Emanuel: Need a Strong Afghan Govt.; Axelrod: Public Option Would Meet Goals
By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro
CNN: State of the Union - Emanuel, Kerry Want an Afghan Partner Before Sending More Troops
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday that before a decision is made on whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. has to assess the strength and viability of the Afghan government.
"It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if, in fact, you haven't done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there's an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country," Emanuel said.
Widespread reports of fraud in the Aug. 20 presidential election have made a runoff possible. Senate Foreign Relations chair John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said President Obama should not commit more troops to the region until Afghanistan's election is legitimately settled.
"It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country when we don't even have an election finished," Kerry said from Kabul in a taped interview.
More Sunday show wrap-ups after the jump.
Emanuel and Kerry echoed each other: Further U.S. military intervention without an Afghanistan that has confidence in its own leadership would be the wrong way to go.
"No commander-in-chief should be cornered into making a decision that isn't based on a responsible assessment about what is possible and what the American people are prepared to commit to," Kerry said.
On health-care reform, Emanuel insisted that the legislative process is as transparent as it's ever been despite reports that a group of Democratic senators, with the White House, is shutting off much of the ongoing debate. The key points, Emanuel says, is to increase access to health insurance at affordable rates while increasing competition. Emanuel repeated past sentiments that Obama supports a public option, but he won't specifically insist on its inclusion in legislation. On a delayed "trigger" public option, Emanuel said, "The president of the United States will obviously weigh in when it's important to weigh in on that."
Emanuel said taxing "Cadillac" health plans is key to keeping pressure on insurance companies from driving up premiums. The White House has received opposition from labor unions that call this excise tax a shot at middle class Americans.
ABC: This Week - Axelrod: A Public Option Would Help Achieve Goals
White House adviser David Axelrod signaled the inclusion of a public option in health-care reform would advance the Obama administration's goals of creating more access to health insurance at more affordable rates while lowering the overall cost of health care.
"I think the final bill will achieve those goals, and a public option would help in that regard," Axelrod said in an interview with ABC's "This Week," though he did not say Obama's support of a public option in the final form of legislation is a guarantee.
In response to criticism from Democrats that the White House is doing more to court one Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine, than Democrats that support a public option, Axelrod was non-committal as to which side Obama would ultimately support.
"And I think that we will overcome these differences," he said. "There will be compromise."
On the proposed excise tax on "Cadillac" health plans, Axelrod seemed to predict some morphing of these aspects in the coming weeks.
"I think that this thing is going to be adjusted as we go along, so let's see what the final proposal says before we talk about what the president will or won't sign," he said.
On the economy, Axelrod said the White House will stay the course despite reports of record deficits.
"I think history shows us that the worst mistake you can make is to pull out of your -- your recovery efforts too early, because you could send the economy cascading backward into a recession, so that has to be a priority, but that doesn't mean that we don't look to the mid- and long term for deficit reduction," he said.
Axelrod, offended by the record bonuses reportedly handed out by Wall Street, said firms that took bailout funds from the government have a responsibility to act prudently.
They have responsibilities," Axelrod said. "They ought to meet those responsibilities. And they ought to express them by increasing lending, which is what we need right now, and by standing down and allowing the kinds of reforms we need to protect consumers and protect the country from the sort of disaster we've seen."
-- Axelrod on the White House's criticism of Fox News and whether it will fortify their opposition to Obama:
I'm not concerned. Mr. (Rupert) Murdoch has a talent for making money, and I understand that their programming is geared toward making money. All -- the only argument Anita (Dunn, White House communications director) was making is that they're not really a news station, if you watch -- even -- it's not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming, it's really not news. It's pushing a point of view. And the bigger thing is that other news organizations, like yours (ABC), ought not to treat them that way, and we're not going to treat them that way. We're going to appear on their shows. We're going to participate, but understanding that they represent a point of view.
CBS: Face the Nation - Emanuel Confident in Afghan Run-off
White House Chief of Staff Emanuel echoed much of his earlier comments on CNN in his interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," saying the Afghanistan government's strength and commitment are essential before the U.S. makes any sort of decision on troop levels.
Emanuel did add that he believes a legitimate run-off is attainable. Emanuel also believes that once U.S. policy in Afghanistan is set, there may be possibilities of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and other military leaders testifying before Congress.
Once American strategy is determined, "then the entire national security team will obviously be available to walk the Congress and the American people through that," Emanuel said.
Sen. Kerry also repeated many of the same sentiments he expressed on CNN. He said guaranteeing regional stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is crucial to American goals, but a sound decision on troop levels can't be made until the Afghan government, and President Hamid Karzai if re-elected, steps up. Kerry said that while a counter-insurgency strategy should not be discarded, it must be fine-tuned to fit realities on the ground.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that while the U.S. should thoughtfully calibrate Afghanistan strategy, the longer we wait to make a troop announcement, the more "deliberation begins to look more like indecisiveness which then becomes a way of emboldening our enemies and allies and causing our allies to question our resolve."
Cornyn said the canceling of a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe and current handling of Iran by the Obama administration "begin to create a narrative or begin to create a picture that shows a lack of resolve when it comes to our national security."
NBC: Meet the Press - Democrats: Public Option Will Be Included
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said it's "premature" to say whether or not a second stimulus bill will be necessary to carry the economy out of its current slump. She said Wall Street is showing improved signs of health and with more time the first stimulus bills' effects will become more apparent to the general public.
On health care reform Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said the public option "makes the most sense if you want competition." He said "when we get to the floor...we have a good chance to include a public option." Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the public option "is an important issue, but not the most important issue." Jarrett agreed and said it's important to recognize the progress that has been made so far. She said with five bills out of committee, and with so much momentum for change, "we're on the brink" of landmark health-care reform. Jarret said President Obama will not demand the public option. Sen. Kyl also cited the budget deficit as a reason to be wary of an expensive government hand in health-care. But he admitted a public option will probably be included in a bill but with "a different color ribbon on it," perhaps in the form of Sen. Olympia Snowe's "triggered" approach.
FOX New Sunday - Specter: Time to Compromise
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) implored his former party members that now is the time to compromise. He said the absence of any Republican plan is a demonstration of "obstructionism" that is purely partisan politics. He said President Obama swore only to sign a "deficit neutral" health care reform bill. Specter suggested creating criminal penalties for those who engage in Medicaid fraud in order to to discourage abuses that could inflate costs.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he would "not support any public option tied to medicare levels of reimbursement," but said a not-for-profit entity would be helpful in reducing consumer costs as a competitive counterpart to private insurers.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he would reject any form of a government run healthcare provider, citing costs to the climbing $1.4 trillion deficit.
C-SPAN: Newsmakers - Murkowski Will Support Climate Legislation, with Nuclear Pursuits
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the leading republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee said that while carbon sequestration in the form of cap-and-trade agreements are a good first step, more should come in order to stymie overall greenhouse emissions and kick start climate legislation.
"We can't just count on renewables," Sen. Murkowski said. "We must aggressively start pursuing nuclear" energy. She said thousands of jobs will be lost and costs to consumers will increase during the process of converting to a more greener economy. But she said with a weak economy and the need for climate change at the forefront: "We need to make sure all options are on the table."
Posted at 12:45 PM ET on Oct 18, 2009
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