It seems that the donkeys have their 60 votes needed to pass their health care bill; Senator Nelson from Nebraska has said he will vote for the bill. This is big news if, in fact, it turns out to be true when the final vote happens, which could be next week.
Of course, assuming the Senate does get the bill passed, the two bills (House and Senate) need to come together to create the final bill that the President will sign. Check the usual sources (Cohn, Klein, Tumulty, etc.) for this story and the upcoming debate in the two houses, but for now, I suggest reading Slate’s take on some of the key pieces in the Senate bill (as it stands now, with Senator Nelson’s vote). The ban on annual or lifetime limits on expenditures is a nice win for Senator Reid. Unfortunately, the bill does not contain a public option and states will be allowed to keep insurance providers that pay for abortions out of their exchanges, and no federal funds can be used for abortion services, either. But that is not something that goes on now, anyway, as I understand it.
Here is the trailer. The movie looks promising…
Is Obama to blame for the generous bailout that Wall-Street has been given, which with its terms, throws the American taxpayers under a very large bus? Was his campaign rhetoric about reigning in Wall-Street simply another case of political pandering for votes, when in fact, he has been on Wall-Street’s side the whole time? Or is Obama simply falling victim to the realities of the ties that bind Wall-Street to D.C.?
These are the questions posed at the end of Matt Taibbi’s excellent article on Obama’s response to the economic crisis. Whatever the answers, it is clear that the historic opportunity to regulate Wall-Street has thus far been squandered. It is a must-read, though it is rather depressing.
Right on cue, the House has passed a financial regulation bill. The Senate is still working on their own. I would not be too optimistic about substantive change; change is something that has been conspicuously absent thus far in Obama’s tenure.
The clip below from the Daily Show sums up the speech and policy outlined therein, and the reaction to it, pretty well. And pay particular attention to the end of the clip, when the show gives everyone the speech they were hoping to hear…
Obama had a tough task last night: Selling the escalation of a war to a group of future soldiers who may have to fight it, and to an American public that is weary of escalation and concerned more with a fledgling economy. Obama touted Afghanistan as the base of operations for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and neighboring Pakistan as a safe haven for Al Qaeda as well.
He wants to reverse the Taliban’s influence, stop Al Qaeda and aid in creating a responsible and stable Afghan government. As such, Obama proposed sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and bringing them home within eighteen months.
He believes that this “surge” will aid in training Afghan soldiers to combat and resist the Taliban, which will ultimately allow for a stable Afghan government. He proposes assisting with infrastructure and agriculture that, along with the withdrawal deadline, should let the Afghan people know that we seek a prompt resolution to the war and that we want the Afghan people to take responsibility for their country.
Obama does not believe Afghanistan is another Vietnam because we have the support of 43 countries and face only a limited insurgency in Afghanistan, which is where Al Qaeda plotted and launched its 9/11 attack. Obama rejected the idea of an indefinite war in Afghanistan because we lack the means to engage in perpetual nation-building, nor is it a worthy goal. He stated the nation he is most interested in building is this one.
There was a decent amount of talk about domestic problems, though I do not think Obama did a good enough job of linking domestic struggles to being in a perpetual state of war. He touched briefly on human rights and again asserted his opposition to torture and his plan to shut down Gitmo. He made some interesting statements about the U.S. not being a global occupier or a country seeking to destroy other people based on their faith or ethnicity. He stated that we only seek to give oppressed people the opportunities to be free and prosper. And once again, Obama made a plea to end the bitter partisan rancor that permeates Washington and some parts of the country.
Overall, it was a serious and solid speech. He sent a clear message to the Afghan people and to our military: Eighteen months to get the job done or we are out. This seems like an attempt to take the middle road. He gives the neocons a large number of troops but sets a timeline for their return, which may appease some on the left. But I am sure people on all sides found something to be pissed about. I got the feeling watching the speech that Obama was escalating the war begrudgingly. Do not get me wrong: He believes Afghanistan to be a central front. But he would rather not have to send more troops to finish the job; he is only doing it because the job was not completed by Bush. So I can cut him some slack for that. But his plan is ambitious and likely to be very difficult to pull off. I hope it works out for all parties.
Below you will find an interesting take on what happened, as well as what might have happened in the Tiger Woods drama now unfolding before a world television audience. It might also be hilarious.
Media outlets are reporting that President Obama will tell the country tonight that he intends to send around 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan in the coming months. It is unfortunate that Afghanistan was neglected for so long by the Bush administration and the new President must now deal with the situation there. But the fact is, with this new plan, the Afghanistan war now belongs to Obama.
This should not be too surprising to anyone who has followed Obama since he announced his candidacy for President. While he spoke out against the Iraq War, he has always maintained that our efforts should focus on Afghanistan, which he has characterized as the front for taking on Al Qaeda. Assuming for the moment that going after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is prudent, it will be interesting to see what Obama’s plan is for the Afghanistan government. Right now, it is a mess. The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Gen. Karl Eikenberry, has apparently written cables back to the White House declaring that Karzai is not a good partner for the U.S. and sending more troops is not in our best interest. There are numerous other problems that I will not get into here, but the point is that the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is just one of the many problems we face there.
Right now, I do not think it is a good idea to send that many troops over there in the hopes of replicating the Iraq Surge. The two countries are operating at fundamentally different levels right now, and the tribal nature of Afghanistan is not organized in a way to allow us to seek out alliances within the different tribes to make hay against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And by the way, what happened to reaching out to the Taliban? I am sure I will have more to say after hearing the details straight from the President’s mouth tonight.