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Politics Today: Obama Accepts Nobel with Hurdles Mounting at Home

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:

** Reconciling a vision of peace with the reality of war...

** Democrats have few details to share of their new health care plan...

** Extending TARP for another year...

(CBS)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: "A wartime president being honored for peace, Barack Obama said Thursday that criticism of his Nobel prize as premature might recede if he advances goals such as a nuclear-free world and tackling climate change," writes the Associated Press' Ben Feller.

"But, he added, proving doubters wrong is 'not really my concern.'

"'If I'm not successful, then all the praise in the world won't disguise that fact,' said Obama from this chilly, damp Nordic capital where he is picking up his Nobel Peace Prize."

In his acceptance speech, the president said, "perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries – including Norway – in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

"Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other...

"I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

"I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.' As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people."

The AP's Feller adds, "The Nobel committee announced Obama had won the peace prize in October when he wasn't even nine months on the job, recognizing his aspirations to reshape the way the U.S. deals with the world much more than his actual achievements. 'It was a great surprise to me,' Obama said after meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. 'I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving.'

"Adding fresh irony to the award, Obama announced just days before coming here to formally accept it that he is ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops into war in Afghanistan.

"This has not gone unnoticed, with peace activists staging a protest to coincide with the Nobel ceremonies."

LA Times' Christi Parsons, "The honor and the irony of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech"

CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli, "Obama Approval Rating Falls to 50 Percent"

(AP)
HEALTH CARE: "Hopes grew Wednesday for Senate passage of a historic restructuring of the nation's health insurance system, as key lawmakers praised and President Barack Obama endorsed a tentative deal to get the stalled bill moving," report McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman and Margaret Talev.

"Obama said in no uncertain terms that he supported the still-murky proposal that Senate Democratic negotiators crafted Tuesday night, 'especially since it's aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering cost.'

"No details were being released, but the deal appeared to solve one problem that's stymied progress: a split over whether to create a government-run health care plan, or public option. Under the compromise, such a plan would be a backup, used only if insurers failed to meet certain standards. Instead, Medicare would expand and the federal government would oversee a new national, privately run insurance system.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who'd threatened to try to kill any plan that had a public option component, said he was encouraged by the latest news.

"Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., also potential swing votes, expressed sympathy for aspects of the compromise while stopping short of an endorsement, pending a cost assessment by the Congressional Budget Office."

"Despite the enthusiasm, the proposal must clear at least one big hurdle: cost," add the Los Angeles Times' Noam N. Levey and Bruce Japsen. "The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has not yet analyzed the idea, and its conclusions could be a major factor -- positive or negative -- in determining whether the compromise opens the way for final Senate action on healthcare.

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still has to find 60 votes to pass the bill under Senate rules. The 58 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them would be enough, but several are still undecided.

"Senate Democrats did not release details Wednesday of how the Medicare expansion could work -- including the extent of subsidies that could be provided to those who sign up, a provision that could be key to the proposal's political fate.

"Without subsidies, people signing up for Medicare could face premiums exceeding $600 a month, according to an earlier estimate by the Congressional Budget Office."

5696255"Mr. Reid described the broad outline of the plan at an hourlong meeting of his caucus late Wednesday afternoon," report the New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear. "But as they emerged from the session, many senators, including some who helped broker the agreement, said that they had learned little and that there were many outstanding concerns.

"'General concepts, but nothing very specific at all,' said Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, who was in the group of 10.

"Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said: 'There was no explanation. It was sort of go team, go.'"

"Republicans and their business allies strongly criticized the Senate bill, portraying it as a threat to jobs," add the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery. "The National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business association, released a statement opposing the legislation as an inadequate response to rising costs. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who helped to negotiate an earlier version of the Senate bill, called the revised measure "a job landslide" that would bury employers 'under an avalanche of new regulations.'"

"In addition to the Medicare expansion, the Democratic senators agreed to empower the government's Office of Personnel Management to put in place a new low-cost national health plan, akin to the plans offered to federal employees and members of Congress," write the Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Naftali Bendavid. "The new national plan would be run by nonprofit entities set up by the private sector, and would be available to the public on the new insurance exchanges to be created under the bill.

"Left on the cutting-room floor was a provision coveted by many liberals that would have had the government directly run a new health-insurance plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) included the 'public option' in the bill he originally submitted to the Senate floor, but backed away after several key senators called it a deal-killer."

