FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace first interviewed Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen on Obama’s troop withdrawal plan, North Korea, and Obama’s relationship with the Pentagon Brass. Most notably, Adm. Mullen said he didn’t know where Obama got last week’s estimate that winding down the war in Iraq will save $183 billion this year and that he had never seen the figure before.
Wallace next interviewed Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to discuss the budget. Ryan said the GOP will propose a full alternative budget in April and that the tax hikes proposed for 2011 still hinders job creation in 2009 in anticipation of this higher cost. Kyl defended his $118 million of earmarks, argued that the GOP should no longer be slapped on the hand for their atrocious spending record while in power, and that Obama’s budget adds more government debt than the cumulative sum of debt incurred from 1789 until the end of the Bush presidency.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, host David Gregory discussed with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the US policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and his relationship with Obama. Gates described the mission in Iraq as very different and “principally a training, assistance, and advisory role.” He discussed a few hot spots in Iraq, called Russia a “real challenge” that they don’t understand, and said it would be a “challenge” to stay for Obama’s entire first term.
On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer interviewing White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel disapproved of the 9,000 earmarks in the budget bill but said Obama will sign it. He called the budget “honest” about the cost of the war and asked if Republicans will continue to subsidize a broken health care system, the oil industry, and the banking industry instead of helping kids go to college.
Emanuel also called the accusation that energy costs will rise under a cap and trade system a “scare tactic” and said 95% of Americans will receive a tax cut. Finally, he said General Motors failed because it produced gas guzzlers and had an outdated health care cost structure.
OMB Director Peter Orszag gave an embarrassing display on ABC’s This Week, failing to explain a key assumption of the budget’s deficit reduction plan, something he is responsible for as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Go below the jump to read more about his embarrassing and opaque remarks.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) wrapped up FTN by saying we can’t afford trillions of dollars or more debt, small business people want job growth not wealth transfers, he disagrees with Rush Limbaugh that Obama should fail, and that we need to return to a party of inclusion and work together to produce real solutions.
JT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN MULLEN ON FNS. FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace spoke first with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Adm. Mullen began by confirming that there will be considerable near-term costs as we draw down in Iraq – it costs funds to bring our troops home – plus additional costs for the escalation in Afghanistan.
However, Adm. Mullen admitted he didn’t know where Obama got last week’s estimate that winding down the war in Iraq will save $183 billion, saying the figure didn’t come from him and that he had never seen that number before. Look for Republicans to use this valuable ammunition to bolster their charge that Obama’s deficit reduction plans are filled with bogus numbers at worst, and rosy projections at best.
Adm. Mullen emphasized that plans in Afghanistan are dependent upon a strategic review currently underway. Still, the 17,000 additional troops to be deployed in Afghanistan will be used principally for security. He emphasized the continued desire to bring pressure against Al Qaeda safe havens, particularly in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He noted their plans to bring pressure on both sides – from the Pakistani army on one end and Allied forces on the other.
Adm. Mullen emphasized that he is keeping a “very close eye” on North Korea and that he is following their alleged satellite launch carefully.
Despite North Korea’s advances on missile technology, Adm. Mullen said that US anti-missile defense policy will be going under White House review. I wish Wallace would have pressed Mullen more on this – capitulation to the wishes of enemies of democracy like Iran and Russia should only come at substantial gain elsewhere, and I’m curious to know what the US stands to gain by dropping missile defense other than the ire of our allies in Eastern Europe.
Finally, Adm. Mullen says that Obama consistently listens to him and the Pentagon brass, is focused on the threat of terrorist extremists, and that though they may not call it a war on terror, his guidance is to pursue in every possible way the many elements of terrorism that threaten us until they are no longer a threat.
SEN. KYL AND REP. RYAN ON FNS. Wallace next met with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to discuss the budget.
Wallace brought up the WSJ editorial that says Obama is “attempting not merely to expand the role of the federal government but to put it in such a dominant position that its power can never be rolled back.” Both Ryan and Kyl unsurprisingly opposed Obama’s radical budget, calling it radical in the same way that FDR’s, LBJ’s, and Reagan’s budgets were radical.
Ryan emphasized that the GOP has policy alternatives and will be proposing a full alternative budget in April. Although taxes aren’t scheduled to raise until 2011, Ryan argued that small businesses will still hold back hiring and spending in anticipation of higher taxes.
When asked what is wrong with increasing taxes on the top 2% since income inequality has grown, Kyl first rebuts that taxes will go up on everyone via higher energy costs from Obama’s cap and trade policy and these taxes are regressive since poorer individuals spend a higher percentage of their budget on energy costs such as gasoline and power.
