FROM DC: Morning Must Reads — Dems say Obama AWOL on Afghanistan Pitch

Reuters – U.S. August payrolls fall 216,000, jobless rate 9.7 percent

The short term news was not as bad as expected but the long-term picture was significantly bleaker. This further complicates the administration’s 200-days-of-stimulus celebration over the weekend more complicated.

“U.S. employers cut a fewer-than-expected 216,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high, the government said on Friday in a report showing a still fragile labor market.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent after dipping to 9.4 percent in July and the decline in payrolls was the smallest in a year. The department revised job losses for June and July to show 49,000 more jobs lost than previously reported.
Analysts had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 225,000 in August and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.5 percent.”


New York Times — Advisers to Obama Divided on Size of Afghan Force

Vice President Biden is the leader of the opposition within the Obama administration to another troop buildup in Afghanistan. On the other side are Richard Holbrooke and probably Hillary Clinton.

That’s how writers Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller see things shaping up as the president’s moment of decision on the Afghan war approaches.

Biden wants to put the focus on Pakistan while Holbrooke sees the situation in Afghanistan burning out of control and in need of many more boots on the ground.

People who know what they’re talking about – Gen. James Jones, Adm. Mike Mullen, etc., — are worried about overstretching forces and the consequences of a small surge that increases exposure without increasing security accordingly or a big surge that turns the effort into an unwinnable war of occupation.

“Although General McChrystal included no specific force proposals in his review, officials expect him to send a separate request in the coming weeks. Military strategists, including one who has advised General McChrystal, said he might offer three options. The smallest proposed reinforcement, from 10,000 to 15,000 troops, would be described as the high-risk option. A medium-risk option would involve sending about 25,000 more troops, and a low-risk option would call for sending about 45,000 troops.”


Wall Street Journal — Obama Urged to Rally Support for War

There are some who suggest that what the president should really be talking about on Wednesday is Afghanistan.

Writers Yochi Dreazen and Peter Spiegel count up Obama’s efforts to sell the war he escalated to an increasingly skeptical public and find that despite some tough talk to the VFW, the president has been AWOL on selling his vision for a nation-building effort in the Hindu Kush.

A new CNN poll finds Democratic support for the war down to 25 percent with independents at a new low of 43. Republicans are soldiering on at 70 percent despite some cracks starting to show.

His request for more money for more troops will further depress those numbers – Democrats if it is too high, Republicans if it is too low.

The problem is that Obama is too busy putting out other fires. Like he once accused President Bush of being, Obama has become distracted from Afghanistan.

“In the U.S., a growing number of lawmakers say that Mr. Obama needs to make the case for Afghanistan more forcefully — and more frequently — than he has done to date.

‘The president, unfortunately, because of the crush of everything else, hasn't talked about Afghanistan all that much,’ said Sen. Bob Casey, a centrist Democrat from Pennsylvania, in an interview. ‘There's so much on his plate that it has an adverse impact on his ability to spend enough time on Afghanistan.’”


New York Times — Senate’s ‘Gang of Six’ Plans Bipartisan Phone Call

There’s a lot of hustling going on at the White House about what “chapters” of health care reform the president will support when he finally unveils Obamacare on Wednesday. And much of the focus has been on the efforts to woo Sen. Olympia Snowe, who only wants a government health plan after a conditional delay.

But unless the president changes course and opts to draft and submit a bill (something his predecessors often did on signature initiatives) he will need legislation to come from somewhere.

The leading candidate remains the Senate finance committee, since the House and Senate health committees have produced doomed legislation already.

And while it’s unlikely that all six of the bipartisan negotiators on Sen. Max Baucus’ committee are going to sign on for the product, it’s where Snowe will sign on to a trigger and where other ideas, like co-ops and health insurance taxes, could be added.

Writer Katharine Seelye looks at the extra time being logged to meet a Sept. 15 deadline. After that Baucus will start moving to a committee vote.

“The old gang is getting together, again. The bipartisan “gang of six” Senators on the Finance Committee plan another conference call Friday morning, their second of the summer recess to include all six members… The gang is to talk for 90 minutes Friday and is expected to meet in person next week before the president speaks Wednesday night.”

Politico — Jones apologizes for statements, denies 9/11 doubts

Writer Ben Smith gets an answer from the White House about Green Jobs Czar Van Jones’ signing a petition in support of the 9/11 “truth” movement that suggested the U.S. government was behind or complicit in the slaughter of 3,000 Americans to create a pretext for a war against Islam.

An official told Smith that Jones “didn't carefully review” the document before signing it and Jones, who already apologized for calling Republicans a**holes, issued a new, blanket apology for “statements [he] made in the past,” presumably including denouncements of “white polluters,” American “imperialism,” and his public embrace of Marxism.

The question is when the administration has to ditch Jones, who has become a daily distraction and evidence to conservatives of the radical bent of President Obama’s core supporters.

“Van Jones — who made his name fusing environmentalism with anti-poverty efforts in California — said in a statement through the White House press office:

‘In recent days some in the news media have reported on past statements I made before I joined the administration – some of which were made years ago. If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize. As for the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever.

My work at the Council on Environmental Quality is entirely focused on one goal: building clean energy incentives which create 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and use renewable resources.’”

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