George Stephanopoulos has quickly become the very best on the political beat. He leads the ABC News team's coverage of the POTUS and The White House. I enjoy his insight on Election night and his weekly TV show "This Week."
President Obama supported a flexible timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Now some of his fellow Democrats like Senators Russ Feingold, Diane Feinstein, and Byron Dorgan are calling for the same in Afghanistan.
While the President didn’t commit to that, he did say – for the first time, I believe –that he was “skeptical” about sending more troops to Afghanistan.
Here’s our exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Afghanistan is a big issue facing the country right now.
OBAMA: That is a big issue. That's worth talking about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were for a flexible time line in Iraq. Some people now are saying that's exactly what should happen in Afghanistan if the same conditions hold. Do you agree with that?
OBAMA: Here's what I think. When we came in, basically, there had been drift in our Afghan strategy. Everybody acknowledges that. And I ordered a top to bottom review. The most important thing I wanted was us to refocus on why we're there. We're there because al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans and we cannot allow extremists who want to do violence to the United States to be able to operate with impunity.
Now, I think we've lost -- we lost that focus for a while and you started seeing a -- a classic case of mission creep where we're just there and we start taking on a whole bunch of different missions.
I wanted to narrow it. I did order 21,000 additional troops there to make sure that we could secure the election, because I thought that was important. That was before the review was completed. I also said after the election I want to do another review. We've just gotten those 21,000 in. General McChrystal, who's only been there a few months, has done his own assessment.
I am now going to take all this information and we're going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is if by sending young men and women into harm's way, we are defeating al Qaeda and -- and that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me -- somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops, then we will do what's required to keep the American people safe.
Later in the program, former White House advisor to President Bush Ed Gillespie, who continually pointed out problems and issues facing the Obama administration but never put forth a solution or even a suggestion to help solve a problem, was spared of his position as This Week's buffoon of the show when WSJ reporter Peggy Noonan continually embarrassed herself and her publication with clueless commentary and strange contortionist-like face poses caught time and time again by This Week producers and directors on cut-aways from the other speakers. It was painful to watch and terrible to hear. This Week would be far better off leaving Ms. Noonan more time to write her column and allowing the thought provocative airtime to flow to George Will, Donna Brazile and Robert Reich, the former cabinet member and Secretary of Labor to President Clinton.
Here's a clip:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Probably the most definitive promise you made in the campaign is that no one in the middle class would get a tax increase on your watch.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet this week, Senator Rockefeller and several other Democrats say that this bill by Senator Baucus is a big middle class tax increase.
Do you agree and does that mean you can't sign it?
OBAMA: Well, I don't agree. I think that what they were referring to – and I haven't looked at the quotes. But I think that they were concerned about whether or not this was actually affordable. If you're saying to people, you've got to get health insurance but they can't actually afford it and they have to pay a penalty if they don't get it, then that's a pretty big burden on middle class families. That's a concern I share -- making sure that this is affordable.
But the first thing we've got to understand is you've got what is effectively a tax increase taking place on American families right now. The Kaiser Family Foundation report just came out last week. Health care premiums went up 5.5 percent last year, at a time when the rest of the economy, inflation was actually negative. So that is a huge bite out of people's pockets.
And part of what I've been trying to say throughout this campaign – this effort to get health care done -- is that if we don't do anything, guaranteed, Americans' costs are going to go up, more people are going to lose health care coverage, the insurance companies are going to continue to prevent people from getting it for pre-existing conditions. Those are all burdens on people who have health insurance right now. And...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is true, but...
OBAMA: And so -- and so -- just -- just to close the loop on this, the principles I've put forward very clearly, when I spoke to the joint session of Congress, is that we're going to make sure that, number one, if you don't have health insurance, you're going to be able to get affordable health insurance.