Politics Today: Nobel Peace Prize Gets a "Wow" from the WH

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:

** Waking the president up with some unexpected news...

** Fighting Al Qaeda vs the Taliban...

** Considering a new kind of public option...

(AP)
BREAKING: The Nobel Committee shocked the world with their surprise announcement this morning that they have awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. It came as such a shock that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer with only: "Wow."

A White House official later told Maer, "Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the White House a little before 6 a.m. and woke the President to tell him he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. The president was humbled to be selected by the committee."

"The decision to award one of the world's top accolades to a president less than nine months into his first term, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, came as a big surprise and provoked strong international criticism as well as praise," reports Reuters' Wojciech Moskwa.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for 'his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.'

"The first African-American to hold his country's highest office, Obama has called for disarmament and worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.

"'Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future,' the committee said in a citation.

The Associated Press' Karl Ritter and Matt Moore suggest the award "appeared to be a slap at President George W. Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for resorting to largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. ... The committee chairman said after awarding the 2002 prize to former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, for his mediation in international conflicts, that it should be seen as a 'kick in the leg' to the Bush administration's hard line in the buildup to the Iraq war.

"Five years later, the committee honored Bush's adversary in the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore, for his campaign to raise awareness about global warming."

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: Mr. Obama holds a series of closed meetings in the morning before a 2 p.m. event where he'll discuss regulatory reform of the financial industry. Per a White House official, "On Friday afternoon, the President will ... call on Americans to stand up to the opponents of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency and urge Congress to act quickly in passing a regulatory reform package by the end of the year. Secretary Geithner will join him for the event. Prior to the meeting, they will meet with four Americans who represent the millions from across the country who have been hurt by the outdated rules regulating the financial sector."

"President Obama will send a strong message in his remarks that the American people should not be silent while special interests work to defeat an agency standing up for consumers and that he will work side by side with Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd to fight for a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency," the official added.

Following that event, the president will hold another meeting on Afghanistan with his national security team before hosting a barbecue for Secret Service employees and their families.

(CBS)
AFGHANISTAN: "The latest in a series of top-level White House meetings about the war in Afghanistan could provide a venue for the first discussion of the troop request submitted by the U.S. commander there," writes the Associated Press' Jennifer Loven.

"The fourth of five sessions is scheduled Friday afternoon with President Barack Obama and more than a dozen key administration officials. Up to now, the lengthy Situation Room discussions involving Afghanistan and Pakistan have stuck to strategy formulation, not the resources question…

"Aides stress that the president's decision on troop levels and the other elements of a revamped approach is still at least two weeks away. They say Obama has not tipped his hand on his leanings to advisers.

"But he and his team have sharpened the mission's focus to fighting al-Qaida above all other goals and downgraded the emphasis on the Taliban. As a result, Obama will determine how many more U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan based only on keeping al-Qaida at bay, a senior administration official told The Associated Press on Thursday."

"As it reviews its Afghanistan policy for the second time this year, the Obama administration has concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a political or military movement, regardless of how many combat forces are sent into battle," reports the Washington Post's Scott Wilson.

"The Taliban and the question of how the administration should regard the Islamist movement have assumed a central place in the policy deliberations underway at the White House, according to administration officials participating in the meetings.

"Based on a stark assessment by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and six hours of debate among the senior national security staff members so far, the administration has established guidelines on its strategy to confront the group.

"The goal, senior administration officials said Thursday, is to weaken the Taliban to the degree that it cannot challenge the Afghan government or reestablish the haven it provided for al-Qaeda before the 2001 U.S. invasion. Those objectives appear largely consistent with McChrystal's strategy, which he says 'cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces' but should center on persuading the population to support the government."

(CBS/ AP)
"CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan called the so-called 'counterterrorism plan' for Afghanistan, reportedly supported by Vice President Joe Biden, which focuses on hunting down al Qaeda and the Taliban, an 'absolute disaster' and 'just ludicrous,'" writes CBS News' Michelle Levi.

On Thursday's 'Washington Unplugged' Web cast on CBSNews.com, Logan told moderator Bob Orr, "You can't do any of those things if you have no security in most of the country."

