Lawmakers lay out Obama's challenge in the case for more troops
By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro
CNN -- Senators discuss what Obama must do in Afghan speech
Just as President Obama prepares to deliver a critical speech on Afghanistan Tuesday, Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) stressed that the announcement must address how the call for an expected 30,000 additional troops will fit into America's national security interests and allow Afghanis to take control of their own country.
"The president has to speak to the American people, remind them why we're there, and also lay out a strategy -- not just the reflexive response to a recommendation -- but a strategy that involves protecting the homeland from al-Qaeda," Reed said. "And that involves a presence in Afghanistan. It involves being influential in Pakistan. It involves having a combination of intelligence, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency operations, all of these things."
Lugar agreed, saying that Obama must present his new approach with confidence, by laying out America's capacity to successfully fight this war and articulating how adding troops -- reportedly at $1 million per soldier -- will help the Afghan army take control. Lugar also touched on expense of the war, suggesting that perhaps the U.S. should put aside costly health-care reform to focus on how America will pay for what is likely to be years more work in Afghanistan.
"The war is terribly important," said Lugar, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. "Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money."
Outside of actions taken by the Afghan government to root out corruption, Lugar said signs of progress may first come in the southern province of Helmand where the first several thousand additional U.S. troops are reportedly planned to go. Reed said he will look for positive steps through the defection of fighters from the Taliban coupled with Afghani villagers taking control of their areas.
"The ultimate test is that there are villages able to protect themselves, with the help of the Afghani national army and, to a degree, the United States and NATO forces, and that you're beginning to see a revival of civic activity, economic activity," Reed said.
In holding American support for the war, Lugar stressed paying for this war and any subsequent foreign policy decision down the road. Reed hopes that a continued decrease in American forces will help support within the U.S.
ABC - War, health-care spending in question
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) disagreed on how America's resources should be spent as President Obama plans an increase in troop levels in Afghanistan and the debate over health-care reform rages on in Congress.
In defending the troop increase, Graham stressed that national security is America's most important priority, but he would not commit to a war surtax, a popular proposition among congressional Democrats.
"I'd like to see an endeavor to see if we can cut current spending and find some dollars that we're spending today to pay for the war, and prioritize American spending," Graham said. "Where does our national security rate in terms of spending? Are there things that we can do in the stimulus package? Can we trim up the health care bill and other big-ticket items to pay for a war that we can't afford to lose?"
Sanders, a supporter of a strong public option in health-care reform, bemoaned more war spending in the midst of a deep recession and in a climate when "45,000 people in this country (will) die this year because they don't have access to a doctor."
"If you're going to have a presence there (Afghanistan), you just can't pass the bill on, as we did in Iraq, to our kids and our grandchildren," Sanders said. "I think that's wrong. I think that's immoral."
On the question of whether they support more reform for the Federal Reserve, both senators said they'd like to see more accountability. Sanders added that he "absolutely will not vote" for the confirmation of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to serve another term at the post. Bernanke will be on Capitol Hill Thursday for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.
CBS --Levin: United States must buildup Afghan army
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) reiterated his hopes that any U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan will result in empowering Afghan troops to take responsibility for their country as soon as possible.
"If the mission is, as I hope, trying to very quickly build up the Afghan army both in size and in capability and in equipment, if the mission is to give them the capacity to take on the Taliban ... that would be one important thing to happen for Democratic support," Levin said.
Levin said the problem with supporting a war surtax now lies in the impact of the recession on middle and lower class Americans, though he would not rule out taxing upper income brackets.
"I think you could tax the upper brackets, $250,000, for instance, or more, but I don't think middle-income America is in a position now where they can pay additional taxes because the economic stress is so great here," he said.
When asked about a new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee outlining how American forces missed an opportunity to apprehend Osama bin Laden in December 2001, Levin said such a capture could have changed the trajectory of the now eight-year war.
"I would say there would be a good chance we would not have forces or need to have forces there," Levin said. "But this has been kind of well known for some time. We took our eye off the ball instead of moving in on him at Tora Bora, the previous administration decided to move its forces to Iraq. It was a mistake then. And I think this report of the Foreign Relations Committee just sort of reinforces that."
Republicans debate the future of moderates in party
Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate who was chased from a Congressional race earlier this month by a more conservative candidate, defended what she called her fiscally conservative record and agreed with party leaders about the role that moderates can play in the GOP.
Former House Majority Leader Richard Armey and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said all Republicans must know where they fit, in regard to their own districts.
"I think the Republican Party is in a great position," Armey said. "There is plenty of room for the more moderate people to win elections if they fit their district. But if in fact you nominate a person who can't win in their district, then you should expect that person will lose the election."
Gillespie said strong debate within a party isn't a sign of weakness at all.
"The fact is because there's a sense of opportunity in the Republican Party that we can win House seats and Senate seats, we have vigorous primaries going on," Gillespie said. "That is the right problem to have. It's also not constrained, by the way, to the Republican Party. If you look at the Democrats, you have Moveon.org and some left- wing groups now attacking Democrats who voted against a government-run health care system. So that vigorous debate goes on inside both parties."
Scozzafava said the pressure from the right in her congressional race was unwarranted. But ultimately, she said, Republicans must focus on what they have in common and what they can offer their districts.
"The most important thing we can do as Republicans I think and the leadership can do as Republicans are driving a message that brings us together," Scozzafava said. "I absolutely agree with Mr. Gillespie when we talk about things like fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, less government spending, the pocketbook issues are the things that are most important to people today."
Fox News Sunday -- Kyl argues against an 'exit strategy' in Afghanistan
Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) said President Obama's troop surge to Afghanistan is the right idea, but including an "exit strategy" in the plan is a bad one. He said that suggesting a plan that includes a way out sends the wrong message to the deploying troops, and also provides potential extremists and insurgents with a a strategy of their own: Wait it out. Kyl said Senate Republicans will support the war effort but said Obama's preemptive exit plan is a defeatist approach that could lower troop morale.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said President Obama's plan calls for support from NATO and Afghan and Pakistan allies. He said the president's message about the new war plan is: "'We're here for the duration as long as you do your part.'"
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) did not rule out a run for the presidency in 2012 but said he is "less likely" to seek the nomination because he wanted to see a more unified party, whose leaders did not support him in his last run. He said he would wait to see how the 2010 congressional elections pan out before he commits to another campaign.
C-Span's Newsmakers -- Chu says China is making progress on energy
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, fresh from his trip with president Obama to China, said the country has made significant progress in energy efficiency, singling out the nation's revamping of its coal industry. Chu said the Chinese see the green movement as an economic opportunity. In the past year, Chu said China has passed Europe and the United States in "high technology manufacturing," including space-related products.
Chu said the world is on the verge of a second industrial revolution and that the sustainability movement will create thousands of jobs and significantly advance outdated infrastructure and technology. "Why shouldn't the U.S. take the lead?" Chu said.
At the climate summit in Copenhagen next month, he said the Obama administration will show how the U.S. is doing its part in aggressively attacking greenhouse gas emissions, despite any new legislation on greenhouse gas emissions.
November 29, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
Categories: Sunday Talkies
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