West Wing Briefing

Obama to speak on Afghan review, visit tribal chiefs

President Obama weathered Democratic losses this fall but also spent time passing out candy and visiting "The Daily Show."
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 16, 2010; 11:04 AM

The White House, which has focused mostly on economic issues for the last several weeks, will shift Thursday to foreign policy, presenting the results of its review of administration policy in Afghanistan.

President Obama will speak just before noon on the results of the review, which is not expected to have any major surprises or call for any dramatic shifts in policy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will then brief reporters in more detail on the findings.

The report will offer policy makers and news watchers something to chew on besides this week's Capitol Hill battles over tax cuts, the START treaty, "don't ask, don't tell" and other issues.

While many congressional Democrats are eager to reduce troops in Afghanistan, most of have been content to wait for the report on Obama's policy, which has increased troops over the last two years but calls for a reduction starting next summer. And Republicans are almost universally behind Obama's strategy in Afghanistan.

A common enemy?

The White House and Senate Republican leaders didn't just agree Wednesday on their tax agreement. They both showed anew their frustration with Sen. Jim DeMint (R).

The administration blasted the South Carolina senator, who last year famously said he hoped the health care bill would turn into Obama's Waterloo. This time, the criticism was over DeMint's threat to demand a reading of the entire text of the nuclear treaty with Russia known as New START.

DeMint's fellow Republicans, while not attacking him, didn't leap to defend him, either. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said reading the bill was "not essential." Although beloved by tea party activists, DeMint is no favorite of Senate Republicans, who view some of his tactics as grandstanding.

POTUS on Thursday

Obama also spoke at a gathering of more than 560 tribal chiefs and presidents, a day after hearing grumbles from Native American leaders in a private session at the White House.

Do the CEOs really want a chief CEO?

Corporate executives have complained for months that the administration lacks a person who has run a major company in a high-level job on economic policy.

But according to a source in the room, 20 corporate chiefs didn't bother to bring this concern to Obama in their four-hour meeting Wednesday. The president is currently considering a replacement for Larry Summers, who is leaving his post as head of the National Economic Council at year's end.

Or maybe the executives realized, as Dana Milbank writes in his column, that they were in the presence of "the sometimes owner of General Motors, Chrysler, Citibank, Bank of America, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

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