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."
September 28, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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