Morning Must Reads — Growth, but still feeling fluish

Washington Post — Obama seeks study on local leaders for troop decision

Writers Scott Wilson and Greg Jaffe look at the way in which the president is preparing his announcement of a mini-surge in Afghanistan. It’s so detailed that Obama is breaking down the leadership structures and security needs of all the Afghan provinces. There are some shades of micromanagement here, but there’s also evidence of an effort to deal with Afghanistan regionally and cut out the middleman in Kabul.

“The review group once included intelligence officials, generals and ambassadors, but it has recently narrowed to a far smaller number of senior civilian advisers, including [Vice President] Biden, [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, [National Security Advisor James] Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Administration officials said the province-by-province analysis will be ready for Obama before his scheduled Friday meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House.

‘There are a lot of questions about why McChrystal has identified the areas that he has identified as needing more forces,’ said a senior military official familiar with the review, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations candidly. ‘Some see it as an attempt by the White House to do due diligence on the commander's troop request. A less charitable view is that it is a 5,000-mile screwdriver tinkering from Washington.’

Associated Press — Stimulus jobs overstated by thousands

Today is GDP day, with a third-quarter spike of 3.5 percent. Economists were quick to point out that the growth is built on shifting sands and are not predictive, especially since companies are continuing to fire employees.

Democrats credit the Obama stimulus for saving more than a million jobs – that losses could have been closer to 4 million.

But it’s hard to say, especially since we don’t know the degree to which policy uncertainty is holding down hiring and adding to layoffs.

Writers Brett Blackledge and Matt Apuzzo look at the inherently phony nature of calculating “saved or created” jobs under the Obama stimulus.
Misreporting and perhaps fraud mean that any administration touts about the stimulus and job creation must be taken with a second grain of salt.

“The government's first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.

The AP review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced.”

Bloomberg — House to Unveil Health Plan With Public Option, Millionaire Tax

As Examiner colleague Susan Ferrechio reported we get to see Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s counter offer to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposal today.

The compromise over the public option isn’t a significant one. Liberals wanted uniform rates for doctors accepting new government insurance but agreed to allow a more expensive, negotiated rates in order to get some votes from rural members.

Writers James Rowley and Kristin Jensen explain where the money will allegedly come from:

“To finance the bill, House Democrats plan a surtax on couples who make more than $1 million a year. Leaders are also planning fees on medical-device makers that will add up to $20 billion over 10 years, according to another congressional aide. The Senate has proposed $40 billion in fees on device makers, as well as levies on drugmakers and insurers.

Pelosi said in an Oct. 21 interview with Bloomberg Television that the measure has more than $500 billion in savings. Lawmakers said that comes in part from reducing fraud in Medicare and from initiatives such as electronic records.”

USA Today — Top Obama fundraisers get posts

On the heels of the report that the administration has been selling access to events in the White House to Democratic National Committee donors comes writer Frederaka Schouten’s story that 40 percent of the president’s biggest fundraisers and donors have landed jobs with the administration.

Career diplomats are complaining that Obama has deviated from the standard 30 percent political/70 percent careerist split on overseas postings. It’s more like 50/50 in the current administration.

But the gigs for donors go far beyond plum ambassadorial postings in Europe and the West Indies.

In fact, the list of bundler/donors may explain some controversial appointments the president has made: gay rights activist turned school safety boss Kevin Jennings raised more than $100,000.

Posts in Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, Defense, and other departments went to donor/bundlers. It’s common to reward donors and to pick people for posts who have strongly supported you, but the size of these transactions is pretty stunning.

“Overall, about 600 individuals and couples raised money from their friends, family members and business associates to help fund Obama's presidential campaign. USA TODAY's analysis found that 54 have been named to government positions, ranging from Cabinet and White House posts to advisory roles, such as serving on the economic recovery board charged with helping guide the country out of recession.”

New York Times — Shortage of Vaccine Poses Political Test for Obama

It is no more fair to hold the Obama administration accountable for a shortage of swine flu vaccine than it was to blame the Bush administration for the fear or a shortage in 2004. Of course he was a Republican in an election year, so hysterical coverage of Democratic criticism might have been expected.

But as writer Sheryl Gay Stolberg points out, Obama’s swine crunch comes as his administration is making a play for a centrally planned health system. Would you want to be insured by a government that couldn’t get enough vaccine made in 6 months?

Part of the problem may have been that the president has so closely identified his administration with the flu and the vaccination program.

“But flu outbreaks are notoriously unpredictable; if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse, the president may be held accountable even for a situation that is beyond his control, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.

‘Where people start holding political actors accountable is when they develop an expectation for what is to happen,’ Dr. Blendon said. ‘If very few people get sick and those who do are not very seriously ill, the public will have a much higher tolerance than if there are people who are dying.’

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