Tag Archives: Christina Bellantoni

You Want A Hoax? We’ll Show You A Hoax

Chris Frates at Politico:

An earlier post in this spot detailed what was purported by Republicans to be an internal Democratic memo regarding the upcoming health reform vote Sunday. Democratic leadership has challenged the authenticity of the memo. POLITICO has removed the memo and the details about it until we can absolutely verify the document’s origin.

Christina Bellantoni at TPM:

Democrats today are accusing Republicans of circulating a fraudulent memo that claims to be sent to “Democratic health and communications staff” and which suggests the majority party leadership wants to make big changes to Medicare next year after health care passes.

A senior Democratic leadership aide told TPMDC in an interview the memo, obtained and printed by Politico and leading the Drudge Report this afternoon a few days ahead of the health care vote Sunday, is “a hoax.”

[READ THE MEMO HERE]

“We have checked with every Democratic office, no one has ever seen it. It did not come out of a Democratic office,” the aide said, adding that media outlets printing the memo have not checked with leadership offices if the memo is authentic. A second Democratic leadership aide confirmed the memo was not sent by the Democrats. A third Democratic aide also said the memo is fake, citing the “draft” stamp and saying no one uses such things.

“If this were a Democratic communications person who wrote this, they should be fired, because this looks like Republican talking points,” the third Democratic aide told TPMDC.

The memo alleging the changes commonly known as a “doc fix” would be politically damaging to Democrats, who already are holding together a fragile coalition to get the needed 216 votes Sunday.

The Politico items quotes from the memo as saying, “We cannot emphasize this enough: do not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of CBO scores and textual narrative. Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered.”

Marc Ambinder:

I gave the memo a once over. I looked legit — the points it makes are, indeed, potential trouble spots for Democrats. I wrote and posted an item on it. In doing so I committed an error of craft: I didn’t check to see what the Democratic leadership or the White House or the Democratic National Committee had to say. Had I done so, I would have been told that they did not write the memo.  So — no Dan Rather Excuse here — I didn’t do due diligence, and I posted the item too quickly. For the sake of my post, it doesn’t matter whether the underlying facts are true, it matters whether the memo is a real one.  Before characterizing the memo as being from Democrats, or insinuating that the memo listed official talking points, I clearly should have made a call. I didn’t. That’s on me.

I don’t know if the memo is a hoax. I suspect that it is was created by someone who is a Democrat — but that it comes from an allied Democratic group, or from a committee staff member. Dozens of such memos circulate daily through the K-Street-Capitol Corridor.  A Republican might have been ‘cc’d on one such e-mail, which was then sent up the flagpole, and then send out to reporters by a hyperkinetic communications staff.

I do not believe that Mr. Steel or a member of his staff created the memo. You may ask why I believe this, and my reasons won’t satisfy many of you, but here goes: I’ve know Steel for years. He is a stand-up guy and isn’t dishonest; in trickier situations, he’s told me the truth. Here he may have been overzealous, and I fell for it on a slow Friday afternoon.

Ed Morrissey:

When Politico went live with this article, I had confirmed with two people I know on the Hill that they had seen this being passed around.  Did it come from Democrats, or from Republicans?  I can’t answer that, but I did confirm with two sources that it exists.

Greg Sargent:

The memo, however, was pushed to some reporters by the office of GOP leader John Boehner. A source forwards an email sent at 12:58 PM by Boehner spokesman Michael Steel to The Daily Caller’s Jon Ward and other reporters, with the original memo attached.

“Folks — Please read the attached draft memo addressed to `Democratic Health and Communications Staff,’ Steel wrote. “It makes it clear that Democrats want to avoid discussing issues related to the CBO score of their latest government takeover legislation because their claims don’t pass the straight face test.”

Asked for comment, Steel would only say: “Will the Democrats do the `doc fix’? If they will, they are low-balling the cost of health care by hundreds of billions of dollars.”

A GOP aide pointed out that the memo “has circulated widely in the lobbying community” and “no one has proven that it is a fake.” It also looks as if the memo was circulated just after it posted on Big Government.

