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The Rundown

8 a.m. ET: Thorny problems in Iran and Afghanistan are testing President Obama's ability to navigate international crises, as his administration presents a resolutely united front on the former country but remains divided on the latter.

Much of the recent coverage of the Afghanistan issue has focused on divides within the Obama administration on the question of whether to send more troops. The New York Times laid out the opposing sides over the weekend, with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and James Jones all skeptical of a troop buildup, and Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke joining Stanley McChrystal on the more hawkish side. But Robert Gates' position has been described as unclear, at least until the Defense secretary made it a bit clearer on Sunday.

Speaking on CNN, Gates said, "The notion of timelines and exit strategies and so on, frankly, I think would all be a strategic mistake. The reality is, failure in Afghanistan would be a huge setback for the United States." (Gates also took an interesting shot at his last employer, the Bush administration, saying: "I think that the strategy that the president put forward in late March is the first real strategy we have had for Afghanistan since the early 1980s.") On ABC, Gates said the decision on whether to send more troops would be made in "a matter of a few weeks." But Jones told Bob Woodward that Obama had not set a deadline for the decision. As for Hamid Karzai, The Washington Post reports that the U.S. and its allies have told the Afghan president "that they expect him to remain in office for another five-year term and will work with him on an expanded campaign to turn insurgent fighters against the Taliban and other militant groups."

On Iran, the White House is considering a tougher regime of economic sanctions to punish the country for its nuclear program. Seeking to project a defiant tone, Iran announced Sunday that it had test-fired missiles. The Associated Press looks back several years to describe how U.S. intelligence agencies discovered Iran's secret second nuclear plant. The Wall Street Journal reports on an "Iranian campaign to project power and greatness world-wide -- including in America's own backyard," and finds that it has yielded "mixed results." Roger Cohen says that the U.S. and Iran "have a relationship of psychotic mistrust," and flatly argues that "sanctions won't work."

Also on the diplomatic front, the word this morning is that Obama will head to Denmark this week to lobby for Chicago to win the 2016 Olympics. The Chicago Tribune reports that Obama will travel to Copenhagen Thursday night and leave Friday after the International Olympic Committee's meeting. His lobbying may be needed -- the Chicago Sun-Times says that a well-known Web site covering the Olympics currently ranks Rio de Janeiro as leading the 2016 sweepstakes, with Chicago

Back home, the Senate Finance Committee continues its long slog through Max Baucus' health-care reform bill this week, with hundreds of amendments still to consider. The panel will likely take a vote or votes on adding the public insurance option Tuesday, and the insurance industry is once again making its opposition to that idea clear. Roll Call writes, "The Senate could take up its health care reform bill as soon as the week of Columbus Day, but uncertainties about when it will be ready for prime time could push that tentative timeline back." As the measure progresses, the New York Times writes, Harry Reid will likely summon Obama to arbitrate a number of the most difficult debates.

One such fight may come over cuts to Medicare, and the Washington Post notes the "role reversal" of Republicans now fighting to protect the program after years spent either opposing it or advocating wholesale changes. The Washington Times reports on a group of liberal House Democrats who are bucking the political winds by seeking to ensure that illegal immigrants get coverage under whatever reform plan passes. And in case you haven't heard, Olympia Snowe is playing a key role on health care; she earns yet another profile Monday, this one from the Associated Press observing that she has "almost as much power over the bill's fate" as Obama does. Robert Samuelson complains that "the underlying driver" in the reform fight "is politicians' psychological quest for glory," and that the whole congressional debate is an "exercise in collective ego gratification."

By Ben Pershing  |  September 28, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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Desgraciadamente no puedo escribir mi opinion en Ingles, ya que no se mucho el idioma, pero si digo de lo mas profundo de mi corazon el temor que siento por EE.UU que ( es mi pais desde que llegue y me nacionalice,) es que considero que el Presidente es demasiado debil ante los enemigos de este pais y por ende lo esta poniendo en sus manos. Tienen tambien el caso de Honduras, donde Obama_Clinton se han puesto de parte del dictador Chavez y su camarilla de fascinerosos. Me resta solo decir, Dios proteja a EE.UU. ahora que es cuando mas lo necesita

Posted by: chiquilin | September 28, 2009 8:50 AM

I don't see any test, except from those people looking for him to fail. He has already passed the biggest test by acting quickly to keep our economy from imploding.

Everything else is just putting out fires, that really don't need anyone more than his cabinet Secretaries to deal with.

Posted by: wlockhar | September 28, 2009 10:08 AM

I completely agree with chiquilin.

The President's first and most important duty is to protect the nation from its enemies.

Obama is not only weak in front of America's enemies. He seems to agree with them most of the time. And his actions are truly frightening.

May God help America!!!

Posted by: tropicalfolk | September 28, 2009 10:11 AM

With Korea and Vietnam the United States became embroiled in a political war of fighting communism. Now the United States government in Washington DC in the past years (even since Yugoslavia), has become involved in religious wars (the Torah and the Coran). Funny, that aspect of the problem is never mentioned as a factor by the officials in Washington DC, which is considered (the last that I heard) as the capitol of a Christian nation. As a consequence, the strategy of conducting these wars is continuously muddled. True, the destruction of the Twin Towers seemed political, but at the bottom of it was Osama Bin Laden's fear of United States western culture overtaking it's bounds into the Middle East and the islamic world. Afghanistan and Iraq are a continuation of the spread of American culture by these attempts to democratise the islamic populations of those countries, something that is diametrically opposed to the Arabic and islamic traditions. Now we run out of the frying pan into the fire with the problem of Iran and their apparent success in the developing a nuclear missle.
And, oh yes, there is health care debat said by many to be desperately needed, but also very desperately resisted by so many. If I had all of the problems on my plate that Barack Obama has, I would just say to myself, "Enough already!". There is no way that all of these heavy problems can be solved by rushing them through the law making mills. There is a certain insanity in the desperation of getting laws shoved through Congress going on Capitol Hill and President Obama has to get some expert advice or the house of cards just may fall down.

Posted by: allset707 | September 28, 2009 8:42 PM

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