Today was Clean-Up Day. Perhaps the most respected name in the Defense establishment, Sec. Robert Gates, was sent out to calm nerves, portray an administration that was properly deliberating a decision, to simmer down reports of alleged dissension between Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the President on Afghanistan.
1. Gates said that the White House interagency process would come up with a recommendation to the President within weeks, not months. He also said that, given the difficulties in moving troops into Afghanistan, if POTUS were to make such a decision, troops wouldn't begin to arrive until midway through the first six months of 2010.
2. Sen. John McCain played the role of presidential counselor. Nice touch by the White House, which made sure to have POTUS call McCain yesterday, before he appeared on "This Week." McCain:
"Yesterday we had a good conversation, as we always do. I pointed out that, in Iraq, the Maliki government was certainly failing. And this election in Afghanistan, it was corrupt. There is corruption from the cop on the street to the president's brother, Karzai's brother, and that issue has to be addressed if we're going to succeed....But we're not going to have a chance to succeed if we withdraw...We've really got the status quo, which Admiral Mullen and General McChrystal say is not succeeding, or we can implement this new strategy, which is really an old strategy called counterinsurgency, or we'd better get out."
3. Very important nuance from Sen. Evan Bayh, who hinted that the level of Senate pressure directed at POTUS even from conservative Democrats might not be as acute as initially thought: "The number of troops is a tactical question, John, in pursuit of a strategic goal. The president sets the strategy and then will listen to his commanders about how many troops he needs to achieve that strategy. And what you heard the secretary say is, very clearly, we need to decide an essential question. Is Afghanistan capable of being a coherent nation-state? Can they reconcile their differences enough where their government can have enough trained troops and police to control their own territory? Can Afghanistan, with our help, be a coherent nation-state? If yes, more troops would be warranted; if no, you take a different approach. "
4. Gates, on whether the Karzai government was legitimate enough: "The key is whether the Afghans believe that their government has legitimacy. And everything that I've seen in the intelligence and elsewhere indicates that remains the case."
5. President Clinton said that whether Sen. Hillary Clinton ran for president again was "up to her." Still, he said, "we're not getting any younger." And the VRWC: -- it lives!
BILL CLINTON: "Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was, because America has changed demographically. But it's as virulent as it was. I mean, they're saying things about him. You know, it's like when they accused me of murder, and all that stuff they did. ... But ... it's not really good for the Republicans and the country, what's going on now. I mean, they may be hurting President Obama. They can take his numbers down. They can run his opposition up. But, fundamentally, he and his team have a positive agenda for America. Their agenda seems to be wanting him to fail." ...