Howdy folks-Clem Lane here. With the President delivering a 8pm ET speech, WORLD NEWS updated their West Coast broadcasts with reaction to the speech. Although I could not include our post-speech reaction material in my note, the video links below will reflect our latest reporting on WORLD NEWS.
AFGHANISTAN/PRESIDENT OBAMA SPEECH:THE STATUS QUO IS NOT SUSTAINABLE-The President has delivered his speech at West Point. Some highlights:
MAKING A CASE-The President noted our initial success there-“Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope.” Then came Iraq in 2003-the President noting “It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention – and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.” That war, the President says is being “brought to a responsible end” but in the intervening six years, “the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated.” The President expounds on that point-“There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe-havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan Security Forces and better secure the population. Our new Commander in Afghanistan – General McChrystal – has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated.”
THE DECISION- President Obama: “As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”
THE OBJECTIVES-President Obama: “To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.”
MEETING THOSE OBJECTIVES-President Obama: “First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.
Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.
Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.”
KARZAI GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY-As Jake Tapper noted in his WORLD NEWS piece last night, tough love ahead for the Karzai government. President Obama: “This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas – such as agriculture – that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.”
REBUTTING ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE PRESIDENT’S CHOSEN COURSE OF ACTION-The President dismissed those who equate Afghanistan with Vietnam noting “this argument depends upon a false reading of history.” And for those who want to maintain our current troop level in Afghanistan, President Obama has this to say-“ this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan Security Forces and give them the space to take over.” As for the hawks who would recommend an even more aggressive troop build-up in a nation-building effort-Obama: “I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”
BEYOND IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN-The President noted that “the war against violent extremism will not be finished quickly.” He cites the eradication of “tools of mass destruction” and emphasizes diplomacy, better coordinated intelligence and investing in homeland security. “America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict, not just in how we wage war.” “The message that we send…must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.”
McCHRYSTAL REACTION-General Stanley McChrystal released a statement saying he’s been provided with a “clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task.”
ABC REACTION TO THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH-For a look at George Stephanopoulos' and Martha Raddatz' reaction to the President's speech, please click here. For a look at Jake Tapper's summation of the President's speech, please click here.
KEY TO AFGHAN STRATEGY: Afghanistan’s second largest city – Kandahar – has been singled out as the key in the battle against the Taliban. Which is why most of the additional troops headed for the country will wind up in that southern city and in neighboring Helmand province, where the Taliban is strongest. Our Nick Schifrin was in Kandahar recently and saw for himself why the local population there is in constant fear: “On the outskirts of Kandahar, what was supposed to be a training mission has turned into a manhunt. American military police and their Afghan trainees are trying to catch insurgents who just bombed a U.S. patrol.” But Nick says Kandahar wasn’t always like this: “In 2001, the U.S. routed the Taliban and liberated this city. But most U.S. troops left when Iraq became the priority. Today, the Taliban are back, targeting foreigners and anyone else trying to stabilize this city.” For years, Kandahar has been the responsibility of a Canadian NATO contingent that never had enough troops to protect the population. Now President Obama wants to change that by beefing up the forces there, as Nick explains: “ to create a ring around the city and train its police to patrol neighborhood to neighborhood.” One senior U.S. military official is quoted as saying Kandahar "is the crown jewel of the new effort." And Nick says: “ officials believe failure is not an option. If they lose Kandahar, they say, they lose the war.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
TIGER WOODS-Well the traffic portion of this story is over. As John Berman noted in his WORLD NEWS piece, “the 4 day swirl of speculation about just what caused this crash, the 4-day media frenzy, ended today with 4 points on Tiger Woods’ license” and a wallet-busting fine of $164. The charge? Careless driving. Nothing else-the Florida Highway Patrol said that they would not pursue criminal charges and added that no evidence exists to support any additional charges of any kind. But that doesn’t mean the story is over.Berman says that “while the legal problems for Woods are over, others are not. New reports surfaced today detailing alleged infidelity.” Berman is referring to a story out today in US Magazine where a 24-year-old L.A. cocktail waitress named Jaimee Grubbs details her own 31-month affair with the world’s No. 1 golfer. As Berman says in his close, “In the end, this ordeal could create an image problem that $164 can’t fix.”
STATE DINNER CRASHERS-The Salahis were back in front of cameras, pleading their case on this morning’s TODAY show that they were indeed invited to last week’s State Dinner. As Pierre Thomas noted in his WORLD NEWS spot, “The White House reiterated to us today that the Salahis were not invited. Period. End of story.” But…………Thomas adds that “the Salahis say they have proof-emails from an Administration official confirming their invitation. In a statement that official Michele Jones flatly denies that.” Earlier this evening, Thomas reports “ABC NEWS has obtained copies of emails between the so-called state dinner crashers and a Pentagon official, Michele Jones, who was attempting to get them onto white house grounds—WITHOUT SUCCESS. At first brush, looks like at no point does Jones say she has approval, only that she is trying.” Next stop-the House Homeland Security Committee who have scheduled a Thursday hearing on the matter-the head of the Secret Service and the Salahis have been called to testify. As Thomas notes in his close, “stay tuned for true…reality tv.”
