Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
1:20 PM ET, 05/13/2009

David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times: "The events of the last few weeks have raised the odds that a health care overhaul will really happen this year." But, he writes, there's still the matter of a missing $90 billion. "Providing health insurance to the roughly 50 million people without it will cost something like $120 billion a year. President Obama has proposed $60 billion or so in new revenue for this purpose — a 'down payment,' his advisers say. But Congress seems set to reject about half of the down payment (a plan to limit high-income families' tax deductions for charitable giving and other such things). That makes for the $90 billion health care hole. And no one is quite sure how to fill it."

Here are Obama's remarks after a roundtable discussion yesterday with employers and unions about "innovative ideas...being implemented in the workplace to improve the health of workers and reduce the rising rate of health care spending."

Foon Rhee blogs for the Boston Globe that "Obama held a pep session this morning to rally House Democratic leaders behind his healthcare overhaul plan. 'We've got to get it done this year,' he said. 'And we don't have any excuses,' he added. 'The stars are aligned.'"

Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post: "Some Democratic senators joined Republicans yesterday in questioning whether the Obama administration had adequately explained its strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as Congress considers a supplemental appropriations bill that includes billions of dollars for military and economic assistance programs in those countries."

David Ignatius writes in his Washington Post opinion column that Centcom commander Gen. David "Petraeus's plan in Afghanistan is to hit the enemy very hard this year with the additional 21,000 troops President Obama has approved -- and then see if the Taliban coalition begins to crack."

Ann Scott Tyson writes in The Washington Post that Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former Special Operations chief who is President Obama's new choice to lead the war in Afghanistan is a master at manhunting. "'McChrystal kills people. Has he ever worked in the counterinsurgency environment? Not really,' said Roger Carstens, a senior nonresident fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Special Forces officer. 'People will ask, what message are we sending when our high-value-target hunter is sent to lead in Afghanistan?' said a senior military officer at the Pentagon, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly."

George Packer blogs for the New Yorker that: "McChrystal's background makes him an expert in a counterinsurgency strategy that focuses on eliminating high-level targets. Whether it's done by drones or by Special Ops commandos, it puts the greatest emphasis on killing or capturing the enemy, not on making the population secure. In Iraq, this approach—which inevitably leads to the deaths of innocents—swelled the ranks of the insurgency and helped bring America to the brink of defeat in 2006, until Petraeus made a fundamental change in strategy."

David Roberts writes for Grist about how some Washington journalists got suckered by Republican senators, who cast statements from a collection of comments gathered by the White House's Office of Management and Budget as an official White House rebuke of the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that greenhouse gases pose dangers to public health and welfare. OMB director Peter Orszag wrote in a blog post that the "quotations circulating in the press are from a document in which OMB simply collated and collected disparate comments from various agencies during the inter-agency review process of the proposed finding." John M. Broder writes in the New York Times: "A White House official said that many of the criticisms and suggestions came from holdovers from the administration of President George W. Bush and had been rejected by Obama appointees."

Obama delivers the commencement address at University of Notre Dame on Sunday. Peter Slevin and Jacqueline L. Salmon write in The Washington Post: "Antiabortion activists see Obama's appearance before 2,603 graduates and the national media as a chance to challenge the president on turf hospitable to their cause.... The protests come at a time when the antiabortion movement is increasingly splintered amid a debate over goals and tactics. The activists' cause has been complicated by Obama, who has sought to ease tensions over an issue that has dogged politicians on the right and left for nearly three decades."

Jessica Brady writes for Roll Call that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama's pick to run the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel...'We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.' But Ali Frick writes for Thinkprogress.org: "It's unclear why 60 votes are needed to confirm Johnsen, considering her predecessor, Jay Bybee — who went on to authorize illegal torture — won easy confirmation in 2001 through a simple voice vote. Bybee's successor, Jack Goldsmith, was also approved by a voice vote."

Ashley Halsey III writes in The Washington Post: "President Obama took a dramatic step to revive faltering efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay yesterday, issuing an executive order that could empower the federal Environmental Protection Agency to set a more demanding timetable and penalize states that fail to meet it."

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