Politics Today: Obama Speeches Under Scrutiny

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:

**Previewing President Obama's health care speech...

**Another speech – on education – creates a stir...

**Will Joe Kennedy run for his uncle's Senate seat?

**How about these names for 2012: Petraeus, Scarborough?

(CBS/AP/iStockphoto)
HEALTH CARE: The president may have enjoyed just the third day of his presidency completely out of the spotlight on Thursday, however there is plenty brewing while he's at Camp David for the weekend.

"With President Obama poised to give a health-care address Wednesday before a joint session of Congress, administration officials promised that he will deliver a detailed prescription for reform despite the risks of spelling out exactly where he stands," reports the Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut.

"Vice President Biden, in an appearance in Washington on Thursday, said the speech will map out 'in understandable, clear terms what our administration wants to happen with regard to health care, and what we are going to push for specifically.'

"Though favoring one proposal over another carries political risks, potentially limiting what Obama might be able to claim as a victory, senior administration officials said the speech will satisfy demands that he clarify which provisions he supports and which he could jettison. The contents of the speech are largely decided, officials said.

"'I don't think that there will be any ambiguity about where he thinks we have to go from here,' senior adviser David Axelrod said."

One idea that may come into play: a public option "trigger", reports the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons.

"Looking to break the logjam on healthcare legislation, the White House and Democrats in the Senate are increasingly placing their hopes on the idea of a 'trigger' that, if set off, would allow the government to offer health insurance to many Americans.

"Under a trigger, private insurance companies would be told to meet benchmarks for improving the health system, such as insuring more Americans and reducing healthcare costs. If they failed to do so by a certain deadline, the federal government would launch its own health insurance program.

"The plan might win over moderate Republican and wavering Democratic senators, who do not want to give the government blanket authorization to enter the insurance market and compete with private companies. At the same time, President Obama could make the argument that he has not abandoned the prospect of a government-run plan, also called a 'public option,' which liberals contend is needed to inject competition into the insurance industry."

(CBS)
The New York Times' Robert Pear and Jackie Calmes with more on the "trigger", "Health Care Idea Has Public Plan Only as Backup"

Bloomberg News' Holly Rosenkrantz, "Public Option Not Vital to Health Reform, Teamsters' Hoffa Says": "[he] said dropping the so-called public option wouldn't be a 'deal killer' for health-care legislation, signaling a split among leaders of unions that are a core constituency of President Barack Obama."

Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, "Obama Press on Details of Plan"

Meantime, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and the five other senators negotiating a possible compromise will talk today, reports Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown.

"Most top Democrats, including senior White House advisers, may no longer expect a health care deal out of the bipartisan 'Group of Six,' but the senators still plan to talk Friday for the first time as a group in more than two weeks.

"Don't expect any major announcements: the group wants to meet face-to-face next week and talk about what has transpired over the last month before they make any decisions about the fate of their negotiations, congressional sources said Thursday.

Washington Post's Shailagh Murray on Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., "A GOP Senator Looking to Meet Halfway"

Bloomberg News' Julianna Goldman and Nicholas Johnston, "Obama May Need Sense of Crisis to Revive Health-Care Overhaul"

Associated Press' Ben Feller, "Obama speech a sharp test of leadership"

Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten, "Healthcare debate boosts Internet advertising"

(iStockphoto)
EDUCATION: Meantime, a controversy percolated Thursday over what was expected to be an innocuous speech on education.

"President Barack Obama's back-to-school address next week was supposed to be a feel-good story for an administration battered over its health care agenda. Now Republican critics are calling it an effort to foist a political agenda on children, creating yet another confrontation with the White House," report the Associated Press' Libby Quaid and Linda Stewart Ball.

"Obama plans to speak directly to students Tuesday about the need to work hard and stay in school. His address will be shown live on the White House Web site and on C-SPAN at noon EDT, a time when classrooms across the country will be able to tune in.

"Schools don't have to show it. But districts across the country have been inundated with phone calls from parents and are struggling to address the controversy that broke out after Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to principals urging schools to watch.

"Districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students. Others are still thinking it over or are letting parents have their kids opt out.
Some conservatives, driven by radio pundits and bloggers, are urging schools and parents to boycott the address. They say Obama is using the opportunity to promote a political agenda and is overstepping the boundaries of federal involvement in schools.

"The White House moved Thursday to quell the controversy. First it revised an Education Department lesson plan that drew the ire of conservatives because it called for students to write letters about how they can help the president," adds Politico's Nia-Malika Henderson.

"Then Obama aides said they would release the text of Obama's address on Monday, a day before his speech is to be beamed into the classrooms – an apparent attempt to show skeptical parents ahead of time what he plans to say."

"Previous presidents have visited public schools to speak directly to students, although few of those events have been broadcast live," the New York Times' James C. McKinley Jr and Sam Dillon continue.

"The first President George Bush, a Republican, made a similar nationally broadcast speech from a Washington high school in 1991, urging students to study hard, avoid drugs and to ignore peers 'who think it's not cool to be smart.' Democrats in Congress accused him of using taxpayer money — $27,000 to produce the broadcast — for 'paid political advertising.'"

Washington Post's Michael Alison Chandler and Michael D. Shear, "Some Schools Will Block or Delay Obama's Pep Talk for Students"

Los Angeles Times' Kristina Sherry, "Obama runs into resistance over school speech"

5264155AFGHANISTAN: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates indicated Thursday that he is open to increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, voicing a shift in his position as the administration ponders a military assessment expected to lead to a formal request for additional forces," reports the Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson.

"Gates, in a briefing at the Pentagon, also defended the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, rebutting suggestions that it is time to pull out. His remarks came just hours before the Army announced that it will extend the tours of about 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan for between two weeks and two months amid an intensifying Taliban insurgency.

"Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, submitted a key assessment of the war this week. Gates said the assessment, which President Obama and top military officers are reviewing, had altered his long-standing concern about creating an oversized U.S. 'footprint' in Afghanistan…

"Gates also rebuffed as 'unrealistic' arguments that the administration should narrow the mission to one of counterterrorism in Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border. Instead, he said that uprooting terrorist groups requires a more holistic campaign to shore up internal security -- the type of effort McChrystal and other top U.S. military leaders envision.

"'Even if you want to focus on counterterrorism, you cannot do that successfully without local law enforcement, without internal security, without intelligence,' he said."

NY Times' Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller, "Advisers to Obama Divided on Size of Afghan Force"

"Gates and [Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael] Mullen acknowledged, however, that public support for the war is waning," adds McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef. "With four months to go, 2009 already is the deadliest year of the war. At least 308 U.S. troops have been killed this year, and a McClatchy/Ipsos poll released this week found that 54 percent of Americans don't think the U.S. military is winning in Afghanistan.

"Gates and Mullen Thursday pleaded for more time.

"'The fact that Americans would be tired of having their sons and daughters at risk and in battle is not surprising,' Gates said. 'I think what is important is for us to be able to show, over the months to come, that the president's strategy is succeeding. We understand the concerns on the part of many Americans in this area, and — but we think that we now have the resources and the right approach to begin making some headway in turning around a situation that, as many have indicated, has been deteriorating.'"

Wall Street Journal's Yochi J. Dreazen and Peter Spiegel, "Obama Urged to Rally Support for War"

(iStockphoto)
WHITE HOUSE VISITORS: "The Obama administration plans to change White House policy by releasing the names of thousands of visitors whose comings and goings traditionally are kept secret by presidents," reports USA Today's Richard Wolf.

"President Obama's announcement scheduled for today follows a lengthy legal review. The policy change would resolve four lawsuits filed by a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), against the Obama and Bush administrations seeking details on White House meetings…

"The new policy would begin in mid-September. Electronic visitor logs maintained by the Secret Service would be released three to four months after visits are made. The disclosure would include who set up the meeting, where it was held and for how long. Specific requests for visits before Sept. 15 would be dealt with individually.

"Exceptions would be made in cases of national security, extreme confidentiality — such as a visit by a future Supreme Court nominee — and strictly personal visits to the first family, including daughters Malia and Sasha."

