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Politics Today: Can Obama Lead on the World Stage?

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

**Obama Highlights Climate Change, Mideast Peace...

**A Key Senate Panel Debates Its Health Care Bill...

**The White House Gets Involved in State-Based Politics...

(CBS/AP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The president is in New York City today for a series of meetings and speeches at the United Nations; however, it's his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that are drawing the most attention.

Also on Mr. Obama's agenda: a speech at U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Climate Change Summit, a luncheon with Sub-Saharan African Heads of State, a meeting with Chinese President Hu, a speech at Bill Clinton's Global Initiative and a dinner for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Climate Change Summit.

Meantime, "No one in the White House, the Israeli government or among Palestinian officials is publicly predicting a breakthrough out of the three-way Mideast meeting that President Barack Obama is hosting here. And yet the session Tuesday is seen as a crucial step for Obama," reports the Associated Press' Jennifer Loven.

"After seeing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas separately, Obama is bringing the two together for the first Israeli-Palestinian meeting since Netanyahu took office in March. Taking place on the sidelines of this week's annual U.N. General Assembly here, just the fact that the meeting is scheduled is big news."

Washington Post's Glenn Kessler and Thomas Erdbrink, "U.S and Iran Heading Into Talks Worlds Apart": "Diplomats from the United States and Iran will cross paths this week at the U.N. General Assembly, but the gulf between the two nations is likely to be evident. Officials and analysts offer little hope that much will change by Oct. 1, when the countries will join other nations for talks on Tehran's nuclear program and international aspirations. The two countries remain far apart on the substance and purpose of the upcoming negotiations, and President Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make dueling speeches on Wednesday. The same day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will hold high-level talks here with European, Russian and Chinese counterparts on how to approach the Oct. 1 talks, which are likely to be held in Turkey."

Politico's Josh Gerstein, "Obama's authority undercut at UN, G-20": " At this week's international summit meetings in New York and Pittsburgh, President Barack Obama is set to offer heads of state and top diplomats his prescriptions for combating climate change and regulating financial markets. But Obama's inability to point to concrete action at home on both fronts -- issues where Obama's proposals have bogged down in Congress – is likely to undercut his bargaining power, and his authority to press other nations to act."

Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Colum Lynch, "On Global Warming, an Ambitious Agenda": "The United Nations' commitment to securing an international climate deal will be on full display Tuesday, as world leaders come together in New York to discuss how best to address global warming. But the event, arranged by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, highlights both the possibilities and obstacles Ban and his deputies face in orchestrating the historic pact."

Washington Post's Colum Lynch, "U.S. Faces Doubts About Leadership on Human Rights"

Bloomberg News' Patrick Cole, "Clinton Summit Adds Gender Issues, Lures Obama, Lloyd Blankfein"

On Thursday, President Obama heads to Pittsburgh for the Group of 20 meetings:

New York Times' Carter Dougherty, "G-20 Is Urged to Raise Bank Reserves": "World leaders at the Group of 20 meeting this week should force banks to build up their reserves substantially to avoid another acute financial crisis, a leading association of regulatory experts said Monday."

Associated Press' Martin Crutsinger, "President Barack Obama says he is determined to go after the 'reckless risk-taking' that pushed the global economy into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, and he is also pushing for countries to promote more balanced growth going forward. He is getting support for his efforts from other leaders, although significant differences remain ... In addition to pushing the U.S. agenda, Obama is certain to face tough questions from other G-20 countries over whether his administration can develop a credible plan to curb a soaring U.S. budget deficit that the White House projects will hit an eye-popping $1.548 trillion this year and total $9 trillion over the next decade."

Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet, "Michelle Obama to Lobby at U.N., G20. Copenhagen for 2016 Olympics": " First Lady Michelle Obama, who has stayed very much in her comfort zone during her eight months in the White House, is stepping into the international limelight this week and next as she entertains global leaders and their spouses in New York and Pittsburgh, then travels to Copenhagen to try to land the 2016 Olympics for Chicago -- her biggest act yet."

5215995HEALTH CARE: "Sen. Max Baucus said he would revamp his health-overhaul proposal to ease the financial burden for middle-income Americans and pare back a key tax increase, responding to critics on Capitol Hill who called the measure too harsh," report the Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy...

"The Congressional Budget Office said the Baucus bill would cost $774 billion over a decade and reduce the federal budget deficit by $49 billion in that period. The Montana Democrat said in an interview that $28 billion -- more than half of the funds now dedicated to deficit reduction -- could be diverted to pay for changes that would help shore up support. He hopes to attract the backing of all committee Democrats and at least one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine…

"The Baucus bill proposes a ten-year, $214 billion tax on high-value health-insurance plans. While aimed at 'gold-plated' benefits, it would hit some union members and others down the income ladder. The combined changes would ensure that older Americans and people in high-risk jobs that often require more medical treatments, such as miners, aren't unfairly hit by the 35% levy."

