Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was scheduled to brief President Barack Obama on Afghanistan on Monday afternoon. The pair, according to some media reports, were expected to review Pentagon plans for sending more than 15,000 US troops to Afghanistan. But at Monday's daily press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said nothing so definitive was on the agenda and that the Obama administration's review of its Afghanistan policy was still under way.
Still, one question is whether Obama's basic approach to Afghanistanwhich appears to involve beefing up the troops in the NATO-led force there--has a fatal flaw. Bloomberg reports:
Last year, I wrote an article explaining how former Republican Senator Phil Gramm had helped grease the way to the subprime meltdown in 2000 when he was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Gramm wouldn't talk to me for the article. At the time, he was a close adviser to presidential candidate John McCain, and his past support of financial deregulation and his subsequent work as a lobbyist for UBS, the Swiss banking giant, became a campaign issue. Neither McCain nor Gramm addressd these matters publicly. And then Gramm generated further controversy when he dismissed Americans worried about the economy as "whiners." After that, McCain distanced himself from Gramm, who faded from the campaign trail.
Now, Gramm is back--at least to defend himself. Last week, he spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The subject of his talk: was deregulation responsible for the current financial disaster? The real subject: was Gramm responsible for the current financial disaster? Mother Jones and the American News Project filmed Gramm, and I was able to pose a couple of questions to him. See what happened below in a video that was edited by Tay Wiles.
Those folks who bother to worry about the war in Afghanistan--not a large slice of the population--had reason to fret on Wednesday morning when they picked up (or clicked on) the New York Times and read a front-page story noting that President Barack Obama is adopting a new "approach to Afghanistan that will put more emphasis on waging war than on development." The piece cited unnamed senior administration officials.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had said that the administration was in the early stage of reevaluating Afghanistan policy. He had noted that Obama intended to meet with US Army General David McKiernan, the commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, to discuss the course ahead. It seemed as if no decisions had been rendered about Afghanistan.
Yet the Times indicated key calls have already been made:
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama held separate meetings with GOP leaders in the House and Senate to discuss the stimulus bill moving through Congress. Afterward, the Republicans talked very nicely about the new president, saying that they appreciated that Obama was reaching out and listening to them. During the meetings, several of the Republicans noted that they welcomed "the tone that [Obama] had brought to Washington" and his "willingness to seek their views," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. In fact, Gibbs added, Representative Mike Pence, a leading conservative from Indiana, ended the House-side meeting by declaring that the door to the Republican House conference would always be open to Obama.
As a matter or realpolitik, the Republicans had little choice but to be darn gracious toward Obama. The president's early approval ratings are stratospheric. And with the economic crash continuing (if not accelerating, given this week's job loss numbers), a majority of Americans are rooting for the president, hoping whatever he tries to do about the economy will succeed. On Monday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent out an email touting a poll noting that 66 percent of Americans support the economic stimulus package put together by the Democrats in the House and supported by Obama. It would be foolish--except for Republicans from the most Limbaugh-loving areas of the nation--to stand in Obama's way. And, no small matter, the GOPers don't have the votes--particularly in the House--to stop him and the Democrats.
But can the Republicans simply cave? They have raised a fuss about certain portions of the stimulus package, labeling some provisions pork and calling for more tax cuts. Their complaints about a provision that would extend birth control coverage under Medicaid did lead Obama to ask the House Dems to jettison this piece of package. (And jettisoned it was.) But the Republicans have not gone after Obama.
Consider this statement released by House Republican Whip Eric Cantor after the meeting with Obama:
So far three daily press briefings at the White House for the new Obama administration, and only one question on the war in Afghanistan. That came on Monday when veteran Helen Thomas asked new press secretary Robert Gibbs, "Why does president want to send more troops to Afghanistan to kill people?"
It was not the most subtle way of raising the issue. But at least Thomas gave it a stab.
Afghanistan remains the forgotten war. But on the campaign trail, Barack Obama, noting he would end the war in Iraq and focus more on Afghanistan, promised to change that, The question is, will the change be for the better or not? Gibbs reminded Thomas that Obama has called Afghanistan a "rapidly deteriorating situation" and reported that Defense Secretary Bob Gates and military commanders have started a process "to evaluate our posture." He noted that Obama has said that more troops should be sent to Afghanistan.