8 a.m. ET: President Obama has now crossed the midpoint of a week dominated by top-level international summitry on U.S. soil, temporarily distracting him from the twin challenges of health-care reform and Afghanistan that currently dominate the domestic political scene.
After an address to the United Nations Wednesday calling on other nations to reciprocate America's efforts to foster global cooperation on issues like climate change, Obama will use the Security Council meeting Thursday to call for increased efforts to combat nuclear proliferation (an issue he focused on during his term in the Senate). Then he moves on to Pittsburgh for the start of the two-day G-20 summit. "Obama comes to a global summit here pushing a slimmed-down agenda designed to prevent a repeat of the conditions that caused such panic a few months ago," the Associated Press reports. "Obama will tell world leaders that the global economy cannot continually rely on huge borrowing and spending by Americans and massive exports by countries such as China."
Will Obama's engagements with other nations help him in his own? "The thinking among many Democratic strategists is that Obama is at his best when he is on a big stage, looking and acting like a statesman," The Fix writes. Presumably the content of Obama's dialogue on stage is at least as important as the simple fact that he is on it, particularly if Republicans are seeking to make the case -- as they did during his past foreign trips -- that Obama is bowing to, or courting favor from, foreign countries at the expense of American values. Peter Wehner calls Obama's UN address "the latest stop on his American Apology Tour" where he "once again succumbed to what has become almost a clinical addiction: criticizing the United States in front of an international audience."
But Obama can rebut critics by pointing to tangible gains this week. The president "made progress Wednesday on two key issues, wringing a concession from Russia to consider tough new sanctions against Iran and securing support from Moscow and Beijing for a Security Council resolution to curb nuclear weapons," the New York Times reports. There was less evidence of progress on climate change. The Economist says that on that subject, Obama"offered little that was practical or specific. ... He struck an urgent tone but there was little punch to the speech." Michael Tomasky writes that Obama's appeal to the UN audience was fundamentally based on two facts -- "the fact of his not being George Bush, and the fact of his race."
On Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal's much-awaited report on the way forward is expected to arrive at the Pentagon later this week, though there's no sign yet of when Obama will make his decision on whether to send in more troops. McChrystal told the New York Times in an interview that "there is no rift" between the military and the White House on Afghanistan, but "a policy debate is warranted." AP reports that McChrystal's initial troop request -- which, according to an anonymous Republican lawmaker, "is expected to be as high as 40,000" -- may have to be revised amid doubts emanating from Obama's advisers.
In the Hart Building, Day 2 of the Finance Committee's health-care markup focused on Medicare, as senators debated how and whether to siphon money from the popular program to pay for the broader reform plan. TPMDC reports that the White House is now working to sell the idea of a public option "trigger" to skeptical progressive groups, with an eye toward attracting the vote of the ever-important Olympia Snowe. Jim DeMint, meanwhile, sought to link the issues of health care and Afghanistan in a potentially inflammatory way, telling ABC News: "“The problem is the war in Afghanistan and our economy are our two biggest issues but he’s working on other issues such as healthcare and he’s putting off the decision on Afghanistan which I think puts our troops at risk."
And in Massachusetts, Deval Patrick is expected to announce his temporary choice to fill the seat of Edward Kennedy at 11 a.m., with the odds firmly in favor of Paul Kirk getting the nod. The backlash has begun: The Boston Herald reports that Kirk "has deep ties to special interests, sitting on a board that oversees a health-insurance provider and having lobbied for the pharmaceutical industry." And Joan Vennochi complains in the Boston Globe, "Pushing Kirk as the temporary bearer of the Kennedy torch is typical backroom politics. And, it’s being done with typically sharp Kennedy elbows."
September 24, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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