But the GOP leadership did circulate a hard copy of the memo to reporters before its authenticity had been confirmed or disproven.

Megan McArdle:

I’ve seen the memo, and If it’s a fake, it’s a very good fake; just as people who write political dramas and novels can almost never bear to give the opposition any convincing arguments, the kind of people who write the fakes I’ve seen generally make the alleged authors sound like unreasonable buffoons.  This memo actually makes some compelling arguments for the Democratic side, which is one reason to believe that it might be real.  (The other major reason, as far as I’m concerned, is that Politico posted it; one assumes that they vetted it somehow).
On the other hand, there are also reasons to be suspicious:
1)  The memo nowhere identifies where it’s from
2)  There are several very juicy, very damning bits, and I am always suspicious that people would actually put such things into writing
3)  In some subtle way that I can’t put my finger on in any particular quote, the memo writer tends to make the GOP sound too convincing, too powerful
4)  Its appearance is at an awfully convenient time for the GOP–although of course, this is the actual time when communications memos are circulating.
5)  The Democrats are denying it’s theirs; of course, if Politico can confirm the provenance, this will only elevate a minor kerfuffle into a big story.
If it’s a fake, “fake but accurate” is not a defense.  I mean, it may be of Politico, provided they act swiftly to rectify the mistake.  But rightwing bloggers should not do what the left did in the Dan Rather case, and insist on its accuracy well past the point of reason.  There are decent reasons to worry that it’s a fake, and no one should circulate the talking points from the memo until the provenance has been confirmed.

Peter Suderman at Reason:

I can’t verify whether or not it’s a genuine Democratic memo, but the fact that neither the Politico item nor the memo itself identify an author or source is somewhat suspicious. Politico is attempting to verify the veracity of the document now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s never confirmed either way—or if it is, but not until long after the larger legislative debate is settled.

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:

Let’s hope someone wasn’t freelancing fake memos around the Hill. Or worse, had some direction to do so. It would be ever so unhelpful if, in highlighting Dems’ budget tricks, Republicans get caught in a ridiculous trick of their own. No named Democrats or aides aren’t denying the memo yet. My guess is folks on both sides are less sure where it came from than the original report suggested, and they’re scrambling to figure it out now. Will update when I hear more.

UPDATE: Jack Shafer at Slate

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Filed under New Media, Politics

Bye Bayh, Baby, Good-Bye

Christina Bellatoni at TPM:

Sen. Evan Bayh had already collected the 4,500 ballot-petition signatures needed to run in this year’s Indiana Democratic primary, and his last-minute decision not to run leaves the Indiana Democratic Party in the position of having to select its candidate itself. There probably isn’t a realistic way for anyone to gather the signatures needed by this week’s deadline.

A Democratic source told TPMDC that Bayh’s campaign did polling last week and found the senator was ahead of Republican Dan Coats, a candidate who just jumped in the race. Bayh had completed all the petitions for the race, which are due this week, the source said.

R.J. Gerard, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party confirmed to TPMDC that the state Democratic Party would be able to select a new candidate to run in November’s general election if no one files petitions with 4,500 signatures (500 within each of the state’s nine House districts) to run in the primary.

“I would imagine that it would be the plan, depending on what happens between now and Friday,” Gerard said. Gerard did not know whether any discussions are going on with potential new candidates.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

Bayh is a casualty of the Obama administration’s leftward lurch abetted by the Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. Having passed himself off back home for years as a moderate, Bayh nevertheless went along for the ride as the Democrats voted for the Senate version of Obamacare and busted the budget with the “stimulus” bill principally benefiting public employees.

Recall that a junior congressman by the name of Dan Quayle knocked off the seeming invincible incumbent Indiana Senator Birch Bayh in 1980. In the course of a series of debates, Quayle had effectively exposed Bayh as, well, a liberal. It is no surprise that Evan Bayh can read the writing on the wall. Bayh can at least look forward to being featured in part 23 of Michael Baron’s series on Democrats exiting a sinking ship.

