tv Inside Washington WMPT September 26, 2009 4:00am-4:30am EDT
executive, legislative, and political arena. >> this week on "inside washington," the bombshell leak of the generals blunt assessment of top u.s. options in afghanistan. >> the time has come for the world to move in a new direction. >> the president goes to the u.n. general assembly. >> mr. chairman, i am not delaying. i am making an extremely important point. >> it is an important point, but you are also delaying. >> and massachusetts gov. deval patrick fills ted kennedy's senate seat. >> i am pleased to announce paul kirk as the interim united states senator from massachusetts. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org--
>> welcome to "inside washington." i am mark shields, sitting in for gordon peterson, will be back next week. "washington post" had the scope of the week, with bob woodward's story summarizing the views of stanley mcchrystal saying that the u.s. needs more troops in afghanistan to keep the mission from of failing. >> if the president does not come to a decision soon, we will miss the window of getting more troops into the theater as the spring thaw occurs when at more troops will be necessary. >> the leak of the report is seen as a response to the president's perceived reluctance to commit more troops to afghanistan. will this pressure the president to send more troops to afghanistan, charles krauthammer?
>> it probably will. i think the reason it got leaked is that the report at delivered to the president on august 30, and the military is upset is because it was an urgent request and was sitting around for a month, and they want an answer, all in all out. >> mean that totenberg, your own sense? will the president -- nina totenberg, your own sense? will the president reacted to it? >> it could have the opposite effect. there is no doubt why this was leaked. it was to pressure him. the sense one gets listening to him is that he is having second thoughts about this policy and he will not be rushed into it. he will not make a commitment like iraq if he thinks there are real doubts, and the report, after all, can be read more than one way. >> colby king, this was the good war, the applause line during
the campaign of 2008. iraq was a disaster, a mistake, but afghanistan was the good w ar. what has happened? >> it is like the prospect of hanging, it can concentrate the mind wonderfully. i think the prospect of putting more troops into afghanistan means more u.s. casualties, unavoidable. more u.s. casualties, more u.s. treasury being spent. obama will really have to confront that. this is his war. it became his when he put 17,000 more troops into afghanistan shortly after taking office. he said it was a war of necessity, he laid down the gauntlet of this, and he is facing the consequences of having to sustain a great deal of loss, even if he succeeds with the mission, it will cost much more in the way of life and treasury, and i am not sure he's really willing to take that step.
>> jeanne cummings, it is complicated by the fact that we have a stolen election, or at least a very solid and state electio, -- the very sullied and stained election, allegedly reelecting, karzai. does it make it tougher for the president? >> it does make a lot tougher for the president. mcchrystal's position is not the only one in the administration, and certainly congress is increasingly concerned about the direction in afghanistan, and the tainted election added more to their skepticism, and they are worried about u.s. involvement over there. the president has a lot of opinions to way. the vice-president is a skeptical voice on whether more troops are necessary in terms of the timing of the troops got the size of it, whether the 17,000 have already been added to the troops over there need more time to see if they can effect change before we send more in. it is a very complex debate, and
mcchrystal this week came out after the report was leaked and he tried to make the point that he was giving his position bluntly, clearly, but it was a pure military position. the president has a lot of things to consider. >> the other thing about this report is what i said you could read two ways, he says in the report that militarily, if you do not put significant more troops in, we will fail. but he does not say that if you do, we will win. no foreign power has ever succeeded in this. i am not saying we cannot, but it is very, very dicey, very costly, and we may have already missed the window three or four years ago. the president has to figure out whether this is worth wagering a good deal of his presidency on. >> but he has got to also consider the position he puts himself in.