"'I don't understand why no one will listen to the man you put your faith in and said he is the guy who is going to do this for us,' she said referring to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for more combat troops in order to conduct a policy of 'counterinsurgency' against the Taliban in the country.

"The administration, Logan said, 'really can't afford to deliberate for very long' on whether to fill McChrystal's request, considering the short window for success."

Meantime, reports the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffee, "The White House has told the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan to delay a planned trip here Friday to brief President Obama and his senior advisers on his recommendation for a major troop increase.

"Officials had hoped to have Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and what national security adviser James L. Jones called 'all the key players' speak to Obama in person by the end of this week, leading to final deliberations over a forward strategy.

"But 'we're not finished,' Jones said Thursday, and meetings may extend beyond next week. When the White House is ready, he said, McChrystal -- along with the U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan and Pakistan -- will fly to Washington so that the three 'can meet with the president before a decision is made.'"

Wall Street Journal's Peter Spiegel and Yochi Dreazen, "Top Troop Request Exceeds 60,000": "The request for troops sent to President Barack Obama by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan includes three different options, with the largest alternative including a request for more than 60,000 troops, according to a U.S. official familiar with the document. Although the top option is more than the 40,000 soldiers previously understood to be the top troop total sought by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. officer in Kabul, 40,000 remains the primary choice of senior military brass, including Gen. McChrystal, the official said."

"The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday questioned the wisdom of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan," reports the Hill's Jared Allen and Roxana Tiron."Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) also indicated a White House funding request for more troops would face significant scrutiny. ...

"Obey's warning shot comes as President Barack Obama's administration is engaged in an internal battle over what to do in Afghanistan. The debate threatens to boil over, and Democrats appear divided over how to proceed if Obama backs a reported request from the commander in Afghanistan to send as many as 40,000 more troops to the country. Even if a request for more troops is well below that figure, senior House appropriators say it would require Congress to pass a supplemental spending bill for 2010."

The Hill's Aaron Blake and Jared Allen, "Vulnerable lawmakers are hesitant to send more troops to Afghanistan"

(AP)
HEALTH CARE: "The White House-backed drive for a health-care bill picked up steam Thursday, propelled by a favorable report on its price tag and positive comments by some key players," write the Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy.

"But big hurdles remained, including disagreements among Democrats on how to finance the legislation. Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) revived a push for a public health-insurance plan to compete with private insurers, proposing a federal plan that states could opt out of.

"Senate and White House negotiators are looking at the Schumer idea and others as they craft a bill to bring to the Senate floor."

"The Senate Finance Committee will vote next Tuesday on legislation to revamp the health care system, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said on Thursday," report the New York Times' Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn. Mr. Reid's announcement that the committee would vote next Tuesday came a day after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the committee's version of health legislation would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care. The much-anticipated cost analysis showed the bill meeting President Obama's main requirements, including his demand that health legislation not add 'one dime to the deficit.' Indeed, the budget office said, the bill would reduce deficits by a total of $81 billion in the decade starting next year.

"The report cleared the way for the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, to push for a panel vote. It also set the stage for Democrats to take legislation to the floor for debate by the full Senate this month.

"Despite the expansion of coverage at a cost of $829 billion over 10 years, the budget office said 25 million people — about one-third of them illegal immigrants — would still be uninsured in 2019. In all, it said, the proportion of nonelderly Americans with insurance would rise over the 10 years to 94 percent, from 83 percent today."

Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak, "All eyes are on Olympia Snowe in healthcare debate"

(AP)
ECONOMY: "Eight months after enacting a massive economic stimulus package, the Obama administration is facing rising pressure from some congressional Democrats to move more aggressively to jump-start the moribund job market and try to spur a housing recovery," report the Washington Post's Neil Irwin, Lori Montgomery and Michael A. Fletcher.

"For the lawmakers, the imperative is clear: to get the job market back on track before midterm congressional elections in November 2010. While mainstream economists credit the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February for helping stabilize the economy, the unemployment rate reached 9.8 percent in September and is widely forecast to keep rising in the coming months.