Bayh puts it this way: “After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned.” The prospect of a competitive election has a peculiarly dulling effect, though Bayh denies that is the case with him.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Did the Republicans find some skeleton in his closet? Did he get a lucrative K Street deal? Call me a cynic, but it’s not normal for ambitious pols like Bayh to suddenly quit in their prime for no reason.

Anyway, chalk up another likely Senate seat for the GOP.

James Joyner:

The “in Congress” qualifier is interesting, prompting VodkaPundit Stephen Green to speculate Bayh “might be positioning himself for a primary challenge against President Obama in 2012.”  Bayh has some cross-cutting appeal. Kevin McGehee comments at Green’s place, “GOP be warned: I’d rather have Evan Bayh in the White House than Mike Huckabee.”  That draws an “Amen” from Green and, frankly, lots of us.

Still, a primary challenge in 2012 strikes me as wildly unlikely unless Obama’s fortunes fall considerably between now and then.   There’s precedent, of course:  Teddy Kennedy and Pat Buchanan both mounted unsuccessful primary challenges to sitting presidents, both of whom became one-termers.  But damaging an incumbent president and increasing the likelihood that the other party takes over tends not to win a man many friends in his own party.

UPDATE:   Erick Erickson hears that Bayh is considering a run for governor in 2012. That actually makes much more sense.

Additionally, various sources note that the filing deadline for the Senate race is tomorrow and that today is a Federal holiday.  Given the need to collect 5000 signatures, Bayh’s late withdrawal announcement may have frozen the field.

Ed Morrissey:

Bayh has managed to put his fellow Democrats in a real bind by waiting until the last minute to make this decision

Bayh’s decision will set Dems scrambling for a replacement. The deadline to file to reach the ballot is Friday, meaning any Dem considering running for the seat must make a decision quickly.

One option would be Rep. Baron Hill, who as Reid notes beat an incumbent Republican in 2006 (so did Reps. Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth).  Unfortunately, two problems will arise with Hill, the first of which is that this isn’t 2006 and he’s in trouble to hold that seat.

Karen Tumulty at Swampland at Time:

So what next? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him somewhere in the Obama cabinet at some point. And he has also talked about going home to Indiana to run again for his old job as Governor, which he once told me was far more fun and interesting than being in a legislative body. It also might be a better springboard for the national ambitions of a politician who, at 54, has plenty of time to consider his political future.

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On The 25th Day Of February, My Political Opponents Gave To Me…

Ed Morrissey:

In an effort to rescue the drowning ObamaCare bill, Barack Obama will hold a televised meeting with leaders in Congress to attempt to advance some kind of reform effort this year.  The White House has set half a day aside on February 25th for an open meeting on fresh ideas for a compromise that can pass both chambers of Congress and get to his desk for a signature.  However, leaders of both parties feel pessimistic about the chance for anything other than a photo op

Jonathan Cohn at TNR:

A White House official, speaking on background, stressed that the meeting in no way signals a retreat from Obama’s commitment to push ahead with comprehensive health care reform. He’s interested in hearing out Republican ideas, the official said, but when the discussion is done he wants to see a bill move forward–and pass.

And Obama’s rhetoric in the Couric interview was consistent with that. Citing recent premium hikes in California, he stated that the need for reform was only becoming more urgent with time. Later in the interview, when Couric asked him about deficits, he brought the discussion back to health care–reminding viewers that controlling health care costs was the surest way to reduce deficits in the long run.

The move makes sense, given the political moment. As my colleague Jonathan Chait noted the other day, Republicans have been complaining that Democrats locked them out of the process. And large swaths of the public seem to agree, even though the argument seems plainly untrue, given the exhaustive efforts Obama and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus made to accommodate Republicans. The public forum will give the GOP one more, high-profile opportunity to air their views–and, no less important, it will give the public a chance to see which approach to health care they really prefer.

Hugh Hewitt:

Memo To Leaders Boehner and McConnell
The president has called for a bipartisan health care summit.  I suppose I am too suspicious, but I suspect this is part of the great pivot –from blaming George W. Bush for all of the Obama Administration failures of 2009 to blaming you for all of the Obama Administration failures of 2010.  After all, David Plouffe didn’t come back in to manage Congressional relations.