On Healthcare, Kyl points out that throwing more money around does not solve the problem: Americans spend 2.5x more on healthcare than the rest of the world and still we have over 40 million uninsured.
Wallace then brought up a list of Kyl’s earmarks – totaling $118 million – and asked him how he can lecture Democrats on spending. Kyl responded that he can defend each one of them and that the GOP hasn’t been in charge for over 2 years and should no longer be slapped on the hand for their spending record. He emphasized that Obama’s budget adds more government debt than the cumulative sum of debt incurred from 1789 until the end of the Bush presidency.
Finally, Kyl and Ryan pleaded for the American people to reach out to their Congresspeople because they aren’t sure 41 Republicans alone in the Senate can stop the budget, especially to southern Democrats.
SEC DEF GATES ON MTP. Host David Gregory of Meet the Press discussed with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, and how Obama works with his military advisors.
Gates first emphasized that American troops will have a “very different mission” in Iraq, one that is “principally a training, assistance, and advisory role. US forces will be consolidated into a limited number of bases, though there will be a “limited” counterterrorism mandate.
Something Gregory missed is that this “new” strategy sounds similar to the failed pre-surge strategy in Iraq – keeping US forces out of neighborhoods and away from the Iraqis. Gen. Petraeus’s surge strategy that has been a resounding success relied on American forces building working relationships with locals, something simply not possible when the forces are physically removed from Iraqi citizens.
Gregory next showed a clip of Pelosi denouncing Obama’s plans to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq, saying 15,000 or 20,000 should be sufficient. However, Gates said that if commanders on the ground had their wishes, the combat mission would not have ended until the end of 2010. Though he denied that Obama’s 50,000 figure was a “concession” between the liberals who wanted complete withdrawal and the military commanders on the ground, its tough to see this any other way. Gates simply said that since American forces must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 (unless our accord with the Iraqi government is re-negotiated), 50,000 is just a way station on the way to zero – hardly a rational justification for the proposed troop level.
Though refusing to comment on whether Obama has an overly optimistic view on Iraq, Gates admitted that Obama retained the authority to change the plan for troop withdrawal based on the situation on the ground, but that nobody believes it will be necessary, putting the odds at “fairly remote.”
Next, Gates addressed three potential hot spots in Iraq that Gregory brought up:
– Basra: disagrees that it’s a hot spot, calling it a real success story for Prime Minister Maliki’s offensive last year
– Mosul’s large al-Qaeda presence is clearly an issue
– Arab-Kurd tensions remain a problem
When asked about General Odierno’s comments that he wants around 35,000 troops on the ground in Iraq through 2015, Gates admitted he agrees but that an entirely new agreement must be negotiated to keep that force level past 2011.
Gates commented on Fmr Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s article in the Washington Post that said a strategy to create a stable central government in Afghanistan “cannot succeed.” Gates said that this exact question is being reviewed in the administration right now, a discussion including Afghans, Europeans, and others.
On Iran, Gates denied that Iraq serves as a distraction from Iran and points out that $35 or $40 oil makes US sanctions far more costly than they would be under $140 oil. He then said that a strategic relationship between the US and Iran is up to the Iranians, that he’s “been in this search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years. [He’s] still looking.”
On Mexico, Gates applauded President Calderon’s efforts in taking the fight to the drug cartels through bypassing the often corrupt police force and using the military. Furthermore, he suggests that the US is in a better position to help the Mexicans than in the past, providing training, resources, reconnaissance and surveillance, and intelligence.
Gates next called Russia a “real challenge” and pointed out that in the Bush administration both the Secretary of State and Defense had PhDs in Russian history and they still “didn’t have a clue” what was going on. Gates said he believes Russia is trying to come back from the “ultimate humiliation” of the collapse of both the Soviet Union and the Russian empire.
To close, Gates said it would be a “challenge” to stay for Obama’s entire first term but that he doesn’t have a certain date in mind for when he’d leave.
EMANUEL ON FTN. On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer interviewed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Rahm began his appearance by defending the 9,000 earmarks that cost $8 billion in the budget by pointing out that two major bills were passed without earmarks – the stimulus package and the children’s healthcare bill, and that the earmarks we do have in this bill are more transparant and there’s more transparency.
Still, he says Obama wants serious reductions in the number of earmarks and doesn’t like the current level in the budget bill.
On the size and growth of government under Obama and the budget proposal, Rahm had three points:
• Obama inherited a $1.7 trillion deficit and $4 trillion of new debt
• The budget is honest – about the cost of the war and the alternative minimum tax
• Will Republicans continue to subsidize health care while lack of coverage increases? Will they continue to subsidize the oil industry? Will they subsidize the banking industry rather than help kids go to college?
