8 a.m. ET: When President Obama was sworn into office back in January, it's unlikely that his aides circled Dec. 10 on the calendar in hopes that he would spend this day in Oslo picking up a Nobel Peace Prize, an award that has probably spawned more headaches in the White House than pride.
But he won the prize anyway, and now the president and all his men are trying to make the best of a politically awkward situation. Obama arrived in Oslo Thursday morning, and is receiving his award as of this writing. The president led his speech with humility, calling his achievements "slight" compared to those of the many luminaries who had preceded him as winners. "The goal is not to win a popularity contest or to get an award – even one as esteemed as the Nobel Peace Prize,” Obama said on his arrival, according to the New York Times. “The goal is to advance American interests, make ourselves a continuing force for good in the world – something that we have been for decades now.”
Under the headline, "Wartime US president picks up his peace prize," the Associated Press writes, "Adding fresh irony to the award, Obama announced just days before coming here to formally accept it that he is ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops into war in Afghanistan." Bloomberg adds, "The juxtaposition of war and peace has been on Obama’s mind as he prepared his Nobel lecture," and Obama acknowledged that juxtaposition during his speech even as he defended the ongoing military effort in Afghanistan, saying: "I can not stand idle in the face of threats to the American people."
Before the address, advice abounded. Ben Adler writes that the president "must confront the apparent paradox head-on" and that "Obama should emphasize the argument that the U.S. military actions in Afghanistan are in the interest of not just global peace, but peace for Afghanistan itself." The Wall Street Journal reports that while "some Democratic advisers expected the president to lay out a broad foreign-policy vision in the speech ... [Ben Rhodes] said the presentation won't include specific policy recommendations and won't dwell long on any particular country or region."
Bloomberg notes that at his joint appearance with the Norwegian prime minister Thursday, "Obama said he’s 'unambiguous' about starting to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, saying the date 'will signal a shift in our mission' to a support role for Afghan security forces." The latest New York Times/CBS News poll found that "a bare majority of Americans support President Obama’s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but many are skeptical that the United States can count on Afghanistan as a partner in the fight or that the escalation would reduce the chances of a domestic terrorist attack." The survey also "showed a steady slide in support for Mr. Obama as he approaches the end of his first year in office. His job approval rating has now hit 50 percent, the lowest yet in this poll; it was 68 percent at its peak in April."
The Wall Street Journal interviews David Petraeus, who said "that violence in Afghanistan would increase in months ahead with the arrival of tens of thousands of U.S. reinforcements, underscoring the military and political challenges facing the Obama administration's Afghan war strategy." And Stanley McChrystal spoke to both CNN and NPR, saying in the latter interview that it will be "a number of years" before U.S. combat forces are no longer needed in Afghanistan.
On the health-care front, the strength of a reported agreement in the Senate remains unclear. The Washington Post writes that Senate Democrats "largely embraced" the deal, "setting aside their concerns about aspects of the consensus plan in the hopes that the deal hatched by negotiators would serve as a rallying point in their push for the passage of reforms." But Roll Call reports that negotiators who struck the agreement "appear to be at odds over both the policy prescriptions and the notion that they had even reached such a deal," adding that "participants in the group said their 'agreement' had been mischaracterized and that they agreed only to send the proposal to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate, saying more information was necessary before making any firm decisions." Similarly, Politico writes: "A day after Senate leaders announced a breakthrough on the thorny issue of the public option, it was still unclear Wednesday whether the tentative pact had in fact broken the deadlock."
As The Hill describes it, "Liberal and centrist senators at the center of the healthcare debate bought themselves more time Wednesday, saying they would decide how to vote after they saw the bill’s final price tag," but notes that key players like Ben Nelson and Jay Rockefeller sounded optimistic about the agreement. The New York Times also found "guarded optimism" among the main actors. The White House seems bullish on the idea, the Wall Street Journal ledes, as Obama praised the Senate's "creative framework."
The economy was the subject of a partisan spat Wednesday, as several news outlets observed that talks between Obama and congressional Republicans at the White House grew heated. "Obama's push for new job-creation legislation got off to a rocky start at a closed-door White House meeting Wednesday, when he accused Republicans of rooting against recovery and Republicans shot back that his policies had frozen business hiring," the Wall Street Journal writes. Using standard Washington code, the New York Times says the two sides "had a full and frank discussion," as "Obama and the Republicans aired their philosophical differences over whether the government should keep spending money for stimulus measures to spur employers to hire, as Democrats favor and the Republicans oppose." The public has ideas of its own: The latest Bloomberg National Poll found that "two- thirds of Americans favor taxing the rich to reduce the deficit."
December 10, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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