WASHINGTON (CNN) – A one-time aide to former President George W. Bush took aim Sunday at recent comments by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that questioned the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Afghanistan.
Last Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, Emanuel strongly suggested that the current scenario in Afghanistan – with a contentious election last month casting a cloud over an already difficult security situation – was the result of missteps on the part of the previous administration.
"It's clear that basically we had a war [in Afghanistan] for eight years that was going on, that's adrift," Emanuel told CNN's John King, "that we're beginning at scratch, just at the starting point, after eight years – and that there's not an [Afghan] security force, an [Afghan] army, and the types of services that are important for the Afghans to become a true partner."
"There's a set of questions that have to have answers that have never been asked," Emanuel also said last Sunday.
Responding to Emanuel, former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie said Sunday on State of the Union that Obama's Chief of Staff "was either uninformed or willfully misleading in what he said."
Gillepsie told King that the Bush administration conducted its own thorough review of the Afghanistan war but did not disclose it publicly at the request of the incoming Obama administration.
"[Emanuel] knows full well – I suspect – that there was a proposal given and a review given that took into account the Afghan national army, the politics over there, the policing, the international framework," Gillespie said Sunday.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Monday will meet with his national security team on Afghanistan, the White House said Sunday.
This comes as Obama and his advisers have held meetings in recent weeks to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Taliban and al Qaeda militants threaten the governments of both countries.
American officials continue to weigh a reported call from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for as many as 40,000 additional troops for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The meeting - closed to the press - is expected to include Vice President Joe Biden via videoconference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Other attendees are expected to be National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and John Brennan, assistant to the president for counterterrorism and homeland security.
Washington (CNN) - Even though President Obama is not on the ballot this November, he and the Democrats who control Congress have a lot on the line.
Among the many contests being voted on in a little more than week, two statewide battles for governor are grabbing a lot of national attention.
The president heads back on the campaign trail in Virginia on Tuesday, not for himself but for fellow Democrat gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds. Recent polls suggest Deeds, a state senator from the rural western part of Virginia, trails his Republican opponent, former Virginia attorney general Bob McDonnell.
(CNN) - Voters in Maine will decide next week whether to overturn the legislation signed by Gov. John Baldacci nearly six months ago that allows same-sex couples to wed.
Baldacci, who originally opposed the legislation, said upholding the bill comes down to a fundamental understanding of equal protection and constitutional responsibility.
"Initially, I had the opinion for several years that civil unions were the limitations of what I was willing to support," Baldacci said. "But, the research that I did uncovered that a civil union didn't equal a civil marriage."
(CNN) - Last fall, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg won his campaign to extend the city's mayoral term limits from two four-year terms to three. Next week, he'll see if voters think he should serve a third term.
Bloomberg, an independent, held a 16-point lead over Democratic City Comptroller Bill Thompson, 52-32 percent, in the latest polling conducted by Marist College. Twelve percent of likely voters said they supported other candidates or remained undecided.
Editor's note: Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, is the Republican whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.
(CNN) - Given the heated rhetoric and sharp partisan divides that have characterized this year's debate, it's easy to forget that there are several key reforms in health care that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.
Unfortunately, congressional leaders in control of the legislative agenda seem to be making this very mistake. A bipartisan deal can still be salvaged, but only if Congress focuses on common-sense principles to keep health care costs in check, preserve the doctor patient relationship and give Americans more options for affordable, high quality health care.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is poised to proceed with plans to introduce a Senate health care bill with a public health insurance option that would allow states to opt out, a senior aide to Reid told
CNN on Sunday.
The aide, who did not want to be quoted by name when talking about private deliberations, said a final decision would be made Monday.
Reid is likely to make the move without having firm commitments of support from 60 senators, the number needed to break a filibuster, according to the aide. Describing the move as a "risky strategy," the aide said Reid believes including the public option is the right approach, and that the senator is "cautiously optimistic he can get the votes necessary."