President Obama could be serious.  He has, after all, allocated an entire half day to the effort.

But against the possibility that he is not and that he intends this as a trampoline from which he can execute a great jump and a perfect dismount, pointing at you the entire way and leaving an adoring media to mutter about the “party of no,” I suggest you respond quickly, substantively, and in writing:

Mr. President:

We accept your invitation.  In the spirit of bipartisanship we also suggest that the agenda consist of six items, of 30 minutes each, with half of the items and presentation chosen by us, and half by you, the Speaker and The Majority Leader.

We suggest that these presentations be staggered, one from one party followed by one from the other party, and have no objection to going first or second.

Our three points will be:

1.  There can be no comprehensive health care cost control and thus no real health care reform without tort reform.  In addition to a national cap on pain and suffering damages similar to California’s, we will offer some other keys to controlling the cost of defensive medicine in this country.  We urge you to ask your colleagues to refrain from immediately rushing to the defense of the plaintiffs’ bar.  The only way to stop the rising cost of medicine is to stop the need for doctors to practice with a lawyer on both shoulders.

2.  There is an enormous need for an interstate market in health care policies.  We should move immediately to eliminate this artificial and extremely expensive obstacle to the lowering of the cost of health insurance.

3.  There can be no long term confidence in our health care system without confidence in a growing, vibrant and robust economy, one freed from crippling entitlement debt and massive borrowing.  Therefore we will use our last presentation to acquaint you and your colleagues with the details of Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap,” which we believe could be enacted in parallel with comprehensive health care reform thus setting our domestic policy house in order.

We look forward to the meeting Mr. President, and urge a similar one be scheduled on national security matters so we could persuade you to abandon the the decision to try KSM in civilian court in America and to offer Miranda rights to terrorists past and future.

Sincerely,

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell

Ezra Klein:

At this point, I don’t think it’s well understood how many of the GOP’s central health-care policy ideas have already been included as compromises in the health-care bill. But one good way is to look at the GOP’s “Solutions for America” homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them — yes, you read that right — are in the Senate health-care bill.

(1) “Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.” This is a long-running debate between liberals and conservatives. Currently, states regulate insurers. Liberals feel that’s too weak and allows for too much variation, and they want federal regulation of insurers. Conservatives feel that states over-regulate insurers, and they want insurers to be able to cluster in the state with the least regulation and offer policies nationwide, much as credit card companies do today.

To the surprise and dismay of many liberals, the Senate health-care bill included a compromise with the conservative vision for insurance regulation. The relevant policy is in Section 1333, which allows the formation of interstate compacts. Under this provision, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (for instance) could agree to allow insurers based in any of those states to sell plans in all of them. This prevents a race to the bottom, as Idaho has to be comfortable with Arizona’s regulations, and the policies have to have a minimum level of benefits (something that even Rep. Paul Ryan believes), but it’s a lot closer to the conservative ideal.

(2) “Allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do.” This is the very purpose of the exchanges, as defined in Section 1312. Insurers are required to pool the risk of all the small businesses and individuals in the new markets rather than treating them as small, single units. That gives the newly pooled consumers bargaining power akin to that of a massive corporation or labor union, just as conservatives want. It also gives insurers reason to compete aggressively for their business, which is key to the conservative vision. Finally, empowering the exchanges to use prudential purchasing maximizes the power and leverage that consumers will now enjoy.

(3) “Give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.” Section 1302 of the Senate bill does this directly. The provision is entitled “the Waiver for State Innovation,” and it gives states the power to junk the whole of the health-care plan — that means the individual mandate, the Medicaid expansion, all of it — if they can do it better and cheaper.

(4) “End junk lawsuits.” It’s not entirely clear what this means, as most malpractice lawsuits actually aren’t junk lawsuits. The evidence on this is pretty clear: The malpractice problem is on operating tables, not in court rooms. Which isn’t to deny that our current system is broken for patients and doctors alike. The Senate bill proposes to deal with this in Section 6801, which encourages states to develop new malpractice systems and suggests that Congress fund the most promising experiments. This compromise makes a lot of sense given the GOP’s already-expressed preference for letting states “create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs,” but since what the Republicans actually want is a national system capping damages, I can see how this compromise wouldn’t be to their liking.