(CBS)
SUCCEEDING TED KENNEDY: New York Times' Abby Goodnough and Sara Rimer, "Nearly everyone in Massachusetts is waiting for Joseph P. Kennedy II to make up his mind. It is hard to imagine this state without a Kennedy in the United States Senate. But it seems that Mr. Kennedy, 56, an entrepreneur and a former congressman who has avoided politics for more than a decade, is the only family member seriously mulling a run for the seat his uncle, Edward M. Kennedy, held for 47 years.

"Several people close to the family said pressure on Joe Kennedy was not coming from the family, still grieving over the loss of its patriarch, but from within Joe himself, and, they speculated, from various stakeholders in Massachusetts — mayors, labor leaders and others — who view him as the candidate most likely to inherit enough of his uncle's monumental legacy to take care of their needs…

"And until he makes a move, political observers say, no other possible contender — with the exception of Martha Coakley, the state attorney general who announced Thursday — is going to declare for the primary, scheduled Dec. 8."

Boston Globe's Matt Viser, "Coakley is 1st to enter Senate race – Capuano, Meehan considering whether to run"


(CBS)
2012: Top Republicans, inspired by President Barack Obama's recent drop in popularity, are newly optimistic about their chances of challenging him in 2012 and are focusing on some surprising names," report Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei.

"Some major donors and GOP strategists have approached Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' about a national run, according to party sources.

"Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican nominee in 1996, told POLITICO that he would like to see Army four-star Gen. David Petraeus — the head of the U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan — run for president as a latter-day Ike.

"Some fiscal conservatives, convinced that they'll never "out-Obama Obama," are sold on a solid-but-unflashy choice: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) was able to generate some early buzz — and news coverage — simply by telegraphing plans for a quick trip to Iowa later this year.

"Then there is freshman Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor who cut a high profile as an opponent of the Obama administration's auto industry strategy and keynoted the South Carolina GOP's annual dinner in May.

"…There's been an unmistakable surge in the behind-the-scenes chatter as Obama's poll numbers continue to fall — and it reflects a party that is at least contemplating an out of-the-box approach to 2012."

2009 VA GOV:Richmond Times-Dispatch's Jeff E. Schapiro and Olympia Meola, "Deeds uses radio, Internet to attack McDonnell on thesis"

2009 NJ GOV: Newark Star-Ledger's Claire Heininger and Josh Margolin, "GOP gov. candidate Chris Christie not issued traffic ticket after accident that injured motorcyclist in 2002"

ALSO

(AP / CBS)
Washington Times' Eli Lake and Sara A. Carter, "CIA asks Justice to probe leaks of secrets":" Besieged by leaks of several closely held secrets, the CIA has asked the Justice Department to examine what it regards as the criminal disclosure of a secret program to kill foreign terrorist leaders abroad, The Washington Times has learned. Two U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because of the sensitivity of the case, said the leak investigation involved a program that CIA Director Leon E. Panetta told Congress about in June and that surfaced in news reports just a month later."

Wall Street Journal's Leslie Eaton, Ryan Knutson and Philip Shishkin, "States Shut Down to Save Cash": "California drivers can't line up to renew their licenses Friday. Wisconsin natives can't order copies of their birth certificates. Georgia consumers will have to postpone registering complaints with state watchdogs. And stranded motorists in Maryland may have to wait a little longer for highway-department help. Across the country, cash-strapped state governments are shutting down business for a day at a time to save money. State offices are shuttered Friday in California, Maine, Maryland and Michigan. Rhode Island had planned to join them until a judge on Thursday blocked its closure plan."

Associated Press' Brett J. Blackledge, "Biden ignores problems with stimulus": " Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed success beyond expectations for the $787 billion economic stimulus, but his glowing assessment overlooks many of the program's problems, including delays in releasing money, questionable spending priorities and project picks that are under investigation."

Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher and Neil Irwin, "Stimulus Credited for Lifting Economy, But Worries About Unemployment Persist": "While some congressional Republicans and others are dubious about the success of the stimulus plan, economists generally agree that the package has played a significant part in stabilizing the economy. They are less certain about the size of the impact."

Boston Globe, "Between senators, a bond of friendship – Kennedy praises Kerry in memoir"
  • Steve Chaggaris

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

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