mcchrystal is this person out there. he replaced the commander on the recommendation of the secretary of defense, probably, but he replaced the commander who was in place out there. here is mcchrystal giving him the strategy that he says they need for the counterinsurgency strategy, but mcchrystal is telling him the truth. it is going to cost. now obama has to face the challenge of meeting that cost three i am not sure he has it in him to do it, quite frankly. >> colby's right. the war is being run by obama's on a general. on the 27th of march, obama made a speech flanked by the secretaries of defense and state, in which he began by saying, "today i enact a comprehensive new strategy on afghanistan." this was his strategy. for the last six months it has been his strategy. and yet he goes on all the networks and says, "we don't have a strategy -- until we have
a strategy, i will not commit our troops." but he tells us six months ago that here is our new strategy, at the conclusion of our review. it is his strategy and his policy and his general, and that is why he is stuck his aides are worried that he will become lbj, a domestic reform will become lost in the swamps of the counterinsurgency. it is a real concern, and that is why the pressure -- it is not about the discovery of corruption in afghanistan. that is like discovering gambling in rick's cafe in the film's. he knows that it is corrupt. the election complicates it. but it is an old story and not a new facts. >> but you would be a fool to simply refuse to change your strategy once you get your general in there who tells you that it would cost more than you
perhaps thought, once you have an election that everybody thought might be all right, ok, and is not ok. >> but not if you have declared it is a war of necessity and your general says i have a strategy that i think will and can succeed. >> bob woodward's story on general mcchrystal raised interesting story beyond the implications for afghanistan -- this has been an incredibly disciplined administration. this the first major leak or something got out and on the front page of the papers that they did not one. what does that mean, nina totenberg, for this town and the obama administration? >> in previous administrations, particularly republican administrations, they went ballistic and launch investigations and sometimes got out the polygraph. i do not know if they are doing an internal investigation. i am sure rahm emanuel went through the roof.
you know the expression the president gets when he is not pleased? i am sure that is what he is doing. this happens. it just does happen. sometimes, while administration hates it, it is for the better in the long run >> you investigate it if it is a low- level week, someone at the bottom of the poll tried to influence policy. this clearly -- i do not have inside information, but its import is so great that you have to imagine it is the generals themselves or the top aides were concerned about the inaction on this recommendation who made sure it got out. i cannot imagine that this was unknown to anybody in the high command. in a sense, it is not so much a leak, it is a challenge by the military against the civilian commander, who, ironically, as we said, appointed as commander and who did establish this strategy declaring it a war of
necessity. it is the military saying if all that is true, when are you going to decide? >> i feel a little bit differently. i do think that clearly, the pentagon and people within wanted to focus the mind of the white house. i do not know if they are necessarily in opposition to one another. what mcchrystal side is you give me the orders and i will follow them out, but i will tell you but me -- tell you bluntly what i think. somebody wanted to send a wake- up call and get this moving in a more urgent matter, and this was a pretty spectacular way to get the point across. >> and it worked great if that is the objective, it worked. >> in another incarnation, what i will work for the government, i investigated leaks. you'll be surprised to with it lea -- who the leaker can be
sometimes pick the person acting in horror at the whole thing can sometimes be the person who leaked this. serves the interests of those being discussed. >> i don't believe in the three cushion shot. >> a two-cushion shot is a distinct possibility. it did take health care right off the front page. that is where the administration wants to concentrate all of its attention and energy right now. >> but if you are looking for a way out, a way out of this, and you want to back off, what better way of doing this than to put this out there as a challenge and start this discussion and this a debate the way it is going right now over whether we should do it or not? i'm just not sure i'm ready to conclude -- >> i am not sure they had to
take health care off the front page. it is messy, it is sausage making out there. don't forget that all the polls that some of the american people are deeply wavering. this is not something that republicans can make hay. >> wavering on that and health care. is really in the balance. a slight plurality against, really quite slight most of the policies are really in soluble, -- and, both of the policies are really in soluble, and the president has to decide. >> we have sought in word and deed a new era of think agent with the world. now is the time for all bus -- new era of engagement with the world. now is the time for all of us to take a global response to global challenges. >> the president says it is a new day, but he spent his time in new york talking about old problems -- climate change, and nuclear proliferation, and the
middle east. this was his first speech to the general assembly. is he getting traction on his international to-do list, colby king? >> obama showed distance in substance and tone from his predecessor, and that is the new day be talking about. he was well received, unlike the way president bush was received. that said, he is still dealing with governments, taking the same positions. personality cannot change the united nations, rhetoric cannot change the united nations. the united nations represents governments, not individuals. there obama will run into the same problems that his predecessor encountered. >> i think there were a couple of things going on this week. there was the public theater. everybody from obama to ahmadinejad, who spoke to a half-empty chamber, to gaddafi