"In a meeting Monday night with Finance Committee Democrats, Baucus cautioned that lawmakers may have to find additional revenue sources or cost savings, depending on how drastically they seek to change the bill. 'The main discussion was, 'Okay, how do we make insurance affordable for people? Because we've got to make insurance affordable.' But the next question was, 'How do you pay for it?' ' Baucus said," add the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery.

"One option Democrats were discussing was to expand Medicaid as a potentially less expensive way to cover low-income people.

"The last-minute maneuvering came as Baucus prepared to open a week-long debate on health care in his committee, the last of five congressional panels to take up President Obama's signature domestic initiative. Lawmakers have proposed 564 amendments to Baucus's measure, and a vote on the $774 billion plan is not expected before Friday at the earliest."

The New York Times' Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn add, "Senator Baucus said the changes reflected the fact that some people are charged high premiums because they have high-risk jobs, for example as police officers, firefighters or miners. In addition, he said he would address the concern that some health plans charge high premiums because they provide health benefits to retirees.

"Senators John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, both Democrats, have repeatedly raised questions about whether the subsidies for low-income people would be adequate."

CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon, "Five Health Care Promises Obama Won't Keep"

(CBS)
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON LETTERMAN: "Addressing suggestions that recent criticism of his health care reform efforts has been grounded in racism, President Obama this afternoon quipped, 'I think it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election,'" reports CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli.

"The comment, which the president made in an afternoon taping of CBS' 'The Late Show,' promoted laughter from the audenice and this response from host David Letterman: 'How long have you been a black man?'

"Mr. Obama said the notion that racism is playing a role in the criticism, which has been voiced by former President Jimmy Carter and others, is countered in part by the fact that he was elected in the first place – which, he said, 'tells you a lot about where the country's at.'"

"He let slip a few personal details about his daughters, an off-limits topic elsewhere. He disclosed the name of a movie he saw recently with his wife. And he managed to talk a little about healthcare and Afghanistan too," adds the Los Angeles Times' Christi Parsons.

"The information wasn't exactly breaking news, but the president has been busy hammering home an old message about the overhaul of the healthcare system…

"In a more personal moment, Obama talked about how tough the homework load is at Sidwell Friends School, the Quaker school his daughters, Sasha and Malia, attend in Washington.

"'We decided there weren't going to be any fancy camps during the summer,' Obama said. 'They basically just goofed off during the summer . . . which I couldn't do.'"

"In an unusually somber exchange, Obama spoke of the gravity of the decision and suggested he would not consider approving a troop increase for weeks or even months," writes Politico's Josh Gerstein.

"'Afghanistan is a real difficult situation,' Obama said ... 'Moving forward, we're not going to have easy decisions ... I don't want Americans to be under illusions that we will. There are those that argue that now's the time to completely pull out of Afghanistan. There are coherent arguments for that, but there are enormous risks involved in that. There are those who say, let's double down and put more troops in Afghanistan. There are good arguments for that but also enormous risks.' ...

(CBS/AP)
AFGHANISTAN: "Faced with a grim assessment of the Afghan war from his top commander and opposition from leading Democrats, President Obama has begun a wholesale reevaluation of the military effort that could alter the strategic aims of the American mission," writes the Los Angeles Times' Julian E. Barnes.

"The review could result in a scaling back of efforts to reform Afghanistan's politics and develop its economy. The U.S. could then focus more on hunting down Al Qaeda and its close allies with small special operations teams and armed Predator drones. Such an effort could avert the need for additional troops, officials and experts said.

"For weeks, military officials have been laying the groundwork to request additional troops. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan, warned in a classified assessment that the Afghan mission risked failure if more troops were not sent. A declassified version of McChrystal's assessment became public after it was leaked to the Washington Post website this week."

The New York Times' Eric Schmitt writes, "President Obama could read the grim assessment of the Afghanistan war from his top military commander there in two possible ways. He could read Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's report as a blunt and impassioned last-chance plea for a revamped counterinsurgency strategy bolstered by thousands more combat troops to rescue the beleaguered, eight-year mission. Or he could read it as a searing indictment of American-led NATO military operations and a corrupt Afghan civilian government, pitted against a surprisingly adaptive and increasingly dangerous insurgency.