Washington Post's Alec MacGillis, "If 'public option' is no longer an option in Senate bill, then what?": "While confusion reigned on Capitol Hill on Wednesday over the prospects and details of a Senate deal to replace a government-run insurance plan with other measures, it is not too soon to ask what the proposal would mean for regular people.

"The short answer -- subject to Senate revisions -- is that those without employer-provided insurance would have more options for buying coverage, but if they are younger than 55, their money would go to a private insurer, no matter what. Rates would be more competitive than what they are offered now, but possibly less so than under a 'public option.' And if they are between 55 and 64, they might be able to buy into Medicare early, though at what prices remains to be seen."

USA Today's John Fritze, "Medical groups balk at Medicare buy-in": "Hospital and doctor groups that have generally supported the effort to revamp the nation's health care system pushed back Wednesday against a new idea proposed by Democratic leaders to let younger Americans buy into Medicare."

(AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
AFGHANISTAN: Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, "The United States will step up its counterterrorism activities in Afghanistan as part of President Obama's new strategy as it seeks to 'kill or capture' insurgents outside densely populated areas and those deemed unlikely to change sides, Gen. David H. Petraeus said Wednesday.

"The chief of the regional U.S. Central Command told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that 'additional mission force elements' would be sent to Afghanistan in the spring, but he declined to provide details in an open congressional hearing.

"Although such 'elements' have not been publicly discussed in the administration's strategy announcements, counterterrorism efforts -- missiles fired at specific insurgent targets from unmanned aircraft and bombs from manned planes, as well the use of Special Forces units and intelligence surveillance -- are expected to increase along with the deployment of 30,000 more U.S. ground troops."

Meantime, reports CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli, "A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that Americans narrowly approve of the president's decision to send more troops to the country, with 51 percent offering their approval. Forty-three percent disapprove.

"There is a clear partisan divide on the issue, and it reflects the fact that Mr. Obama's decision to deploy more troops has garnered more support from the opposition party than from his own.

"Two in three Republicans back the troop surge, while just 27 percent disapprove. By contrast, just 42 percent of Democrats approve of the decision to deploy more troops, while 53 percent disapprove."

4929152JOBS AND THE ECONOMY: Politico's David Rogers, "Dems to lift debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion, fear 2010 backlash": "In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year's rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections. 'We've incurred this debt. We have to pay our bills,' House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Politico Wednesday. And the Maryland Democrat confirmed that the anticipated increase could be as high as $1.8 trillion — nearly twice what had been assumed in last spring's budget resolution for the 2010 fiscal year."

Wall Street Journal's Darrell A. Hughes and Meera Thiruvengadam, "U.S. Extends TARP Until October 2010": "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Obama administration would extend the $700 billion financial-sector bailout but limit new spending to such areas as housing and small business. Mr. Geithner, in letters to U.S. lawmakers, said the financial sector has stabilized, but the government needs to have funds available through next October. 'It is imperative that we maintain this capacity to respond if financial conditions worsen and threaten our economy,' he said.

LA Times' Peter Nicholas and Kathleen Hennessey, "Obama's jobs packages draws fire from left and right": "As President Obama began selling his new jobs package, he was pressed Wednesday from both the left and the right, with Republicans warning about ballooning deficits and black lawmakers seeking bolder action on an unemployment rate that approaches 16 percent for African Americans. Partisan tensions surfaced at a private White House meeting with congressional leaders of both parties. In an unusually aggressive move, Obama opened the meeting by accusing Republicans of 'rooting against' an economic recovery, according to an account provided by Republican aides. He also complained that Republicans were 'stoking fear' about actions taken in Washington, said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who attended the meeting. White House aides did not dispute the accounts. At the same time, members of the Congressional Black Caucus chided the president for not focusing enough on the grim unemployment figures for the black community."

Politico's Eamon Javers, "Obama to meet with bank chiefs again": "Presidential face time doesn't come cheap, so when President Barack Obama meets with chief executives of major banks at the White House on Monday, financial industry officials expect him to strongly push for more lending to help promote economic recovery. A source familiar with the planning said invitations went out to CEOs last weekend for what will be a morning session at the Executive Mansion. The meeting will mark the second time in less than a week that Obama has met with corporate chiefs."

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