(5) To stop there, however, does the conservative vision a disservice. The solutions the GOP has on its Web site are not solutions at all, because Republicans don’t want to be in the position of offering an alternative bill. But when Republicans are feeling bolder — as they were in Bush’s 2007 State of the Union, or John McCain’s plan — they generally take aim at one of the worst distortions in the health-care market: The tax break for employer-sponsored insurance. Bush capped it. McCain repealed it altogether. Democrats usually reject, and attack, both approaches.

Not this year, though. Senate Democrats initially attempted to cap the exclusion, which is what Bush proposed in 2007. There was no Republican support for the move, and Democrats backed off from the proposal. They quickly replaced it, however, with the excise tax, which does virtually the same thing. The excise tax only applies to employer-sponsored insurance above a certain price point, and it essentially erases the preferential tax treatment for every dollar above its threshold.

(6) And finally, we shouldn’t forget the compromises that have been the most painful for Democrats, and the most substantive. This is a private-market plan. Not only is single-payer off the table, but at this point, so too is the public option. The thing that liberals want most in the world has been compromised away.

Reihan Salam, responding to Ezra:

By my count, (1) bears no substantive resemblance to the original idea in question, (2) and (3) and (4) do bear some resemblance to a good Republican proposal, albeit in a form that weakens their impact. On (5), the point is well taken, though it is so compromised and poorly designed already that it begs the question of whether scrapping the proposal and starting with a new one wouldn’t be preferable. And (6) strikes me as a non sequitur, insofar as private markets are not, I hope, an exclusive province of Republicans.

I have to say, this doesn’t strike me as a compelling indication that this is a “substantively bipartisan” bill, though I am impressed and pleased that Ezra didn’t include transitional measures as part of his post. The essential conservative objection to the bill is to the premise that central direction is the way to lower costs rather than more robust competition. Many conservatives also object to a federal mandate that compels individuals to purchase a product from a private entity. A bill that included elements (2), (3), (4), and (5) while also federalizing Medicaid or otherwise improving its incentive structure to finance an expansion of coverage would be great. Let’s start talking about it.

Philip Klein at American Spectator:

This is a classic Obama move. Create the appearance that he’s doing one thing when in reality he’s doing the exact opposite. Problem is, the public has already caught on to his shtick and can tell the difference between performance art and reality. I can’t see this changing the dynamics of the health care effort.

Steve Benen:

So what’s there to talk about on Feb. 25? If the summit is really about striking a new compromise, this would seemingly be pointless. But if the summit is about delving into these plans, exploring what is and isn’t in the proposal, and making it clear for all to see that Republican ideas have been considered — and in several instances, embraced — the gathering has the potential to change public attitudes and score a key public-relations victory.

Indeed, I can imagine a scenario in which the president spells all of this out explicitly — writing out which provisions are included that make Dems happy, which provisions are included (and excluded) that make Republicans happy, and declaring the whole package a triumph of bipartisan compromise. The GOP will still almost certainly balk, but the result will give Democrats cover and put Republican intransigence on full display.

UPDATE: Jonathan Chait at TNR

Kevin Drum

UPDATE #2: Steve Benen

Christina Bellantoni at TPM

Atrios

Ed Morrissey

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Filed under Health Care, Legislation Pending

Rumors On The Internets, At This Point

Various sources are reporting that the Dems have 218.

Christina Bellantoni at TPM:

A Democratic source tells us the House, which has been debating the health care bill all day, will be able to pass the plan tonight.

The source said they have the needed 218 votes.

Coming up is debate about the amendment dealing with abortion, and then the Republicans will get an hour to present their alternative plan.

Votes will start around 10 p.m. The final vote might happen close to midnight.