"Either way, General McChrystal's 66-page report with the deceptively bland title 'Commander's Initial Assessment" is serving to catalyze the thinking of a president — who is keenly aware of the historical perils of a protracted, faraway war — about what he can realistically accomplish in this conflict, and whether his vision for the war and a commitment of American troops is the same as his general's.

Mr. Obama faces a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, growing opposition to the war at home from Democrats and a desire to put off any major troop decision while he still needs much political capital to pass major health care legislation in Congress.

But even as the president expresses skepticism about sending more American troops to Afghanistan until he has settled on the right strategy, he is also grappling with a stark reality: it will be very hard to say no to General McChrystal."

"The White House insisted anew Monday that the president won't be stampeded into a quick decision on more troops, saying that he first wants to make sure there's a sound strategy in place to secure Afghanistan and make certain that it can't be used as a haven for al Qaida terrorists, as it was before 2001," add McClatchy Newspapers' Steven Thomma, Jonathan S. Landay and David Lightman

"His hesitation reflects deep divisions within his own administration and deep uncertainty about whether, even with tens of thousands more troops, the U.S. can succeed in Afghanistan without a less corrupt and legitimately elected Afghan government, greater cooperation from neighboring Pakistan and more time and money than the American public and the Congress may be willing to commit.

"Opponents of escalation, led by Vice President Joe Biden and his national security adviser, Antony Blinken; Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; and deputy secretaries of state Jacob Lew and Jim Steinberg, fear that Afghanistan is a quagmire that will further undermine the administration's domestic political agenda and hurt the Democrats in next year's congressional elections."

Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, "McChrystal's Review Creates Rupture"

Wall Street Journal's Yochi Dreazen and Peter Spiegel, "Pentagon Delays Troop Call"

New York Times' Peter Baker and Thom Shanker, "A Pragmatist, Gates Reshapes Policy He Backed"

Washington Post's Greg Jaffe, "U.S. Commanders Told to Shift Focus to More Populated Areas"

5327335WHITE HOUSE & FUTURE RACES: "The White House's intervention in the race for New York governor is the latest evidence of how President Obama and his top advisers are taking an increasingly direct role in contests across the country, but their assertiveness has bruised some Democrats who suggest it could undercut Mr. Obama's appeal with voters tired of partisan politics," report the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Adam Nagourney.

"The overt involvement of Mr. Obama's team in New York, where they have tried to ease Gov. David A. Paterson out of the race, has made clear that this is a White House willing to use its clout to help clear the field for favored Democratic candidates and to direct money and other resources in the way it thinks will most benefit the administration and help preserve the Democrats' majority in Congress.

"The president's top strategists have recruited candidates — and nudged others to step aside — in races in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. They said they intended to continue this practice heading into the 2010 midterm elections, as well as with an eye to the redistricting fights that will go on within states early in the next decade.

"The intense involvement reflects the tactics and style of the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who helped Democrats win the House three years ago as chairman of the Congressional campaign committee."

"While White House officials shrug off suggestions that they are any more involved in trying to improve the prospects for their party than were their predecessors -- and argue that there is no single figure playing the kind of politics-first role that Karl Rove occupied in George W. Bush's administration -- the president and his aides are becoming increasingly active in the political arena," add the Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut and Rosalind S. Helderman.

"Earlier this month, Obama reached out to former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder (D) to ask him to endorse the state's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, R. Creigh Deeds, after Wilder publicly praised the Republican nominee, Robert F. McDonnell.

"'I'll just say he called and made his position known,' Wilder said in an interview Monday."

New York Times' Danny Hakim and Nicholas Confessore, "In New York, All Eyes on Obama and Paterson's Meeting"

Wall Street Journal's Suzanne Sataline and Dionne Searcey, "Cuomo's Political Prospects Get Unexpected Boost"

ALSO

The Boston Globe's Matt Viser, "Debate on Interim U.S. Senator Expected to Begin Today in Mass. Senate"

Roanoke Times on the Virginia gubernatorial race, "New ads by Deeds use foe's '89 thesis"

Newark Star-Ledger's Josh Margolin, "Gov. Corzine stands behind continuing hedge fund investment"

Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins, "Republicans Score Big in August Fund-Raising"

Washington Post's Garance Franke-Ruta and Aaron Davis, "Justice Dept. Inspector General Plans Internal ACORN Probe"

Wall Street Journal's Amir Efrati, "Grand Jury Indicts Fund-Raiser for Democrats"

Associated Press, "Meg Whitman To Make Gubernatorial Bid Official"

USA Today's Craig Wilson, "A glowing 'Portrait' of the Obamas' rock-solid marriage"

New York Daily News has more from the book on the Obama's marriage troubles, "'Barack and Michelle' tells story behind domestic tension that nearly ruined the Obama's marriage"

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