Petraeus: Too soon to tell in Afghanistan; GOP strategist: Steele is 'a disaster'; Cornyn: NYC mosque issue 'not about religious freedom'
By Matt DeLong and Felicia Sonmez
Sunday Rundown: A quick wrap-up of the Sunday talk shows.
NBC: MEET THE PRESS - Petraeus: Too soon to tell in Afghanistan
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, warned of a bloody civil war and Taliban takeover if the United States fails there. He said the Taliban is "much more responsible" for civilian casualties than U.S. forces are. He said he supports President Obama's timetable for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. forces in July 2011. He said it was "premature to have any kind of assessment at this juncture," but he will give his "best military advice" to the president ahead of the deadline, which could include advising that the drawdown not begin in July. He said any withdrawal will be "conditions-based."
Petraeus ducked a question about the impact of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's abrupt resignation after Rolling Stone published statements by McChrystal and his staff disparaging members of the administration. He praised U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry as his "diplomatic wing man" and said there is "good civilian-military unity of effort." Petraeus described his relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as "forthright," and said they speak once a day on average. He said there is no "cutoff point" at which the United States will abandon Karzai as a partner in the war effort.
Osama bin Laden remains an "iconic figure" among radical Islamists in the region, Petraeus said, and capturing or killing the al-Qaeda leader remains an important task. Petraeus said recent leaks of classified documents by WikiLeaks are "beyond unfortunate." He said the publication of names of sources who have cooperated with the United States is "reprehensible." He declined to comment on a rumored upcoming new batch of leaks. Finally, Petraeus responded to a question about whether he has any plans to run for president: "No way, no how."
"I am not a politician and I will never be," Petraeus said. "I say that with absolute conviction."
CBS: FACE THE NATION - GOP strategist: Steele a 'disaster'
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie called President Obama's remarks on the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero "incredibly revealing." Obama "basically said that the 70 percent of Americans who are opposed to this controversial imam building this controversial mosque at Ground Zero are seeking to deny the religious freedom of Muslims in this country," Gillespie said, adding that "there's kind of a condescension toward Americans that they don't like." Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine defended the construction of the mosque, arguing that "we can't stop people from doing something that others could do because of the religion they practice." Pressed further, Kaine responded, "We've got to honor the Constitution, and the president is reminding us of that, and that's very important." Republican strategist Ed Rollins called Obama's remarks "probably the dumbest thing that any president has said or candidate has said since Michael Dukakis said it was okay to burn the flag." He added that the mosque is "going to be a big, big issue for Democrats across this country."
On the Connecticut Senate race, Gillespie praised former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (R) for not being "an establishment politician," adding that "this is a good year for that." Kaine responded that "it's not just Linda McMahon. It's (Kentucky Senate nominee) Rand Paul (R), who says the Civil Rights Act shouldn't have been passed." "The Republicans are putting up a whole series of extreme candidates that are way outside the mainstream of what Americans want," Kaine added.
Rollins weighed in briefly on the tenure of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. "He's obviously been a disaster," Rollins said of Steele, charging that the embattled chairman "has failed miserably to do the things you're supposed to do: raise money, basically go out and articulate a message." Ultimately, when it comes to Republicans' prospects on Election Day, Rollins said that "what he says or does in the next 11 weeks is not going to matter" because the leaders of other campaign committees have "picked up the mantle." On Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's remarks expressing disbelief that any Hispanic would want to be a Republican, Kaine said that he believed Reid "was making a point that the Republican policies, which are so anti-new American, even to the point of shredding up the 14th amendment ... (are) chasing new Americans, not just Latinos, into the Democratic camp."
FOX NEWS SUNDAY - Cornyn: NYC mosque issue 'not about religious freedom'
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that the issue of the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero will be settled by local officials. He added that troops in Afghanistan are being asked to find common ground with Muslims. "If we can't do that here in the United States, we're going to have a very difficult time over there," Reed said, adding later that "religious tolerance is what makes this country different from a lot of other countries." Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) responded that the issue is "not about freedom of religion."
