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What Leaked Documents, Sherrod Mean For Obama

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What Leaked Documents, Sherrod Mean For Obama

Analysis

What Leaked Documents, Sherrod Mean For Obama

What Leaked Documents, Sherrod Mean For Obama

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The leaked documents about the Afghan war come at a tough time for the Obama administration, as the president is trying to deal with the domestic economic situation and is coming under fire for his administration's handling of Shirley Sherrod, the woman fired by the Department of Agriculture.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The leaked war documents are just the latest in a string of bad news for the Obama administration, which is losing support from some Democrats, as well. The criticism within the president's own party seems to be growing louder.

Joining us now to talk about this is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with these leaks. The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, issued a statement saying that the leaked documents, quote, "raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Now, Kerry has been generally a supporter of the Obama's strategy in Afghanistan. What does he mean by what he's saying? And what is the impact of him saying this?

ROBERTS: Well, I think it's serious, because he shifted really in his statement - the criticism from the leaking of the documents to the policy itself. Saying however illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality, as you just said. So, and he says that they underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right, more urgent.

You know, there's a lot of unhappiness among Democrats in Congress about the Afghan war and about the policy. And in some ways, that was working for President Obama, because it was a place where he could reach out to Republicans and get some Republican support and show that he was working across the aisle.

But since the Republicans have made it very clear that they don't really want anything to do with cooperating with the president and voting for anything else that he brings to Capitol Hill, the Democrats have been put to this election, this 2010 election, in exactly the same position that George Bush was put in in the 2002 election, where they have to play to their base. They can't be trying to reach out to the broader community because they're not getting anywhere there.

And so when you have an election like that where you need true believers in the Democratic Party to get out, you get something like this Afghanistan debate going and these documents coming out, and it makes it really very tough indeed.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's get to another bad moment for the president. Some Democrats have joined the chorus of voices speaking out against the White House's decision to fire USDA official Shirley Sherrod last week. It was, of course, you know, the Department of Agriculture. But the feeling is the White House had a lot to do with it.

ROBERTS: And, of course, the Department of Agriculture is still the Obama administration. Look, you can get all kinds of people telling you who said what when in terms of the White House's role in the firing of Shirley Sherrod. But the fact is that it was the Obama administration that did fire her based on an edited tape where she had not been consulted and did not have the opportunity to defend herself.

And that has started a whole conversation about race; that this administration seems incredibly uncomfortable with. It's causing a lot of people, who would love to love the president, to shake their heads, including a lot of liberal columnists. And that's, again, making it hard to energize those groups who turned out for Obama in 2008, and those are exactly the people the Democrats were hoping to get out this November when they are in a bad place.

MONTAGNE: All right. Cokie, just briefly, amid all these distractions, the president is trying to keep voters focused on efforts to improve the economy. Treasury secretary appeared on a couple of Sunday talk shows yesterday to make the case to allow the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire later this year. Meaning, wealthier people will pay more taxes. What's his economic argument?

ROBERTS: Well, his argument is that they will do just fine and the deficit needs to come down. Again, politically, if the Democrats can convince people of that, that's great. If Republicans can say, wait, wait, they just want to raise taxes to spend more, then, you know, then it works for them.

MONTAGNE: NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts. Thanks very much.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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