John Kerry and the Man Who Walked Across Afghanistan
September 16, 2009

Rory Stewart, the Scotsman who walked across Afghanistan (literally) and wrote a book about it has emerged of late as a cautionary voice warning that the West simply can't tame or transform that impoverished tribal nation. Today Stewart will make that case for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the first of two hearings on the Obama administration's Afghanisatan policy. (Video link is  here.) Testifying on the other side, in favor of a major U.S.

BREAKING: Baucus Releases Bill. No, Really!
September 16, 2009

It's out! Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus just released his proposal for health care reform. It's a "chairman's mark," which, again, means it's written in regular English rather than the gobbledygook of legislation. Gobbledygookification will take place later on, when--and if--the full Finance Committee passes it. Whether that will happen is unclear. In the last twelve hours, committee Democrats who were not part of Baucus's bipartisan Gang of Six have raised all sorts of objections.

September 16, 2009

With the Iraq war spinning out of control in mid-2005, retired Marine General James L. Jones spoke with his old friend Peter Pace, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jones, who is now Barack Obama's national security advisor, had been sounded out for the Joint Chiefs job but demurred. One reason: He felt that civilian leaders in Washington were warping the military planning process. "Military advice is being influenced on a political level," Jones warned Pace, according to Bob Woodward's book State of Denial. Jones's warning squared with other reports at the time that U.S.

BREAKING: No Snowe, For Now
September 15, 2009

Multiple outlets are reporting that when Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus introduces his health reform bill tomorrow, it will not have any Republican endorsements. (Update: it's out, and here's my initial reaction.) That means no support from Mike Enzi or Charles Grassley, which isn't surprising. It also means no support from Olympia Snowe, which is a little bit surprising. Snowe is the Republican most serious about reform and working with Democrats.

Adm. Mullen vs Sen. Levin
September 15, 2009

A friend following Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee sends over this exchange between Mullen and John McCain, who asked the general about Carl Levin's proposal to prioritize training of Afghan security forces over U.S.

EXCLUSIVE: Finance Bill Won't Increase the Cap on Subsidies
September 14, 2009

  Since the Baucus framework was released last week, there's been an ongoing debate about whether the Finance Committee's final bill will include any significant changes. One area of dispute has been the subsidy cap for uninsured families: Chairman Max Baucus set it at 300 percent above the federal poverty level in his framework (about $66,000 a year for a family of four). But others in the committee--including Olympia Snowe and Jeff Bingaman--have wanted to raise the subsidy cut-off to 400 percent (about $88,000 a year for a family of four).

For Rockefeller, At Least One Victory
September 14, 2009

Though he’s the second-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, Jay Rockefeller has had a hard time being heard in the health care debate. The West Virginia Senator has positioned himself to the left of the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group with which Chairman Max Baucus has been negotiating legislative language. In particular, Rockefeller has openly attacked Kent Conrad’s co-op plan and unabashedly defended partisanship as the route to real reform.

A Peek at What Max's Bill Really Means
September 14, 2009

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus says he will release a health care bill* very soon, maybe in the next 24 hours. And we already have a pretty good idea what it will look like, thanks to an outline Baucus has distributed to the Gang of Six--the bipartisan group with which he’s been trying to hammer out a compromise. Sources inside the Finance Committee say that the formal bill will look a lot like that proposal, with some minor modifications.

House Cleaning
September 12, 2009

How quickly they forget. The 2006 midterm election that gave Democrats both chambers of Congress wasn't entirely a vote of confidence in the party's leadership or policy acumen. It was a vote against the Republican Party. In the run-up to the election, Democrats hammered on the failures of the Iraq war and the incompetency of the Bush administration, but one narrative stuck best: corruption. At the time, Republicans were reeling from a raft of scandals--there was Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, and naughty instant-messager Mark Foley.

Let's Talk Financial Crisis
September 09, 2009

For anyone interested in debating where the economy and financial system stand a year after the Lehman collapse, TNR is hosting a conference on the subject this coming Monday, September 14, at the Willard Hotel in Washington. We've got a real murderer's row of speakers and panelists lined up--Rep. Barney Frank, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel, hedge fund manager (and TNR investor) Bill Ackman, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, among them.