Allah Pundit:

Twitter’s hopping with rumors about vote-wrangling and backroom deals so I figured you guys could use a thread to exchange information. Just within the past half hour, Politico’s heard whispers from the Democratic leadership that they’ve reached 218. Debate on Stupak’s amendment to strip abortion funding from the bill is coming up, followed by a vote on that and then — sometime between nine and eleven p.m. — the big vote on PelosiCare itself. If you’re watching this all play out on C-SPAN (either on TV or online), keep your eye on Republicans demanding a promise from Pelosi that if Stupak’s amendment passes, it won’t later be dropped in the conference committee with the Senate. The Democrats have been coy about that thus far.

Philip Klein at AmSpec:

If the bill does end up passing, it seems that the difference maker would be the passage of the Stupak amendment barring taxpayer funding for abortion, which hasn’t been voted on yet but is expected to pass. But assuming this turns out to be the case, the big questions are: will Democrats actually defy Planned Parenthood and keep the pro-life language in the final, reconciled bill? And if it gets stripped, then how do the pro-life Democrats end up voting when the merged bill comes up for a vote in the House?

 

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Think Of The Children, They Can Only Grow Up A Future Hall Of Famer, An Oscar Winning Actress, The President Of The United States…

dvd-guess-whos-coming-to-dinner

Andrew Belonsky in Gawker:

Keith Bardwell wants desperately to give his racism a happy face. The white Louisiana Justice of the Peace refused to give an interracial couple a marriage license because he feels for those little mixed babies. What a good Samaritan…

Explaining why he refused to marry Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, Bardwell explained that it’s his very strict policy against marriages that could result in miscegenation:

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage. I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

Michael Scherer at Swampland in Time:

The ACLU has asked for a state investigation of Bardwell. One couple–he black, she white–whom  Bardwell recently told would not get a marriage license said they plan to bring the matter to the U.S. Justice Department.At the end of the story, Bardwell adds:

“I’ve been a justice of the peace for 34 years and I don’t think I’ve mistreated anybody,” Bardwell said. “I’ve made some mistakes, but you have too. I didn’t tell this couple they couldn’t get married. I just told them I wouldn’t do it.”

UPDATE: From commenter Paul-No: “He’s right to be concerned about the children. Heck they might even grow up to be President.”

Huffington Post

Charles Lemos at My DD

Ryan at Right Juris:

The couple is planning on consulting the Department of Justice about filing a possible complaint, and the ACLU is also weighing in. This may be one of those rare times where I am fully on board with the ACLU. The law requires that Bardwell not discriminate against couples seeking a marriage. Louisiana law requires a 72 hour waiting period from the time of application for the license until the ceremony. If one or both of the parties have previously been married then you must show proof that the prior marriage has been legally ended, and you must show a birth certificate and a social security card. There are no restrictions on marriage related to the race of the couple.

I believe that once a judge begins deciding that he is above the law, and not required to uphold the laws of the state that he took an oath to uphold, then it is time for that judge to be removed from office. The law requires that Bardwell preform this ceremony, it is not up to him to decide what is best for the couple. Given the fact that divorce rates are high no matter what segment of the population you look at it really crosses the line to simply look at a couple and decide on your own that they are going to fail, so they should be denied the chance to get married.

I would love to know what you all think about Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana Justice of The Peace who denies interracial couples marriage license simply because he believe that the marriage will have a negative impact on the children. I say that this guy doesn’t deserve to be a member of the judiciary and ought to be removed from office, but what do you think?

Adam Sewer at Tapped

Andrew Sullivan:

For The Sake Of The Children

That was always the argument against inter-racial marriage (sound familiar?) and apparently, in some minds, it still is.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh

UPDATE #2: Christina Bellantoni at TPM

UPDATE #3: Amanda Terkel at Think Progress

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Filed under Families, Race

No Reduction Sauce For This Goose

history-akbarChristina Bellantoni at TPM:

Details are still emerging about President Obama’s 90-minute closed-door session with 31 members of Congress today about his plan for Afghanistan, but mentioned in some stories is that Sen. John McCain had a terse exchange with his onetime rival.