"But the White House, which is juggling priorities -- including a health-care overhaul, big changes to financial regulation and a proposal to combat global warming -- is reluctant to take on another far-reaching task. And in a time of large budget deficits, administration officials are particularly eager not to do anything that would be characterized as another stimulus act or tagged as wasteful spending."

(CBS/iStockphoto)
2009 GOVERNORS RACES: Politico's Jonathan Martin, "Sarah Palin notably absent from gubernatorial races": "Sarah Palin stands ready to stump for the Republican gubernatorial candidates running in the two most closely-watched campaigns in the country this fall, but neither seems to want her help. Less than a month before voters go to the polls, it appears increasingly clear that the former Alaska governor, vice-presidential nominee and conservative favorite will not appear on behalf of either New Jersey's Chris Christie or Virginia's Bob McDonnell."

Virginia: Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman and Jon Cohen, "McDonnell Widens Lead Over Deeds": "Republican Robert F. McDonnell has taken a commanding lead over R. Creigh Deeds in the race for governor of Virginia as momentum the Democrat had built with an attack on his opponent's conservative social views has dissipated, according to a new Washington Post poll. McDonnell leads 53 to 44 percent among likely voters, expanding on the four-point lead he held in mid-September. Deeds's advantage with female voters has all but disappeared, and McDonnell has grown his already wide margin among independents. Deeds, a state senator from western Virginia, is widely seen by voters as running a negative campaign, a finding that might indicate that his aggressive efforts to exploit McDonnell's 20-year-old graduate thesis are turning voters away. Much of the movement since last month has come in Northern Virginia, where Deeds's 17-point lead has been whittled significantly, even in the area's left-leaning inner suburbs. The poll indicates that the GOP is well-positioned to emphatically end a recent Democratic winning streak..."

New Jersey: NY Post's Jennifer Fermino, "Christie: NJ jolted enough": "Republican candidate Chris Christie yesterday told New Jersey voters that next month's gubernatorial election boils down to how they feel about taxes -- and about tax-happy Gov. Jon Corzine. 'I have a very clear plan -- it's just very different from his. His is to increase taxes and to increase spending. Mine is to cut taxes and cut spending,' Christie said. ... A Corzine campaign spokeswoman, Lis Smith, said Christie's 'reckless economic plans would lead to higher taxes and higher unemployment across New Jersey.'"

NY-23 Special Election: Watertown Daily Times: "Add former President Bill Clinton to the list of heavy-hitting Democrats putting their weight behind Bill Owens. Mr. Clinton pushed a 24-hour fundraising blitz for Mr. Owens on Thursday, urging Democrats to raise a total of $83,000 for the party's candidate in the 23rd Congressional District. Two hours after sending the e-mail solicitation, the former president had reached half of his goal. Mr. Owens is running against Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava and Conservative candidate Douglas L. Hoffman."

6087812010 RACES: Washington Post's Dan Balz and Anne E. Kornblut, "Poll May Point to Democrats' Worries Beyond Old Dominion": "The latest Washington Post poll of the Virginia gubernatorial race represents more than bad news for Democratic nominee R. Creigh Deeds. The findings paint a portrait of the electorate that, if replicated elsewhere, stands as a warning sign for President Obama and Democrats who will be running in next year's midterm elections.

"The poll shows a lack of enthusiasm among many of the voters who propelled Obama and his party to victory last November, raising troubling questions for the Democrats: Were many of Obama's 2008 energetic supporters one-time participants in the political process who care little about other races? Is Obama's current agenda turning off some voters who backed him last year but now might be looking elsewhere?

"Earlier this year, when the president's national approval rating was considerably higher than it is today, Democratic strategists noticed the sentiment wasn't extending to his party. That appears the case in Virginia, too: Obama's numbers in the commonwealth have held steady since September, but Deeds has fallen back and now trails Republican nominee Robert F. McDonnell by nine percentage points among likely voters.

Kingston Daily Freeman's Kyle Wind, "Giuliani, addressing local Republicans calls Paterson 'irresponsible'": Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said on Thursday that he'll decide after the November elections whether to run for governor. But addressing Ulster County Republicans at their annual dinner later in the evening, he drew plenty of contrasts between himself and Democratic Gov. David Paterson."

Politico's Charles Mahtesian, "Senators who could lose in 2010"

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