Obama Prepares To Announce Afghan War Strategy
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
This is the week that President Obama tells the nation what he plans to do in Afghanistan. The president is widely expected to send more troops, but that's just one part of a policy that has to achieve many goals. One of those goals is building support among the American public.
We have some analysis, as we do most Monday mornings, from NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What can the president say to persuade the many skeptical Americans on this?
ROBERTS: Well, of course, the president gives a very good speech. And so, he is likely to talk to us about how important the region is to our own security. We're told he is going to be more explicit on the goals and timetable for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, although administration officials are saying the president will also have to assure Pakistan that we will be in the region for a good while to come. So, he has a couple of audiences he has to get to here.
There was a lot of advice, over the weekend, from senators; some saying it's important that he outline an exit strategy, others saying that it would be exactly the wrong thing for him to do; some senators insisting that it is more important to build up Afghan troops than American ones.
Now, the Congress will have an opportunity to get their views in more when they start hearings on Wednesday. Administration officials will be on the Hill this week, to talk about the administration policy, and next week, the long awaited appearance of General McChrystal will come on Capitol Hill.
You know, the fact that President Obama has chosen West Point as the place to announce his plans is interesting, because it is not only the site of the military academy, but it's near where George Washington waited out the negotiations in Paris that ended the Revolutionary War - another very long eight-year-war. Washington had to keep the army together, so the negotiators still had a threat of force. It's an object lesson, I think, in patience, Steve, for the current war that's already trying the patience of both the populace and the politicians.
INSKEEP: And also trying the budget of the federal government. And over the weekend there was a lot of talk about Congressman David Obey, who has been saying there should be a war tax to pay for all of this.
ROBERTS: I don't think that's too likely to happen. You heard opposition, from both Democrats and Republicans, to that idea. But there is a tremendous amount of concern about government spending, even as members of Congress and the administration feel the need to spend more in the face of continued crisis in the jobs market.
INSKEEP: And when you talk about that jobs market, that's another thing the president has to deal with this week - on top of the policy with Afghanistan. He is going to have a job summit. What comes of that?
ROBERTS: It's hard to see what, that much could come of it, but I think the president wants to show concern, so, he is convening business and union leaders, and economists coming to the White House. And I think he is genuinely looking for help, for ideas, as well as a show of care, and then he is going to take off on a Main Street tour after that.
Congress, the people who are actually up for election next year, really do feel the need to do something quickly, and they're saying look, the last stimulus did actually work. It did get growth up in the last quarter. So, now they're looking for something else. They're talking about tax credits for businesses, to keep them hiring; they're talking about aid to state and local governments, so that they don't lay people off; talking about some short-term construction projects.
But they're not exactly sure what to do on jobs creation, and home ownership is still a huge issue with a lot of underwater mortgages - people owing more than their houses are worth. The administration's been talking about trying to do something about that, as well, to pressure lenders to lower mortgages, but they don't have any real tools to do that. So, a lot of concern about the economy, but not any real solutions.
INSKEEP: And as if that wasn't enough, there's also health care.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ROBERTS: There is, indeed. And that is a slog. But Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader is really keeping the members' feet to the fire here. Every time liberals vow not to vote for a bill if it has x, y, or z, he brings them back from the brink, and I think he is still hoping to try to get this done before Christmas.
INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts.
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