"I do think it's unwise to build a mosque on the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack," Cornyn said, and accused Washington, the White House and President Obama of being disconnected from the mainstream of America. While Cornyn agreed with Reed that the issue will be decided by local officials, he didn't say whether the Republican Party will try to make the mosque an issue in November's midterm elections.
Reed said President Obama will campaign for Democrats across the country between now and November. He declined to say whether Alvin Greene, the Democrats' Senate nominee in South Carolina who was recently indicted on obscenity charges, should step aside. "That's a decision he'll have to weigh," Reed said. Cornyn praised tea partiers, whom he said are tired of Washington's "failure to deal with problems like adults, in an adult-like fashion." He said the GOP supports tea party-favored nominees, such as Sharron Angle - a "good alternative," he said, to Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada. On the issue of immigration, Cornyn said Mexico has become a "pathway into the United States for people all around the world," and the recently passed $600 million border security package was "a step in the right direction."
Moody's economist Mark Zandi said he thinks the chances are small that the U.S. will experience a "double dip" recession. He endorsed GOP calls to extend the Bush tax cuts for the time being, but he said it will make sense to revert to the tax levels of the 1990s by 2012 or 2013.
CNN: STATE OF THE UNION - King: Obama wants it both ways on mosque
Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) took on the issue of the Ground Zero mosque. King said that the debate is not whether there's a legal right to build the mosque, but that those involved should listen to public opinion, which is strongly opposed to the project. "The symbolism of it at Ground Zero, within two blocks or three blocks, I believe is wrong," King said, adding that it "does put salt in the wounds" of the victims' families. King also said that President Obama's remarks on the mosque showed that he's "trying to have it both ways."
"I don't know of anyone who was saying that Muslims do not have the right to practice their religion, but with rights go responsibilities, and that's the part of it the president did not comment on," King said. If Obama was determined to enter the debate on the mosque, King said, he "should have been much more clear."
Nadler countered that "there's a fundamental mistake" behind the thinking of those opposed to the mosque. "The fallacy is that al Qaeda attacked us. Islam did not attack us," Nadler said, adding, "It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to al Qaeda as the culprit." He also said that when it comes to the imam and others involved in the project making an ultimate decision on the location, "government should not pressure them one way or the other."
Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also took on the mosque issue in light of the November midterms. Van Hollen said that "it would be wrong to politicize this issue," adding that he agreed with Obama that the decision on the mosque's location is "a question for the people of New York." McCarthy seized on that statement, asking, "If Chris is saying this is a New York issue, then why did the president engage in it?" He added in Obama's initial remarks on the topic Friday, "he brought up the exact location and said he supported it." McCarthy also reiterated his opposition to building the mosque near Ground Zero and said that it would be "an overriding issue" this fall. The two also faced off on a host of other issues facing both parties, including jobs and the economy. Van Hollen said that Republicans, and House Minority Leader John Boehner in particular, have been "very vocal in support of the Bush plan to privatize Social Security." McCarthy called Van Hollen's charge a "scare tactic to try to get off jobs."
ABC: THIS WEEK - Corker: Extend Bush tax cuts
Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) blamed a "confidence gap" that resulted from the shock from the economic crisis for lackluster job creation by big business. Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) cited unpredictability resulting from "sweeping changes" being instituted by the Obama administration as a reason businesses aren't hiring. He said many of the Democratic efforts to stimulate the economy have been "counterproductive," and endorsed extending Bush-era tax cuts.
"The best thing we can do is just calm down, to really let people's balance sheets sort of get back where they need to be," Corker said. "That will stimulate demand over time, as families and people -- households across our country get their balance sheets in order." White House economic adviser Laura Tyson backed continued spending on major infrastructure projects to stimulate job growth.
Matt DeLong and Felicia Sonmez
August 15, 2010; 3:11 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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