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 agreed that the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy of banning gays from serving in the military should be repealed soon, but neither were in favor of an effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.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
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