet1 | October 12, 2009 2:26 PM

The longer U.S., troops stay in Afghanistan and Iraq, the chances of Democrats to stay in power diminishes.

Americans cannot change the mindset of nearly 200 million people in that region.

Bring back our troops post haste and enhance our Homeland Security Department.

Posted by: shovandas | October 12, 2009 11:36 AM

When the military asks for more troops in Afganistan.I think of Viet Nam. In that war the U.S. continued to add troops but appartently our plans for victory were not well thought out. I am told by men who fought in that war that they feel the U.S. could have won if they had been allowed to go all the way but that Congress would not support an all out effort.

The question with the war with Afganistan is what are our goals in this conflict?I don't suppose the military or our governemtn would share this with the American public. I for one would hate to see this war, as happened in Viet Nam, escalated without hope of winning. I would also hate to see this war spread to Pakistan. If we are going to be in a war at all our plan should be to win and get out.

Posted by: OhMy | October 12, 2009 10:04 AM

When the military asks for more troops in Afganistan.I think of Viet Nam. In that war the U.S. continued to add troops but appartently our plans for victory were not well thought out. I am told by men who fought in that war that they feel the U.S. could have won if they had been allowed to go all the way but that Congress would not support an all out effort.

The question with the war with Afganistan is what are our goals in this conflict?I don't suppose the military or our governemtn would share this with the American public. I for one would hate to see this war, as happened in Viet Nam, escalated without hope of winning. I would also hate to see this war spread to Pakistan. If we are going to be in a war at all our plan should be to win and get out.

Posted by: OhMy | October 12, 2009 10:02 AM

If I am not mistaken, a "confidential" news item recently reported that a true figure of 500,000 men was going to be needed to "ensure" "success".

Good luck with that, America.
It seems we learned NOTHING from Iraq.

Posted by: wardropper | October 12, 2009 9:00 AM

This is why I am GLAD that McCain did not become president. 20-30 years from now - we will think back on how misguided this war was. Vietam - our friends now. Germany - our friends now. Former USSR - sort of our friends now. When will we learn???

People were just as sure of themselves (including the general population) of how important it was that we fight. Just as sure as they are right now. Its no different now. THINK PEOPLE! We are in Afghanistan and they want us out. How do we fault that? Global terrorism will not be defeated in Afghanistan. It will be defeated by cooperating with countries so their populations WANT to stop terrorism.

Posted by: overdrive_68 | October 12, 2009 12:20 AM

Who cares that the GOP is united on....They lost the election and with that they lost the right to decide on what we should be doing or not doing.

Posted by: scon101 | October 11, 2009 9:30 PM

We've "won" Iraq?

Why? Because fewer American soldiers are getting killed? Because all sides in a simmering civil war are collecting weapons and alliances and waiting for us to leave?

Haliburton won Iraq while al Qaeda got a respite to infiltrate Africa.

And where are we going to get the soldiers? How about a draft only in Arizona?

Like the rest of the GOP, Senator McCain stopped thinking about foreign policy on 9-11-01 and started reacting. It's his advice that could lead us into another "mother" of all mistakes. One Vietnam is enough for any nation.

As for the Democrats, wake up! Ride the border, pay off the Pakistanis and sqeeze until bin Laden falls out of the hills. But don't waste American men and women propping up "poppyland."

Posted by: rogied25 | October 11, 2009 9:08 PM

They can order up troops, but it will be Obamacorns that will go, everyone else will not sail their Titanic.
Protect and defend the US COnstitution never included Aggan and Iraqi Nations as the beneficiaries of the US CONSTITUTION.

Posted by: dottydo | October 11, 2009 9:08 PM

Glad to see all the usual suspects
(i.e. the same team of compliant Senators who sent a quarter million men to Iraq and spent almost two trillion dollars to buy the stalemate which currently exists there) are on board with sending 40.000 troops into the Graveyard of Empires. With advisors like these we don't need enemies.

And, I am glad to hear that Senator McCain has now joined ex President Bush and V. P. Cheney in declaring victory in Iraq. Guess the sound of car bombs and IEDs going off means the Iraqis are celebrating their liberation and new found democratic ideals?

Let us hope that Obama's team of crack advisors is giving more than lip service to this "strategic rethink" and is keeping their options open to a strategy and plans which do not, automatically, follow the advice of a General who, for all his notoriety, still seems cut from the mold of officers who are committed to winning "victory."

