Obama Talks to U.N. Amid Political Trouble at Home: President Is Being Squeezed on Afghanistan and Health Care

By Gorman Gorman

Sep 23, 2009 9:11am

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports:

You know it's bad when the guy you beat starts feeling sorry for you.

Let's recap President Obama's “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Tuesday:

**Democrat Ike Skelton joined Republicans John McCain and Condoleezza Rice in pushing Obama to go forward with a troop build-up in Afghanistan;

**The Baucus plan to tax insurers for offering Cadillac health plans was characterized by the CBO director as having roughly the same effect as directly taxing workers;

**The Democratic proposal to require adults to buy health insurance was labeled a “penalty excise tax” by Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff on the Joint Committee on Taxation; 

**HHS handed Republicans a free-speech issue by ordering Humana, an insurance company, to pipe down on proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage;

**Democrats are sparring among themselves on the president's PhRMA deal;

**A defiant New York Gov. David Paterson (D) told reporters that the shove he got from the White House has more to do with the president's numbers than his own.

There are no easy outs for President Obama on these issues.

He boxed himself in during the campaign on taxes (by promising that Americans who make less than $250,000 per year would not pay a “dime” more in taxes) and on Afghanistan (which was supposed to be the good war and the “central front” in the war on terror, in contrast to Iraq). 

So what can Obama be thankful for?

**The president is lucky that some of his opponents are flawed messengers.

As Igor Volsky reported Tuesday on “Wonk Room,” the blog of the liberal Center for American Progress,  Chuck “I Would Still Be at the Table if Harry Reid Hadn't Pulled the Plug” Grassley was for an individual mandate before he was against it.

Watch it HERE.

**And although Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has developed doubts of his own on Afghanistan, he bought President Obama some additional time on the issue by telling Sens. McCain, Lieberman, and Graham by letter that now is not the time for Gen. McChrystal to testify on Capitol Hill.

Obama's Wednesday:President Obama strides onto the world stage at 10:00 am ET when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone,” President Obama plans to say according to excerpts provided to ABC's Jake Tapper. “We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world.Also on the president's schedule: a 9:00 am ET bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama; a 12:00 pm ET meeting with leaders of “peace-keeping” countries; and a 3:30 pm ET bilateral meeting with the Russian President.

Note to POTUS from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before you sit down with Dmitry Medvedev, practice his name out loud (lest you find yourself saying “Med-ved-dev—whatever” as Clinton did during a 2008 debate).

While the president is busy at the UN, the New York Times reports that his administration is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan.

On the state secret front, the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration will announce a new policy Wednesday which will make it much more difficult for the government to claim it is protecting state secrets when it hides details of sensitive national security strategies such as rendition and warrantless eavesdropping.

Health CareMark-up of the Baucus health-care bill continues in the Senate Finance Committee, starting at 9:00 am ET.

Several changes were made to the Baucus bill on Tuesday: in particular, he proposed more generous subsidies to help people buy insurance; he proposed cutting the maximum penalty for people who do not have insurance to $1,900 per year for a family, from $3,800 in his original proposal; he proposed making it easier for people with access to insurance through their employers to obtain tax credits to help them buy coverage on their own through the new state-based exchanges; and he proposed scaling back the tax on Cadillac health-care plans.

More on the changes from the New York Times HERE.

Meanwhile, there are a handful of other health-care related events taking place around D.C. including: (1) an 8:00 am ET Bipartisan Policy Committee panel discussion at Union Station featuring former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; (2) a 9:30 am ET CQ-Roll Call health-care panel discussion at Charlie Palmer Steak featuring Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and (3) an 11:30 am ET rally on Capitol Hill organized by SEIU which will be attended by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Petraeus at the Press ClubGen. David Petraeus is in Washington, D.C., to speak at a Marine Corps University Symposium at the National Press Club entitled “Counterinsurgency Leadership in Iraq, Afghanistan and Beyond.

McChrystal Troop Request By End of Week:

Defense officials tell ABC's Luis Martinez that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops for Afghanistan may arrive at the Pentagon by week's end.  It is unclear how many additional troops McChrystal may request beyond the 68,000 already slated to be in place in Afghanistan by year's end. Speculation has been that he may request between 10,000 and 40,000 more troops for the mission in Afghanistan. The request for additional troops and resources is separate from the detailed 66-page security assessment produced by McChrystal that appeared in the Washington Post on Monday.

Diversity Czar Takes Heat Over Remarks”President Obama's diversity czar at the Federal Communications Commission has spoken publicly of getting white media executives to ‘step down' in favor of minorities, prescribed policies to make liberal talk radio more successful, and described Hugo Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela ‘an incredible revolution,'” reports Amanda Carpenter of the Washington Times.

Palin's Overseas DebutFormer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) used a paid speech to investors in Hong Kong to attack the Federal Reserve for creating asset bubbles and encouraging excessive risk-taking that hurt working-class Americans, reports Bloomberg News. In her speech, she also called for market-oriented solutions on health care and labeled the Obama administration's decision to impose duties on Chinese tires a “mistake.”

Former McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann accompanied Palin to Asia, reports Politico's Ben Smith.

Byrd Watch:Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., will remain in the hospital “for a few days” according to his Senate office.  In addition to his fall on Tuesday morning, the Senator has an elevated white cell count, a possible sign of an infection.  Byrd spent more than a month in the hospital over the summer because of a staph infection, reports ABC's Jonathan Karl. 

Olympic Blitz ContinuesIn advance of the Oct. 2 vote in Copenhagen, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett met Tuesday with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in New York, per Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.

2012:Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), the object of much DNC attention lately, took the next step towards 2012 on Tuesday by announcing that he is starting a political action committee. Pawlenty's “Freedom First PAC” will hold its first fundraiser in Minneapolis on Nov. 4. 

The Kicker:”I have some sympathy . . . But it's a tough job.” –Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on President Obama to the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative.

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