GM CEO RESIGNS-Fritz Henderson has resigned as CEO of General Motors after just eight months. The company's chairman of the board Ed Whitacre Jr. will serve as interim replacement. Reading from a prepared statement, Whitacre said Henderson, who helped GM through its July bankruptcy, had "done a remarkable job in leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change. While momentum has been building over the past several months, all involved agree that changes needed to be made," Whitacre said. Chris Bury notes that “Henderson has been at odds with board over Opel deal and, now the failure to sell Saab.” And for those looking to see if the government itself was involved in this decision, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki says, “This decision was made by the Board of Directors alone. The Administration was not involved in the decision.”
NIH/STEM CELLS-The NIH is to announce the first approved lines under the new stem cell guidelines tomorrow at 12:30pm ET. Brian Hartman explains: “Back in March, President Obama announced the easing of limits on use of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. In July, the administration required researchers to prove stem cell lines had been derived ethically to qualify. That means, per NIH, the embryo ‘must have been created for reproductive purposes, via in vitro fertilization, must be in excess of clinical need, and must have been donated voluntarily.’ Also – the donor cannot have been paid for the embryos. Tomorrow, NIH will announce which lines have met that bar. So they’ll finally be able to start — if not immediately, in the near future — using federal money to work on the stem cells.
COBRA- A federal subsidy to the COBRA plan ends today. COBRA is the program that allows workers to keep their company's health
insurance plan after they leave their job. The economic stimulus bill President Barack Obama signed in February cut the cost of COBRA by 65 percent for workers laid off after Sept. 1 of last year. The aim was to keep the ranks of the uninsured from exploding as unemployment moved toward double digits. But the discount lasted only nine months. Now, millions of Americans still out of work are looking at the prospect of a significant jump in health care premiums.
CDC FLU GUIDANCE FOR AIRLINES-If you’ve had the misfortune of sitting on an airplane next to/near to someone under the weather, there’s not much you can do about it. Whether true or not, the fatalists among us will be convinced that their germs will undoubtedly become your germs. Some guidance today from the CDC for airlines and their passengers. Here’s Brian Hartman:
“The CDC has released guidance for the airline industry on dealing with flu. The advice includes:
-Crew with flu symptoms should not board aircraft until 24 hours after fever goes away.
-If a passenger develops flu symptoms in flight, ‘minimize the number of persons directly exposed to the ill person and if possible separate the ill person from others by 6 feet without compromising flight safety.’
-‘Keep interactions with the ill person as brief as possible.’
-‘Ask the ill traveler to wear a face mask if it can be tolerated and one is available.’
-For sick crew members: ‘Discontinue work as soon as possible without impacting flight safety.’
The Air Transport Association responded to the CDC with VP of Communications David Castelveter telling Lisa Stark: ““It would be very difficult to create six-feet of separation on a full flight since passengers must remain seated with their seatbelt fastened. But where flights are not full, crew members could move passengers to other areas to create the needed separation.”
“CDC advised that masks provide no real benefit in preventing the transference of a virus so masks would provide little to no benefit” which Ms. Stark helpfully translates as “in other words-most airlines are not carrying masks”.
NOVEMBER AUTO SALES-Charlie Herman reports November auto sales were flat compared to last year-some 747 thousand cars sold. Domestic cars-Ford up 0.1%, GM down 1.8%, Chrysler down more than 25%. Overseas car makers-Hyundai up 46%, Subaru up 24%, Nissan up 21%. Small gain for Toyota 2.6% and a 3% sales drop was the fate for Honda.
REDUCING ROLL-OVER ACCIDENTS-From Lisa Stark: “Rollover accidents are among the most deadly – and claim 10,000 lives a year. About half of those killed die after being ejected from the vehicle.
NHTSA today proposed a rule to reduce those ejections. If adopted, the new standard would likely mean automakers would modify existing side airbags so they are bigger, stay inflated longer and deploy in both side impacts and rollover accidents. Car makers may also beef up the side windows with tougher laminated glass.
If this rule goes through, don’t expect to see the safety improvements soon – the rule would be phased in starting with model year 2015 – all new light vehicles would have to meet the requirement by model year 2018.”
–FUH-GOTTI ABOUT IT!- A judge has declared a mistrial in the John "Junior" Gotti case after a jury deadlocked over charges that accused him of racketeering conspiracy, murder and cocaine trafficking. For those scoring at home, that’s the fourth hung jury for the “Teflon Son” in five years. This jury deliberated for eleven days before throwing in the towel. No word on whether the government will proceed with a fifth attempt. Mr. Gotti is free tonight on $2 million bail.
–CONNECTICUT FIREFIGHTERS- The 14 Connecticut firefighters who won a reverse discrimination case in a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court have had their promotions approved by New Haven's Board of Fire Commissioners. A formal promotion ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 10. Thirteen white city firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter were promoted to lieutenants and captains. They were among the firefighters who sued after the city threw out of the test results because too few minorities would have been promoted. (AP)
–GITMO DETAINEES TO FRANCE, HUNGARY-The Justice Department announced two more GITMO transfers, one to France and another to Hungary. That still leaves 211 detainees at the GITMO facility. (Jason Ryan)