Next, Emanuel challenges the Republicans to propose, not just criticize, and asks if we will continue the path of the last 7 years that got us to a culture of rising deficits and more consumer spending. This budget, he said, fundamentally changes the culture and says we’ll become a society that invests and saves.
Emanuel called the accusation that energy costs will go up under a cap and trade system a “scare tactic” and repeated a common adminstration talking point (OMB Director Orszag repeats the same line on TW): instead of addressing the validity of higher costs under cap and trade, Emanuel changes the subject and says 95% of Americans will receive a tax cut.
Emanuel then described Rush Limbaugh as an intellectual force in the party and complimented him for his bold vision and honesty, though he clearly disagrees with Rush that its good for America should Obama fail.
General Moters failed for producing gas guzzlers and an outdated health care cost structure, Emanuel declared, and GM has a panel of experts (lined up by the government) to help them restructure. Conveniently for Rahm, Schieffer failed to bring up the role of unions in their “outdated health care cost structure.”
On the Iraq withdrawal policy, Emanuel said the 50,000 remaining troops will focus on training, protecting our diplomats and civilians in Iraq, and some counterinsurgency.
Following up on Schieffer’s monologue on Mexico last week, Rahm said Obama and President Calderon of Mexico are committed to securing the border – stopping the guns from the US going heading south and the drugs from Mexico going north.
OMB DIRECTOR ORSZAG ON TW. On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos first talks with OMB Director Peter Orszag. Orszag begins by describing two trillion dollar gaps – the trillion dollar gap between how much the economy is producing and how much it could produce, and the trillion dollar deficits. The stimulus package is intended to lower the first gap and the budget intends to lower the second.
Steph points out the White House’s rosy projections that the economy will fall only by 1.2% in 2009 compared to the average private forecast of 2.0%, though Orszag points out that his forecast was the same as the CBO’s (though their views on the stimulus were quite different).
Steph then notes that most of the deficit reduction in the budget comes from assuming that the war in Iraq would continue at the same level for several years. Orszag responded, “Well, let’s, let’s be clear about this. We’re going to spend about $140 billion on the war this year. The president is committed to getting, to winding down the war. That’s going to save money. It’s pretty clear.”
One thing is very clear – and it’s not Orszag’s response. Steph challenged one of the key assumptions of Obama’s deficit reduction plans and Orszag’s response was opaque at best. Orszag runs the Office of Management and Budget and he couldn’t explain a fundamental assumption of his budget. The answer is fairly easy to explain – give the amount the Bush administration planned on spending in 2009, the amount Obama plans to spend, and the difference is the net savings. He failed to give the first and the last figure. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, responsibility requires organizational leadership to understand the most fundamental of assumptions.
Next, Orszag responds to Newt Gingrich’s charge that cap and trade raises energy costs by, as expected, touting that 95% of Americans receive tax cuts in the new budget.
Orszag’s response is too ludicrous to pass up, so I’ll quote: “I just reject the theory that the only thing that drives economic performance is the marginal tax rate on wealthy Americans and the only way of being pro-market is to funnel billions and billions of dollars of subsidies to corporations.” The only thing??? I reject it too, Mr. Orszag, just as I reject every other straw man you choose to throw up. Find me one Republican official who believes either point and I’ll send you $250.
Steph presses Orszag on the cost of cap and trade and he finally admits that cap and trade will increase prices for most Americans, though he claims most Americans will get other benefits in the budget that will offset.
Steph really starts hammering Orszag to give him straight answers – after waffling around, Orszag says that if they don’t get a revenue stream from cutting the deductions of charitable contributions by the wealthy, they’ll have to get the revenue from other sources to pay for Obama’s health care plan. He refuses to say with certainty as to whether the administration will follow through with their health care plans if its funded by the deficit, but his choice of words indicated that health care reform is top priority and deficit reduction second.
To close the interview, Orszag said he’s open to having a health care focused commission, but refused to say with certainty.
REP. CANTOR ON TW. Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) is Steph’s next guest.
He began by saying we cannot afford to throw trillions of dollars on the backs of Americans and that our priority should be protecting and creating new jobs. He says that small business people are hurting and want policies that stimulate job growth, not wealth transfers.
Cantor said nobody, Republican or Democrat, wants the President to fail.
He next responds to Gov. Huntsman (R-Utah) who said that the GOP needs to change their position on the environment and gay rights to reach a younger audience. Cantor said that we must return to a party of inclusion and that we need to work together to produce real solutions.
Finally, Cantor said he disagrees with Rush Limbaugh that the President should fail, but that instead we need to put forward solutions to the problems people are facing today.