8 a.m. ET: The calendar this morning brings a new month, and a renewed focus on the thorny problem of Afghanistan after August was concerned mostly with controversies of the domestic variety.
Stanley McChrystal says "the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable" as he asks for more troops. McClatchy reports that McChrystal's request "is fueling growing tension" within the Obama administration, as "Vice President Joe Biden and other officials are increasingly anxious about how the American public would respond to sending additional troops." George Will, meanwhile writes a sharp, typically allusion-packed column this morning advocating that U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. Will recommends that "forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters. Genius ... sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor ... is squandered."
Politico deems Will's conclusion big headline-worthy, pointing out that he is an "elite conservative columnist" while failing to note that Will has long been a reluctant warrior abroad, who also criticized the war in Iraq when nearly all of his fellow conservatives still backed the mission. Politico separately reports that "White House officials are increasingly worried liberal, anti-war Democrats will demand a premature end to the Afghanistan war," though many congressional liberals are already opposed to sending more troops to the country and there's no legislative vehicle coming in the near future that they could use to turn up the heat on the administration. Matthew Yglesias worries that Obama's current path "all but guarantees an increasingly polarized debate that increasingly pushes liberals into the antiwar camp.
At the same time, the partisan debate over which administration -- current or former -- has made the country safer continues. After Dick Cheney intensified his criticism of Obama administration security policies Sunday, James Jones suggested to ABC News that Team Obama is doing a better job combating terrorism than his predecessor did. "We are seeing results that indicate more captures, more deaths of radical leaders and a kind of a global coming-together" that did not exist under Bush, Jones said, while he was more circumspect on the question of whether torture can be effective and whether the new investigation of interrogation techniques would have a chilling effect on the CIA.
While Will focuses on Afghanistan, another conservative luminary, David Brooks, writes today of the "Obama slide" after the "Obama tide" (catchy, isn't it?). Brooks says Obama's liberal agenda has cost him the support of Independents, and so he should "align his proposals to the values of the political center: fiscal responsibility, individual choice and decentralized authority." What might a "decentralized" health-care reform plan look like, and would it garner enough support from either the right or the left to pass? The Wall Street Journal observes, "Recent town-hall uproars weren't just about health care. They were also eruptions of concern that the government is taking on too much at once." Time notes that two groups whose interests are typically aligned -- AARP and seniors -- appear increasingly to be on opposite sides of the reform debate.
Statewide races for this year and next are heating up. In Massachusetts, Deval Patrick set Jan. 19 as the date for a special election to replace Ted Kennedy "as the political world awaits a signal from Joe Kennedy ... on whether he will seek his uncle’s seat," the Globe reports. In Virginia, Democrats are training their fire on Robert McDonnell for the controversial views the Republican gubernatorial nominee expressed in a graduate school thesis 20 years ago (The Rundown is glad that he has since burned everything he wrote in college). And in the Empire State, the New York Post claims, "Disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been privately talking with friends about a possible comeback, and is considering a run for statewide office next year, several sources told The Post." Today's cover hed is "2nd COMING," and the Post may be rooting for a comeback just for the headline possibilities.
September 1, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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