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The Nation

December 7, 2009
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post carried feature-length, page one articles yesterday analyzing the inside debate over President Obama's Afghanistan policy. The Times piece, by Peter Baker, was called: "How Obama Came to Plan for ‘Surge' in Afghanistan." The Post story, "Obama pressed for faster surge: Afghan review a marathon," was written by Anne E. Kornblut, Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung.

Take some time and read both of them in full. But here I'm summarizing some key points that emerged in the two stories, reflecting what I see as a clear division between Obama's own point of view and that of his more hawkish advisers, including General McChrystal, General Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Secretary of State Clinton. The differences fall into two key areas. First, Obama consistently rejected the all-out, nation-building counterinsurgency strategy whose chief advocate was, of course, McChrystal. And second, Obama insisted throughout the months-long review that the United States must plan for an exit. According to the two newspaper accounts, at least, tthe 2011 date is a firm one, in Obama's mind at least.

Let's highlight some of the key moments.

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Bob Dreyfuss
19909
December 6, 2009
John Nichols
John Nichols

Senate Democrats are celebrating the fact that, in their rush to come up with a scheme to pay for health-care reform, they have blocked an effort to preserve payments to home health agencies that provide nursing care and therapy to homebound Medicare beneficiaries.

Dumb move.

Medicare is one of the most popular, and well-run, health care programs in the world.

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John Nichols
19908
December 4, 2009
Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman

I've got a new "Think Again" column called "A Climate of Conspiracy," which deals with the tendency of contemporary conservativesto treat everything they don't like as a conspiracy and it's

 

19907
December 4, 2009
Ari Melber
Ari Melber

An Internet strategist for President Bush's reelection campaign and one of the few new media leaders for the GOP, Patrick Ruffini, cut a video Friday analyzing some new recruitment tactics over at BarackObama.com. Ruffini reports that Obama's website is carefully testing several messages and images to recruit new email registrations, using a splash page "for the first time since the election."

Tracking Obama's online marketing is likely to interest only junkies and insiders, of course, but Ruffini speculates that the move may indicate that Obama's aides are working harder to replenish his 13 million person email list. "It might actually be a sign that their subscription rate has certainly gone down," he says, suggesting that "the President's core supporters are maybe not as enthused by the lack of progress ... on health care reform or on Afghanistan."

While Obama supporters may be concerned about Afghanistan policy, the email list has not shied away from presenting the argument for more troops. This week, Vice President Biden emailed millions of Obama supporters a video of Obama's Westpoint address, asking them to watch and share the footage. "It's a clean break from the failed Afghanistan policy of the Bush administration," he wrote, "and a new, focused strategy that can succeed."

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The Notion
19906
December 4, 2009
John Nichols
John Nichols

Regal Republicans Senators who willingly accept government pay, government staff and government-organized and funded health care benefits are so sure that Americans would not want to enjoy the perks they have come to expect are sponsoring an amendment that would require members of Congress to sign up for whatever public option that is developed under health care reform legislation.

The bill, sponsored by two of GOP caucus' more "let-them-eat-cakey" members, Oklahoma's Tom Coburn and Louisiana David Vitter, is rooted in schoolyard strategy and the fantasy that a public option would suck so horribly that no senator or congressman would want to be a part of it.

"The idea, broad-brush, is that whatever government option is in the bill, every senator and every representative should be enrolled in it," chirped Vitter. "No other possibilities, no other choices."

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John Nichols
19905
December 4, 2009
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

It's time to fire Robert Gates.

True, it was Obama who made the decision to escalate the war. And by all accounts, the president was comfortable with the decision he made, having spent two years defending the idea that the United States should intensify its commitment to the "right war." At the same time, however, Obama was under enormous pressure from the military, from Gates, and from other hawks to acquiesce to General Stanley McChrystal's call for 40,000 troops. For those who oppose the war in Afghanistan, firing the president isn't an option. But firing Gates is. Over the course of the next few months, and up to 2011, the battle for Obama's mind on Afghanistan will be waged on a number of fronts. Doves will have to work hard to guarantee that Obama seeks a political settlement, negotiations with the insurgents (including the odious Taliban). They will have to work hard to persuade the president not to go down the path of escalating the war still further into Pakistan. And they will have to work hard to convince Obama not to swallow hole the ubiqitous counterinsurgency (COIN) doctine that McChrystal and Co. advocate. All of that starts with Gates, and getting rid of Gates can be a crucial marker in that fight.

When he was selected, many analysts -- including me -- were dismayed by the choice. Not only was Gates a hawkish Republican with a checkered record, including well-documented manipulation of intelligence about the Soviet Union during his CIA career in the 1980s, but by choosing a Republican Obama was giving in to the canard that Democrats are weak on national security and defense. By selecting Gates, Obama was saying, in effect, "I need a conservative Republican to be my interlocutor with the generals."

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Bob Dreyfuss
19904
December 3, 2009
Melissa Harris-Perry

On December 2, the New York Senate passionately debated marriage equality. It was a compelling display of legal, moral, and political reasoning. Compared with the anemic, corporate-sponsored ramblings of U.S. Senate during the health care cloture discussion, the New York senate looked like the Continental Congress yesterday.

On the same day of this debate, my niece sent to me the draft of her personal essay for college admission. In it she discusses her experiences of being harassed and threatened as a gay teen. She writes:

 

I was only fourteen at the time. I arrived early to school that Monday morning, still exhausted from my weekend basketball tournament. As I entered my locker combination and pulled the latch that released the door from its position, a small piece of folded paper floated to the floor. I picked it up, unfolded it, and read the words, speaking them out loud, "Die dyke," I heard myself say in the empty hallway. The words startled me as I folded the paper as it had been before, and crammed it in my pocket. I quickly ran down the stairs into the counselors' office where I waited about an hour until my counselor arrived. At that moment I felt worthless. I felt as if no one cared about me, and that I should just give up on the things I believe in, and ultimately give up on myself. The harassment continued over the cycle of a month.

 

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The Notion
19903
December 3, 2009
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Rep. Barney Frank is in the process of bringing a package of banking reform bills to the floor. Today represented a small victory as the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Frank, voted to approve legislation that would prevent financial institutions considered "too big to fail" from inflicting damage on the overall American economy.

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19902
December 3, 2009
Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman

Alter-reviews: John Fogerty and David Johansen, live and the big Miles Davis Columbia box

 

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