New York Times — Afghan Leader Said to Accept Runoff After Election Audit
The Obama administration is waiting to see how things shake out in the Afghan elections before announcing what to do with U.S. troop levels. That gives the U.S. leverage over President Hamid Karzai, as does news that at least a quarter of his votes were fraudulent.
Today, Karzai will accept a runoff election with rival Abdullah Abdullah, the first step in the Obama team’s effort to develop a coalition government between the two men.
Writers Sabrina Taverise and Helene Cooper explain how the U.S. team, including Sen. John Kerry, is working hard to keep the veneer of autonomy for the Afghan government. We’re not telling them what they can do, just what they can’t.
“‘If you jam it, it has no legitimacy and you’re further behind,’ the official said. So instead, the administration is ‘creating conditions’ so that the Afghans come to see a negotiated deal as in their own interests. ‘If they want an election, an election it will be,’ the official said.
A panel of experts appointed by the United Nations issued findings for the first time on Monday that showed that fraud was so pervasive that nearly a quarter of all votes were thrown out, and that Mr. Karzai had not won the Aug. 20 election outright, according to an analysis of the findings by The New York Times.
The findings are a defining moment for Mr. Karzai, who initially received 54 percent of the vote and who says he believes that he is the rightful winner. Mr. Karzai initially indicated that he might reject the findings, a Western official said.”
Washington Post — Public option gains support
It’s true that more Americans support the public option than support the Democratic health care proposal overall, but don’t try to figure out what that means for the future of the legislation from the new Post poll.
The Post/ABC poll is the weak sister of major news polls (ranking behind WSJ/NBC, CNN, NYT/CBS, and Fox News) – no information on sample composition and muddled questions written Posties instead of pollsters.
This explains why the survey has consistently shown stronger support for President Obama and his initiatives than its competitors (5 points heavy on Obama job approval over the WSJ/NBC poll over the span of his presidency).
On health care, the poll has also been a consistent outlier (7 points ahead of the average of the other major news outlets).
Rather than trying to extrapolate the significance of the numbers drawn from what must be a Democrat-rich sample myself, I will let writers Dan Balz and Jon Cohen do it for themselves.
“Among Democrats, strong approval of his handling of the [Health] issue has dropped 15 percentage points since mid-September.
These numbers underscore the challenges ahead for the president and Democratic leaders in Congress as they attempt to maintain support among liberals and moderates in their own party while continuing to win over at least a few Republican lawmakers.”
New York Times — Basic Medicare Premium to Rise 15% Next Year
Writer Robert Pear thinks that the sharp increase in Medicare premiums next year (crossing the $100 per month threshold for the first time) brings to light the need to control costs overall, as the president has suggested in his health-care proposal.
Perhaps, but the fact that the administration is scrambling to prevent the increase from going into effect suggests President Obama is insincere about cutting Medicare by a half-a-billion dollars. It also reveals how absurd it is to suggest that a future Congress will have more courage on the point.
That aside, the administration knows that a big rate hike for seniors combined with the president’s proposed cuts would be a political nightmare.
“Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, urged the Senate to approve a bill, already passed by the House, to block the scheduled increase in Medicare premiums.
‘We are in tremendously difficult economic times, and seniors are being hit particularly hard,’ Ms. Sebelius said. ‘The last thing seniors need right now is a substantial increase in their Medicare premiums, and many seniors will see such an increase if no action is taken.’
Among those who face higher premiums next year are new Medicare beneficiaries, high-income people and those whose Medicare premiums are paid by Medicaid. Premiums can be as high as $353.60 a month, or more than $4,200 a year, for Medicare beneficiaries who file tax returns with adjusted gross income greater than $214,000 for an individual or $428,000 for a couple.”
New York Times — Financial Giants Donating Little to Obama Party
The president is on a big campaign and fundraising swing this week, but writer David Kirkpatrick points out that even as Obama courts them, Wall Streeters are not coming across with the kid of campaign cash the president and his party need.
In part, it’s because the investment crowd is leery of getting caught by the Journal or, humbly, The Examiner for kicking back bailout bonus dough in the form of campaign contributions.
It may also be that the administration is still looking for scapegoats for the lousy job market and weak recovery.
“And as in recent years, Democrats are raising far more from Wall Street executives than Republicans, according to campaign finance data sorted by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Democrats, including House and Senate party committees and the party itself, raised about $5.4 million in the first eight months of the year, while the Republicans took in just $2.7 million.
So far in the current election cycle, though, Wall Street accounts for less than half as much of the Democratic Party’s fund-raising as it did in 2008: 3 percent, or about $1.5 million out of a total $53.6 million in the eight-month period, compared with about 6 percent, or $15.3 million out of $260.1 million during the last election. (Republicans relied more heavily on their party to support their presidential candidate in 2008, and the party’s Wall Street fund-raising has fallen even further.) “
Ruth Marcus — Obama’s dumb war with Fox News
A tip to politicians – if you are going to pick an attack dog for the media, do better than Anita Dunn. Aside from her weird lines about Chairman Mao (when you claim plagiarism of Lee Atwater as your defense, you’ve got problems), she manages to seem very small and very partisan as she attacks the largest cable news channel. It’s bad to be in a fight with a media outlet you deem unworthy. It’s worse to be losing it.
Liberal Marcus explains the basics to the administration’s ham-fisted press shop:
“The Obama administration’s war on Fox News is dumb on multiple levels. It makes the White House look weak, unable to take Harry Truman’s advice and just deal with the heat. It makes the White House look small, dragged down to the level of Glenn Beck. It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian — Agnewesque? — aroma at worst.
It is a self-defeating trifecta: it distracts attention from the Obama administration’s substantive message; it serves to help Fox, not punish it, by driving up ratings; and it deprives the White House, to the extent it refuses to provide administration officials to appear on the cable network, of access to an audience that is, in fact, broader than hard-core Obama haters.”
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