TPM News

Gibbs: Afghanistan Buildup Will Be Accelerated, Will Have Exit Strategy With President Obama set to officially announce his Afghanistan policy today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told MSNBC that Obama will lay out an exit strategy because "we can't be there forever." Gibbs also said the surge will be accelerated: "They're going to get in sooner, quite frankly, than the original assessment asked them to get in."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama held a videoconference this morning with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the economic daily briefing at 9 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 1:05 p.m. ET with Nobel Laureates and their families. He will meet with senior advisers at 2:25 p.m. ET. Obama and Biden will meet with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at 3 p.m. ET, and with members of the Congressional leadership at 4 p.m. ET. Obama will depart the White House at 5:30 p.m. ET, arriving in West Point, New York, at 6:55 p.m. Et. He will deliver remarks at the United States Military Academy at West Point at 8 p.m. ET, on Afghanistan policy. He will sign the academy's guest book at 9 p.m. ET. He will depart at 9:40 p.m. ET, arriving back at the White House at 10:50 p.m. ET.

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Sen. Evan Bayh, one of the moderate Democrats whose health care vote is in question, said the Congressional Budget Office analysis he requested "alleviates a major concern."

Bayh (D-IN), said in a statement:

"My primary focus has been making health insurance better and more affordable for average Americans. This report alleviates a major concern that has been raised--that insurance costs will go up across the board as a result of this legislation.

"This study indicates that for most Americans, the bill will have a modestly positive impact on their premium costs. For the remainder, more will see their costs go down than up. Hopefully, we can continue to focus the Senate debate on additional ways to make health insurance even more affordable for all Americans."

Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the now-famous couple who attended the White House state dinner without an invitation, appeared on the Today show this morning and claimed they had been legitimately been invited to the dinner.

"We're greatly saddened by all the circumstances ... portraying my wife and I as party crashers. I can tell you we did not party-crash the White House," Tareq Salahi said.

Video after the jump.

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November 12: During a stopover on his way to Asia, President Obama greets U.S. troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. The eight-day diplomatic tour across Japan, China, Singapore and Korea was his eighth foreign trip since taking office.
If you missed TPM's earlier slideshows of the trip, check them out here and here.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 13: President Obama joins newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for dinner at Kantei, the Prime Minister's office and official residence in Tokyo. Climate change and nuclear non-proliferation were at the forefront of the discussions between the two leaders. They released a joint statements promising to reduce carbon emissions in both countries by 80 percent in 2050 and vowing to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 16: Chinese students listen to President Obama speak in Shanghai. White House aides said that his remarks on human rights and technology were unprecedented, and an important step in the progress of civil rights in the country.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 14: Staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo line up to catch a glimpse of the President. The trip offered U.S. staff abroad some rare face time with Obama.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 17: Chinese staff prepare for the official welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

November 16: Obama joins Chinese President Hu Jintao in a noodle-making demonstration in Beijing. Referencing his Indonesian youth during a speech, Obama referred to himself as the first "pacific President" in the U.S.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 17: China's National People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo, left, waits to greet Obama at the Great Hall of the People.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

November 17: Obama and Hu Jintao listen as Wu Bangguo speaks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 18: Obama visits the Great Wall in Badaling.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 19: White House staffers are dropped off at Osan Air Base in South Korea.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 19: Obama removes his shoes before an official luncheon with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the Blue House in Seoul.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 19: The two Presidents participate in an arrival ceremony at the Blue House.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 19: U.S. service members listen to Obama's remarks during his visit to Osan Air Base in Osan.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

November 19: White House trip director Marvin Nicholson looks out the window of a helicopter outside the Osan Air Base.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Support for President Obama and the Democratic Congress has dipped a bit this year, according to a new poll commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation out this week. But it's unlikely the declining support will cause Obama or the Democrats to lose any sleep -- 74% of respondents said they approve of the job Obama is doing (down from 81% in April) and just 23% said they disapprove of the way Obama is doing his job.

For Congress, the drop was more worrisome. In April, 67% of respondents to the poll approved of the job Congress was doing. Now that number has dropped to 52%.

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President Obama tonight named another top donor to a plum diplomatic post.

In an evening release with several other nominations, Obama said he would appoint attorney Allan Katz to be ambassador to Portugal. Like all ambassadorships, it is subject to senate confirmation.

Katz, a former City Commissioner from Tallahassee, Florida, pulled together more than $500,000 in donations to the Obama campaign as one of the Democrat's top "bundlers."

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In an interview with CNN, the brother of Tareq Salahi said he wasn't surprised his brother and sister-in-law got into the White House state dinner without an invitation.

"I wasn't terribly surprised by it," said Ismail Salahi, who said he hasn't had contact with his brother for five years. "I was shocked by it, but I don't definitely put it past him and his wife to do something like this."

Asked if the couple should be punished, he said, "I think they should definitely be treated like anybody else, celebrity status or not."

He also said Tareq Salahi has been involved in a "bitter family feud for about 10 years" with his parents. Ismail Salahi said he's been on their parents' side, helping them to "get away from the trouble that [Tareq and Michaele Salahi] have been causing."

It is hardly surprising news when conservative radio host and provocateur Rush Limbaugh attacks President Obama. But on his radio show today, Limbaugh launched one of his more over-the-top tirades yet against Obama.

Reporting on a Reuters story about Iran's recent withdrawal from an international treaty, Limbaugh faulted weak-kneed U.S. leadership.

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With the health care debate under way in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid will be in continuous discussion with top White House officials regarding legislative strategy and other issues until a bill can pass with 60 votes. Tonight, Reid will meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Tom Daschel and others, and an aide says "they'll continue to be highly involved throughout the process."

Sometimes these meetings pass without incident. Other times they're the font of big news. We'll keep you posted on major developments.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has often warned that America is being transformed under President Obama from a free-market system into a totalitarian socialist one -- and now she's employing an interesting piece of tautology, depicting the pre-Obama era as some kind of perfect free market.

Bachmann told the Christian Examiner site: "I think it is jaw dropping when you think that under his watch, the federal government has taken ownership or control of the private economy. People know that something has really changed. The federal government now owns or controls 30 percent of the private economy. Just over a year ago, you couldn't say that. Just over a year ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private. Today, 30 percent is owned or controlled by government."

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