Both the New York Times and Politico are reporting tonight that McCain (R-AZ) suggested Obama was making the decision about whether to send a surge of troops at a “leisurely” pace and was rebuffed.

While disputing the suggestion of a tense moment, sources confirmed the general sense of the exchange — and that Obama assured everyone that he was moving as quickly as he believes prudence allows.

TPMDC checked in with McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, who said the senator was “astonished” by early reports characterizing the exchange as an argument because they aren’t accurate. The White House also suggested there weren’t any fireworks.

Buchanan said her boss told the president he didn’t think the U.S. could afford to “take a leisurely pace in deciding” given the recent casualties in Afghanistan.

She characterized the meeting as both somber and serious, but said it was constructive and no one interrupted anyone.

“Senator McCain does not recall the situation being that way,” Buchanan said, responding to the reports.

Matthew Yglesias:

Obama Rules Out Large Afghanistan Troop Reductions

So reports The New York Times. But was there ever any indication that this was under consideration? He campaigned on increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and has, in fact, delivered on that promised increase. I always understood the debate to be a debate about whether or not to have a further increase, not whether to suddenly reverse a decision that was made just a few months ago

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

One almost gets the sense that the Obama team may have not learned anything from our recent experiences in two war theaters. It is not as if Donald Rumsfeld and a slew of generals didn’t try in Iraq to use the fewest possible troops, spend the least possible amount of taxpayer money, and get the most out of high-tech wizardry. Doesn’t the Obama team remember that this didn’t work, that a wholesale revision of strategy was needed and that only once a fully implemented counterinsurgency approach was employed did we achieve a victory? This sort of willful obtuseness is deeply troubling because there simply isn’t any viable military/strategic rationale for what the president is straining to do. It is a political approach plain and simple. He wants money for health care and he doesn’t want a revolt on the Left.

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

The counterterrorism approach has been derided as the “Biden Plan” — because Biden’s support of the counterterrorism approach is itself such a damning indictment of the plan. On the other side, supporting a counterinsurgency strategy, are the commanders who’ve risen to the top of America’s wartime military — Petraeus and Mullen — as well as the Secretary of Defense who managed the surge in Iraq, and Bruce Riedel, the man who oversaw the administration’s first Afghanistan policy review. But none of these men has proposed his own plan, they are backing the assessment and proposal of the commander on the ground — General Stanley McChrystal. So are we to understand that the alternative — the “Biden Plan” — was actually crafted by Joe Biden?

Does the Biden Plan even exist on paper? When Biden pitched splitting Iraq into three separate countries as opposed to adding the troops that ultimately defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, he at least wrote an article about it. There was a column and even a website if I remember correctly. What document outlines Biden’s latest plan? What Pentagon assessment, guided by what intelligence, supports Biden’s conclusions this time? Or did General Biden just scribble this all down on the back of a napkin? And has the Obama White House become so cut off from reality that they fail to understand how ridiculous it looks to have Biden’s name attached to a strategy for the war in Afghanistan?

Of course, it’s all to the good of the country and the war effort that the White House has killed the counterterrorism approach by labeling it the Biden Plan, but if I were a supporter of that approach, as so many on the left are, I would be furious that the White House had made a fool out of me by allowing Biden to be cast as the plan’s most prominent supporter.

Rich Lowry at The Corner

Dave Schuler:

The president is right: the range of options is larger than either doubling down or withdrawing. However, the point is not entirely a strawman argument, either. His military advisors have provided their considered opinion that, if a strategy of counter-insurgency is to be pursued, they cannot be succcessful without a considerably larger contingent of U. S. forces. A decision whether explicitly or by default not to increase the number of our troops in Afghanistan is arguably a decision to follow a strategy other than counter-insurgency. Deciding to pursue counter-insurgency without the resources to do so would be very imprudent and IMO this president has not exhibited that sort of imprudence to date.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan seems to have been ruled out for now. That will undoubtedly provoke complaints from within the president’s own base which he apparently has decided he can accept at this point. Whether he will pursue the strategy his generals have publicly advocated remains to be seen.

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT