Politics Today: A Public Option Showdown

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

** The President meets with a NATO leader about Afghanistan...

** Weighing the threat in Iran...

**Tackling the hot button issues on health care...

5326800AFGHANISTAN: Expect Afghanistan to be on the agenda when President Obama meets with Defense Secretary Robert Gates this afternoon and when he sits down with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen this morning. Rasmussen spoke out Monday about how the nations fighting the war there must change their tactics, reports Bloomberg News' Viola Gienger.

"'Reaching our goal in Afghanistan is not guaranteed,' Rasmussen told an audience at the Atlantic Council policy group in Washington yesterday. More troops will be needed at least to train the Afghan National Security Forces, Rasmussen said, while cautioning that a revised strategy must be agreed upon before decisions are made about the additional resources.

"'We cannot continue to do exactly what we're doing now,' Rasmussen said, calling for more focus on civilian reconstruction to accompany the military campaign. 'Things are going to have to change.'..

"President Barack Obama is reviewing whether to continue with a strategy in Afghanistan that focuses on protecting and supporting the population against al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. Rasmussen, 56, a former prime minister of Denmark, met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday and is scheduled to meet today with Obama at the White House."

The Washington Times' Sara A. Carter, "Musharraf: Afghan debate shows U.S. weak": "Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Monday that the U.S. would make a 'disastrous' mistake if it withdrew from Afghanistan and warned that a delay in sending more troops would be seen as a sign of weakness.

"Mr. Musharraf also denied that Pakistan's elite Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was giving secret support to the Taliban, which the ISI helped build in the 1980s to confront the Soviet Union.

'Asked by reporters and editors at The Washington Times whether the U.S. and its allies might be seen as weak because of the prolonged debate over whether to send more forces to Afghanistan, Mr. Musharraf said, 'Yes, absolutely. ... By this vacillation and lack of commitment to a victory and talking too much about casualties [it] shows weakness in the resolve.'"

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
IRAN: The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler reports, "The Obama administration is laying plans to cut Iran's economic links to the rest of the world if talks this week over the country's nuclear ambitions founder, according to officials and outside experts familiar with the plans.

"While officials stress that they hope Iran will agree to open its nuclear program to inspection, they are prepared by year's end to make it increasingly difficult for Iranian companies to ship goods around the world. The administration is targeting, in particular, the insurance and reinsurance companies that underwrite the risk of such transactions.

"Officials are also looking at ways to keep goods from reaching Iran by targeting companies that get around trading restrictions by sending shipments there through third parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hong Kong; and other trading hubs."

The New York Times' William J. Broad, Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger write,"When President Obama stood last week with the leaders of Britain and France to denounce Iran's construction of a secret nuclear plant, the Western powers all appeared to be on the same page.

"Behind their show of unity about Iran's clandestine efforts to manufacture nuclear fuel, however, is a continuing debate among American, European and Israeli spies about a separate component of Iran's nuclear program: its clandestine efforts to design a nuclear warhead.

"The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike, say they believe that Iran has restarted these 'weaponization' efforts, which would mark a final step in building a nuclear weapon. The Germans say they believe that the weapons work was never halted. The French have strongly suggested that independent international inspectors have more information about the weapons work than they have made public."

5339106HEALTH CARE: "It'll be Democrat vs. Democrat as lawmakers go back to work on health care Tuesday," reports the Associated Press' Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. "The Senate Finance Committee is expected to consider whether the government should offer its own insurance plan for the middle class in competition with private carriers. A public option is the top goal for liberals, but it has no Republican support and moderate Democrats say the Senate will never go along.

"So Tuesday's debate is expected to pit Democratic liberals against moderates.

"Although the public plan isn't expected to get a majority of the panel, supporters say at least they'll know where everybody stands.

"Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is already in the hot seat — accused of being lukewarm, if not downright hostile, to the government option. Two liberal groups are launching a hard-hitting television and Internet ad featuring a young father from Montana. Bing Perrine, 26, in need of a heart operation, uninsured and deeply in debt, looks straight into the camera and asks Baucus, 'Whose side are you on?'"

Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence, "Debate on Public Health Insurance Plan Poised to Explode in Senate": "It's unclear what the outcome will be Tuesday when the committee, continuing work on its 10-year, $900 billion health reform bill, is scheduled to take up three versions of a public health insurance option.

"The panel has 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Anything less than a solid wall of Republican opposition to all three proposals would be shocking. On top of that, several Democrats have reservations about some or all of the proposals."

Meantime, "A group of Republican governors are working together in a coordinated attack on Sen. Max Baucus's healthcare reform legislation," reports The Hill's Molly K. Hooper.

"A group of Republican governors are working together in a coordinated attack on Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) healthcare reform legislation, according to GOP sources and documents obtained by The Hill. At least 14 of the nation's 22 Republican governors have sent, or will soon send, letters to their respective congressional delegations claiming the Democrats' healthcare bills would bankrupt their states. ...

"[Gov. Haley] Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), was the first to pen a 'letter of concern' to lawmakers from his state. And it provided a template for others to follow. ...

"'The current proposals, both in the House and Senate, will expand the Medicaid program at additional costs paid not by the federal government, but passed down to the states,' Barbour wrote earlier this month."

Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, "In Delivering Care, More Isn't Always Better, Experts Say": "'More is not necessarily better,' said Bernard Rosof, chairman of the board of directors of New York's Huntington Hospital and a board member of the independent National Quality Forum. 'In many cases, less is better.'

"When the Senate Finance Committee resumes its consideration of health-care legislation Tuesday, the lawmakers will be wading into one of the most complex, emotionally charged aspects of today's $2.4 trillion system. Democrats, feeling politically singed by this summer's talk of 'death panels,' are struggling to explain how a bill that would take hundreds of billions of dollars out of the system would not affect care.

"Republicans, sensing a political opening, intend to highlight provisions they say could lead to the denial of medical services, or rationing."

New York Times' David D. Kirkpatrick, "Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care": "Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion. And the abortion opponents are getting enough support from moderate Democrats that both sides say the outcome is too close to call. Opponents of abortion cite as precedent a 30-year-old ban on the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions.

"Abortion-rights supporters say such a restriction would all but eliminate from the marketplace private plans that cover the procedure, pushing women who have such coverage to give it up. Nearly half of those with employer-sponsored health plans now have policies that cover abortion, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation."

Associated Press' Calvin Woodward, "FACT CHECK: Flaws in Obama's health care anecdotes"

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
2016 OLYMPICS: "Olympic observers expressed unfettered enthusiasm Monday over President Barack Obama's announcement that he would go to Copenhagen and pitch Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid," report the Chicago Tribune's Philip Hirsh and Katherine Skiba. "Some predicted that the quick trip -- he plans to be on the ground only four or five hours -- could make the difference between Chicago winning and losing the Summer Games.

"'It's very positive,' said Mitt Romney, the ex-GOP presidential candidate who rescued the scandal-tainted 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. 'I think his presence makes the likelihood of a Chicago win very good indeed. Had he not gone, we almost certainly would have lost.'

"Romney isn't among those with votes, and the impact of Obama's trip will be difficult to assess because voting by 100-plus International Olympic Committee members is by secret ballot. But some IOC voters were clearly impressed."

However, writes the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas, the trip could be a roll of the dice for the president.

"No previous U.S. president has made such a trip on behalf of a city vying to host the Olympics. The visit is a gamble for Obama. He will be leaving Washington with thorny foreign and domestic issues unresolved, and risks looking diminished if Chicago's bid falls short.

"The converse is also true: a Chicago victory would be a feel-good moment for both a nation and a president wrestling with crises in Iran and Afghanistan and partisan wrangling at home."

"Less than two weeks ago, President Obama lamented that he was too busy to go to Denmark to lobby for Chicago's bid to host the Olympics," add the New York Times' Peter Baker and Juliet Macur. "'I would make the case in Copenhagen personally,' he said, 'if I weren't so firmly committed to making real the promise of quality, affordable health care for every American.'

"Evidently, his commitment to health care is no longer quite so time consuming. Mr. Obama announced Monday that he would fly to Copenhagen this week after all to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the 2016 Summer Games…

"[C]rossing the ocean for a dramatic personal plea on behalf of his adopted hometown involves at least some political hazards. Mr. Obama risks looking parochial at a time of enormous challenges and, perhaps even worse, risks a major international embarrassment if the committee rebuffs him and rejects Chicago in favor of Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid."

CBS News' Chip Reid, "Obama's Olympic Task"

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  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBSNews.com's Executive Editor, Washington.

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