-- god knows what hwas doing -- but behind the scenes, there was a fair amount going on. it is not clear whether we really did get a concession from the russians that they would help on sanctions if necessary, but it is the first indication that we might have actually gotten that. >> progress, and jeanne cummings? >> well, i think it is just the beginning. we are only starting out and we do not know how obama's relationship with the rest of the world leaders will evolves. certainly, they were not pitching and his head, which they used to do with bush. that is the change. but if you look at the specifics that he was trying to push, there might have been a little bit of progress on non- proliferation. i think maybe it was helped by the announcement that iran has secretly had another plant in the works that does not appear to have been for energy purposes that may help it more than anything that happened at
the u.n. but if you look to the middle east, no real attraction there. these guys cannot even agree on an agenda for the meeting. if you look at climate change, he is not getting much traction in the u.s. congress, much less on the world stage. obama has a long way to go before we see whether he can really make progress on his international priorities. >> in fairness, he did get traction in the u.s. house -- u.s. sen at -- >> climate change bill. >> charles? >> it won't surprise you, but i found his appearance in new york embarrassing. apart from the repetition of the apologies of the wickedness of america until his ascendancy and his redemption of the country was the naive the type of the general assembly speech. he said, for example, that no nation can nominate another, no group of nations ought to be
above another, as if he does not sit on the security council. but the real issue was when he sat at the security council, he presided over it, and they had a resolution about the abolition of nuclear weapons, and the president of france commented after, and here i translate roughly and i exaggerate -- what the hell are we doing here? we are not living in an alternate reality, we are living in reality. there was not a word about iran or north korea there. all these pronouncements about the abolition of nuclear weapons is nonsense. there was more realism in my view when -- model u.n. at my high school then i heard in obama's speech at the general assembly. >> people are still talking about charles' model un high school. >> charles when he was
courting anybody, probably said "i planned to dominate you." >> colby, you agree with charles' assessment? >> surprisingly, i don't agree with charles on this. the president made an important point to the the gathering that the days of just saying it is a u.s. problem, those days are over. it is mutual challenges we have, and you have responsibility to step up and not just wait for the united states to take the lead. it was a very important new changed, not just a little nuance, and was not apologetic. >> and the obama administration wants to reset the way the u.s. interacts with the world, and that has to start somewhere. if it started with that resolution, that is fine, but we had previous resolutions and speeches and statements that have pointed fingers at north korea and iran, and they did not get us anywhere either. tough talk has been tried for a
long time, and this is an attempt to take a different approach. >> it is more talk, except it is soft talk. >> what do you want, middle talk? >> the u.n. is a fiction and a farce. the idea that somehow obama is going to redeem it and develop a new relationship and make it a force in the world is itself farcical. that is what made it so embarrassing, the way he took it seriously, and the way he took these tyrants who applauded him seriously. >> the epitaph is that the u.s. out of the un and the un out of the u.s. and it is this a hell of a bumper sticker. >> i want to do my job, and it is to sit here and do as long as we take. >> after we have completed action on the the bill here, we have to wait another two to
three weeks before we can vote on it. >> senator max baucus and the democrats on the finance committee defeated an amendment that would have added literally weeks to the time needed to vote that bill out of committee. debate on that amendment took more than two hours. there are more than 500 amendments waiting to be possibly debated. what is it going to take to get a health care bill out of this committee, jeanne cummings? >> stop feeding them, locked the doors, make them work the weekend, and make them stay until midnight. >> and take away the tv cameras. >> if he keeps working them until late into the night, republicans will figure they made their point and they may start dropping some of those amendments. as it is right now, they have some really serious. that they have to continue to debate, -- serious areas that have to continue to debate, and even those points of contention will take him into next week. if max baucus can just keep their feet to the fire, he could maybe get this thing out sooner
than it might have been. >> colby, senator rockefeller and senator schumer, two of the most prominent democrats on it, say there is going to be a public option. that has to be a bone of contention. >> they are probably going to address the public option on friday, spent some time on it, as they should. it will put all of these things on the table. i think something very important is taking place right now. we have been criticizing them because we say nobody talks about the details, we do not know the cost of these amendments. now they are dealing with the nitty-gritty of health care reform, and i find the debate, with one or two exceptions, senator grassley, but i find it pretty much informed discussion taking place. it is long, torturous, but i think there is substance there, and i find that the senators are reasonably well informed. >> look, i would agree.
i understand why obama and the democrats have a political necessity for speed. you want to get it done before a possible setback in the november elections, you want to get it done this year when the president is still strong. but this is a trillion-dollar proposal, 1/6 of our economy, the most radical reform of our social system probably in 20 or 30 years, at least as large as medicare. the idea that it ought to be done in a day or two or week or two or three is nonsense. all of these discussions in committee are serious, substantive, about numbers. a lot of these numbers are still unknown. cbo has not scored them. in the absence of that, how can you pass a bill? >> first of all, you are not passing it, you are getting it out of committee, and there is another bill. they have been at this for months and months, and it is about time that they -- wait
-- got to the end of the road at this committee and got something to the floor. it will not be what passes in the last analysis, no matter what, and if something passes, it will not be the end of the day, either. it will change, because there will be mistakes. this bill would not be more money than we spend every year on iraq. >> some of the senators are just getting their first crack at this bill. only six of them have been working weeks and weeks and months on this, the gang of six. now you have people like rockefeller getting an opportunity to offer their own amendments, and that is happening on the other side, too. >> but it is true that this is a debate we have been on for 10 years, not a debate that started last week. >> it is not the product of an arctic that here. this is something we've been over before. >> but the details and the regulations are all new and real and terry numbers.
>> that is why i want you to pay attention ted kennedy's senate seat does not stay vacant long. >> this appointment is a profound honor. i accept it with sincere humility. >> that is paul kirk, selected to represent massachusetts in the united states senate until the state will the special election in the process was not exactly pretty. >> it was not pretty, but at least we have seen the governor do it pretty well. if you look at these other appointments that have taken place, the governor of new york killed himself in the process, the governor of delaware has been criticized for putting up placeholder for the vice president's son, and of course there is illinois, and up in alaska, you have a sarah palin overlooked to fill the slot, and
look where she came back. at least this governor did it right. it is a popular selection, he is a place holder, it is for the short terms of the voters can express themselves in pretty quick order. finally we had a process that seemed to work. >> the messiness you are referring to was the fact -- >> flip-flop on the law. >> it allowed a democratic governor to appoint an prohibited a republican. instead of changing the law every few years, what the massachusetts legislature gonna do is say that when the seat becomes open, at the kennedy family will choose the successor, and that way it will be simple and direct and clean, as it was this time. >> that would please the voters of massachusetts by and large. >> absolutely. >> it would make it simple, but jeanne is right, compared to
what we've seen elsewhere this year, its politics. so what? it happened pretty efficiently. >> my relatives in new bedford think is wonderful the way they handled this thing. frankly, i am surprised looking at it from a distance, remembering the initial reaction from the democrats, lukewarm to cool, and the republicans were grousing about it because they don't matter in this equation. but the democrats did not really seem to be worn to this idea, and the fact that they moved from where they were to where we are says something about the political reality in massachusetts. >> i wonder if they have a law that can withstand a democratic or republican governor. with the republican governor, there could be an appointment made for three months, but then there would be the election, and the democrats think they could win the election, they could win it three months later. >> as a native of