See, it’s another one of those Sundays where I like what wasn’t answered almost as much as I like what was answered.
So the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, what I liked was the question about well, okay, if NATO and U.S. forces will get out of Afghanistan with their combat troops in 2014, how much of a footprint – which is military talk for how many troops will be left behind – said, haven’t figured it out yet. And I said, “Well how many combat troops are there now?” And he just would not go there. So it’s clear to me that this is a work in progress, this plan to get out of Afghanistan by 2014, at least with the combat troops. So I liked that.
Washington (CNN) - Who wouldn't take a company-paid trip to Florida in November? So I'm going but, no beach involved.
This Sunday in Miami I'll be interviewing former President George W. Bush and his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. To tell you the truth, even after decades of doing interviews, including many with George W. Bush, I'm a little nervous.
Okay first off, in terms of your taxes next year, if you make a return of $250,000 a year, David Axelrod made it sort of clear that they still want taxes to go up, which is another way of saying that they are going to let the Bush tax cuts expire on the upper income level. But then I asked him if there was any wiggle room in that position, and he said, “You heard my answer.” I still don’t know if there is any wiggle room in that position, but you don’t know if there is wiggle room until you start getting into negotiations. But, nonetheless, right now the administration is sort of sticking by “people who make more than $250,000 shouldn’t have their tax cuts continue, everybody else under that, yes.”
So today, I actually really loved the Pakistani Ambassador for a couple of reasons. First of all, he made a little news confirming that Pakistan has been helping the U.S. gather intelligence about who is plotting against various European cities. He basically confirmed that there appear to be some Germans and a couple of Brits who are operating out of the northern mountainous region of Pakistan and plotting these schemes against various European cities. He also, I thought, was so good on trying to explain why the Pakistanis say some things in public and yet are still working as much as they can to be an ally to the U.S. He said quite simply, the U.S. isn't that popular among their constituency and so you have to be really careful how you proceed with the U.S. I thought that that was great. I think that as far as politics are concerned, Senator Menendez, Senator Cornyn, putting the best face on races where one or the other is going to get upset. Senator Menendez basically admitting that he is going to lose some seats in the Senate and I guess now the question is how many. We'll find out in a month.
So, today's show. I think I would start with Senator Dick Durbin. I was interested in the fact that he doesn't think there's any difference between President Obama and candidate Obama in terms of relating to the American people. Basically blamed it all on the Republicans saying they are the ones that are responsible for the tone in Washington. Pressed about whether the Democrats have any culpability here he said 'well I wouldn't say we've done it perfectly' but basically the message still is what it's been, “Republicans, Republicans, Republicans try to get in the way of everything we do.” Also thought it was interesting talking about what would define a good night on election night for Democrats - the minimalist approach. He just wants to hold on to both sides of Congress so he may get that wish, he may not, particularly on the House side. That is now what is defining a good night for Democrats. Which pretty much tells you where we are in an election season that seems to favor Republicans.
If I were to pick the newsy tidbits from the show I’d go with Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer leaving the door open for some sort of compromise over the expiring of the Bush tax cuts in January. He seemed to say that if there was some way to extend it for the rich, which they define as $250,000 and over, maybe they’d be open to that. But what he wants is for the Senate to go first because the House is always sitting around going out on a limb and then the Senate kind of saws off the branch.
I think the other thing listening to the terrorism experts we had on today, including Sec. Janet Napolitano and former Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff and our own Fran Townsend. Yeah we’re safer; but the fact is, they all agree that inevitably another attack on U.S. soil will come and likely be successful at some level. I also found it interesting that they agreed with the premise that while Osama bin Laden would be a big symbolic capture that there are others including Awlaki who has been inspirational and sometimes in direct contact with some of the more recent attempts on U.S. soil is a more dangerous guy.
Also interesting I think, and certainly up for discussion, is Dick Armey who heads a group that basically has provided organizational skills for the Tea Party. Armey is now arguing that the Tea Party candidates really are the moderates in the Republican Party. So I think that one will probably cause some people at least to have some dinner table conversations.
People? We Have to Deal with People?