I am waiting for someone beside Joe Biden to ask the obvious: if this war on terror/terrorists is a new kind of war, how come we are going to fight it like Viet Nam, i.e. tie up hundreds of thousands of soldiers and support troops in villages and strategic enclaves while the enemy is free to move about and define the order of battle on their, not our, terms?

Posted by: bobfbell | October 11, 2009 6:27 PM

I would hope that there is a much better plan than just adding more troops. Escalation of that certain previous war in SE Asia did not lead to victory. Reports from the Af-Pak border are not good. Fire bases in the mountainous northeast have not proven effective for myriad reasons. Reports about the Afghan army are not good; we cannot rely on the Afghans for anything other than turning their backs to the US when the Taliban come calling. The fight against a determined insurgency will always be difficult (if not impossible) without a comprehensive strategy that includes a very high level of cooperation between the military, intelligence agencies and the police forces in the entire region. That level of cooperation has not been achieved since WWII. The Pakistanis are not willing to take the fight aggressively into the Hindu Kush so the Taliban and Qaeda have protected home bases with a loyal or cowed population.

I would hope that our political and military leaders are considering all of these variables when developing their strategy. We owe this to our brace soldiers who are taking the fight to the enemy. Unfortunately, given our history on these matters, I have little faith in our leaders to solve this problem.

Posted by: mraymond10 | October 11, 2009 5:57 PM

It's so good to know that the gop is united on troop levels. We really need to hear things that these people are for.

Unfortunately, the commander is chief is from the dem party, so they cannot voice these opinions without jeopardizing their position as the party of NO.

Posted by: tmcproductions2004 | October 11, 2009 5:25 PM

This case is the second one where the GOP have demonstrated their readiness to play partisan politics with difficult national security questions. By contrast the President has made a strong effort to avoid a partisan approach to these issues. On Iran the Republicans were not only quick to try to undermine the President. But, their approach was also obviously foolish. In the case of Afghanistan, the choice is a very difficult one. Without access to the best intelligence information on the current situation and the polictical reality in Afghanistan it is hard to know what the right answer is. But those who are quick to undermine their President and who are always certain that more troops is the only answer are doing a disservice to their country.

Posted by: dnjake | October 11, 2009 4:50 PM

". A "half measure" between filling McChrystal's request and pulling out is the "great danger," McCain said.

McCain is 100% correct.
But Obama doesn't have the balls to take decisive action either way.

Posted by: tru-indy | October 11, 2009 4:18 PM

The foolish, warmongering of McCain and other Republicans remind us why, despite Obama's many shortcomings, we should be very thankful Obama won the presidential election and the Democrats control Congress. However, the comments by Feinstein and other conservative Senators, declaring Obama has to agree to the requests of the generals reflects dismal subversion of the essential idea of civilian control of the military. By the "logic" of these conservatives, mostly Republicans, Truman should have deferred to MacArthur's poor judgment during the Korean War. In this country, the president, as commander-in-chief, makes military decisions, not the generals, who are obliged to support the president.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | October 11, 2009 3:42 PM

GOP united? These idiots need to find out why the defense department did not protect us on 9-11. Then they need to find out why our military is chasing boogey men in Afghanistan while al-Qeada gets a free pass.

Then they need to find out why the military is still in Afghanistan after eight years and in Iraq after 6 years.

If the defense department is suppposed to be defending the US someone needs to figure out why they're not getting the job done!

Posted by: Maddogg | October 11, 2009 3:37 PM

This is a case to show that the Republicans are a hate mongering party, that leans very heavily toward war. Most of their sons and daughters are not fighting in the wars over there and so they don't care about what family this tears apart or who gets mortally or physically wounded. The Republicans are doing more damage to the United States that terrorists ever thought of doing. They are tearing the country apart. This shouldn't be happening and the sooner people wake up and understand what they are doing the better. I know that we need a two party system but I wonder if it was ever meant to be us against them in our own country because on of the parties refuses to drop the hate and racism they founder in their hearts.

Posted by: racam | October 11, 2009 2:29 PM

McCain is not the same McCain of the late 80's early 90's. He selected Palin as V.P so he wouldn't be overshadowed. Had he selected Romney, he would now be President.
Now we have Palin and Obama because of McCain.

Posted by: schollnick | October 11, 2009 1:33 PM

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