The Senate fate of any bill with a public option is unclear, due to unanimous Republican opposition and concerns by some conservative and moderate Democrats.
A public option was considered virtually dead a few weeks ago, but Reid revived it last week by canvassing support for a plan that includes the public option while allowing states to opt out.
According to Reid's aide, the Nevada senator hopes to finalize the bill by Monday afternoon to send to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring - an analysis of what it will cost. Reid then would present the bill to all Senate Democrats at their weekly policy lunch on Tuesday, the aide said.
Several Democratic sources acknowledged to CNN that Reid's decision to include a public option in the Senate health care bill reflects a desire to calm an increasingly angry Democratic base. According to the Democratic sources, the party's base is furious with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats for moving slower than desired on issues such as closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and reversing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay soldiers.
Even if the Senate votes to drop the public option, Reid could still argue he tried to get it included, the sources noted.
Affordability and accessibility are the buzzwords you hear most often from those pushing health care policy changes. But when it comes to the math of health care politics – a big topic of the Sunday conversation – the debate at the moment centers on “opt out,” “opt in” and “trigger.”
“Opt out,” is the current favorite in the Senate Democratic leadership on the issue of whether health care legislation should include a government option to compete with private insurers. Under this approach, the legislation would create such a government insurance plan, and states that did not want that could “opt out.”
“I think we’re getting very close to getting the 60 votes we need to move forward,” was Sen. Chuck Schumer’s optimistic assessment for a draft proposal that includes the “opt out” approach.
But it is hard to see Democrats getting to 60 without the vote of Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and he made clear Sunday he is OK with states choosing to create a public option of their own – the “opt in” approach – but “certainly am not excited about a public option where states could opt out.”
And talk of a trigger this Sunday mostly triggered liberal Democratic complaints that that approach – favored by the one Republican to back the Senate Finance Committee health care bill – would amount to a gift to insurance companies. “They need competition,” was how Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio put it. “The trigger simply doesn’t work.”
Afghanistan was another Sunday flashpoint, framed around a sober assessment from the challenger in the Afghan presidential runoff. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister now challenging incumbent Hamid Karzai.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Democratic Sen. Jim Webb gave the Obama administration a mixed report card Sunday on CNN's State of the Union: questioning the administration's approach to health care reform but praising its approach to the war in Afghanistan.
On health care reform, Webb suggested that President Obama had pursued the wrong strategy to gain passage of Obama's key domestic agenda item during the first year of his presidency.
"That's been the difficulty since day one," Webb said Sunday of the White House's approach, "It's something that I actually said to the White House more than four months ago – that they should have come down with a very clear template in terms of what they were expecting.
"From that, we should have had hearings and the Congress should have legislated. And, having done it the reverse way with these five different bills percolating up through committees, it's really difficult to see even what we are voting for."
On the substance of health care reform, "in an ideal world," said Webb, "we should be looking at not-for-profit insurance companies."
Notwithstanding his differences with the process the White House chose to pursue, Webb told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that he has given his commitment to support Democratic efforts to break any filibuster of the health care reform bill.
"One thing I did say to [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] is I will vote to proceed forward to debate," Webb said Sunday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, said Sunday that, regardless of the political situation on the ground in Afghanistan, President Obama should give U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal the 40,000 additional American troops that McChrystal has reportedly requested.
In an interview that aired earlier on CNN's State of the Union, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the leading challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, called into question the ability of the Afghan government to partner with the United States if Karzai wins an upcoming run-off election as many senior Obama administration officials expect.
Asked about Abdullah's comments, Hatch told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, "I think it's taken too long," for Obama to make a decision about troop levels in Afghanistan.
"We have to worry about corruption but we also have to work with whoever is put in there," Hatch also said, making a reference to the unsettled political situation in Afghanistan caused by fraud in the country's presidential election last month.
"And whoever is put in there, you're going to find some corruption," the Utah Republican added. "The fact of the matter is I think we ought to rely on the hand-picked general, by President Obama, Gen. McChrystal, who said that we've got to have more troops."