A preliminary grade for BP from the not-so-retired Admiral Thad Allen, the administration’s point man for the gulf oil spill. Allen said he isn’t sure any company could have done better than BP in capping the spill (Presumably this includes the whole golf ball, tire parts episode)
But, a big ole Fail on another front. As Allen explains it, BP is a “large global oil production company. They don’t do retail sales, or deal with individuals on a transactional basis…It’s something they don’t naturally have as a capacity or a competency…” We believe this is Coast Guard speak for BP has no people skills.
The president's top environmental and energy adviser Carol Browner pronounced the government run environmental cleanup in the gulf “very successful” but added “there’s still a lot of work to do.” This will come as a relief in the Gulf where residents fear with the leak plugged, they are already in the country’s rear view mirror.
Amen from Allen: “If you’re sitting in Barataria Bay (Louisiana) it’s still a disaster. If the folks have not come back to the panhandle of Florida, it’s still a disaster. “
Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is
Browner also revealed that at the president’s (belated) birthday party Sunday, “he’s going to be serving his guests seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.”
By Fall, They’re Going to Need An Answer
Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) went after the Obama administration for wanting to let the Bush tax cuts expire in January for the wealthy ($250,000 and up households). He argued GOP economics 101: Don’t raise taxes in a struggling economy. Asked repeatedly, Boehner would not say whether keeping those tax cuts in place simply adds to the deficit republicans are so eager to reduce. It may be time to posit the question: In arguing for keeping tax cuts for the wealthy, has the GOP found a potent election year issue or are they boxing themselves in?
Message: What we have here is a failure to communicate…
About July 2011:
To review the bidding, last week Vice President Joe Biden figured aloud that the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan expected next summer could begin with a drawdown as small as a few thousand or so (out of an approximate 100,000).
Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates (on the debut of “This Week with Christiane Amanpour”) synced up with the Veep predicting “fairly limited” withdrawals in the beginning stages.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she understands we’re not getting out in a day, but the woman who saw 102 of her democrats vote against funding for Iraq and Afghanistan knows a trend when she sees it. The American people, she says pointedly, “expect” a withdrawal of more than a few thousand troops.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) says it’s “impossible to determine” what the pace of withdrawal will be. BTW, Levin is remarkably positive about progress on the ground.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) says he can see a circumstance under which MORE U.S. troops are needed “to keep (the Taliban) on the run.” Graham, far less upbeat about the situation than Levin, added that if there’s no progress by December “we’re in trouble.”
The Glass Is Either Half-Full or Really Empty
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says he’s talked to businesses and the consensus is the economy is “gradually getting better”.
Two mega businessmen have a slightly different take.
“This economy is getting weak” says Obama supporter and U.S. News and World Report owner Mort Zuckerman who ticks off consumer spending -flat or down, housing -“off the edge of the cliff,” and unemployment, well even the administration now says the jobless rate will stay above 9 percent until 2012.
“There are very serious headwinds in the face of this economy,” says Republican Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes, Inc.. He explained that businesses aren’t hiring because they are uncertain about the cost of health care, financial reform and taxes.
So, Just To End That Uncertainty on Taxes
Geithner re-confirmed his previous confirmation that the Administration wants to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire in January, leaving them in place for the middle-class, usually defined by The White House as households making 250-thousand dollars or less.
All Ax Almost All the Time
A trifecta for Obama senior adviser David Axelrod on CNN, ABC, and Fox. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs pulled a solo appearance on Meet the Press.
They Don’t Put These Folks Out for Nothin’
As the President’s poll numbers inch downward and the election inches closer, his men were out touting an economy that is better than it has been and worse than it will be. Delivering the best snark of the day, Gibbs said the Obama administration was not yet ready to “unfurl the mission accomplished banner.”
What, Us Worry?
“This is not a big surprise, “ says Axelrod of the President’s shrinking approval rating, in particular, the numbers among independent voters – 38% approval now compared to 56% approval same time last year. A poll reader of some repute and a master political guru, Axelrod suggested the media, in this case CNN, was overfocused on polls. (Imagine that in an election year). Anyhow, Axelrod says he told his boss a year ago his polls would go south. And they have.
Axelrod saw no inherent conflict between the President’s increasingly aggressive political rhetoric (say comparing Republicans to joy riding teenagers who want the car keys back) and his promise to change the tone in Washington. He says the President has done all he can. It’s those dang Republicans. “In order to have a partnership, you have to have people who are willing to be partners.”