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 gives his first speech as president to the UN General Assembly...
**Sarah Palin promotes free market ideas in first speech since resigning...
**Sen. Max Baucus makes some concessions for Democrats in his health care bill...
5331005PRESIDENT OBAMA: The president spends a second day at the United Nations in New York City today, where, at 10am ET, he'll deliver his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly as president. Also on his schedule, per the White House, "In the morning, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama of Japan at the Waldorf Astoria. The President will participate in a meeting with leaders of peace-keeping troop contributing countries. In the afternoon, the President will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony for fallen United Nations staff members. The President will attend a lunch hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for Heads of State and Government. Later, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia at the Waldorf Astoria. In the evening, the President and the First Lady will host a reception for Heads of State and Government at the Metropolitan Museum of Art."
"Seizing a chance to challenge the world, President Barack Obama says the global community is failing its people and fixing that is not 'solely America's endeavor,'" reports the Associated Press' Ben Feller.
"'Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone,' Obama said in a passage of the speech he was delivering Wednesday to the United Nations General Assembly.
"The White House released excerpts in advance that carried a remarkably blunt tone. It comes in Obama's first speech to this world body, a forum like none other for a leader hoping to wash away any lasting images of U.S. unilateralism under George W. Bush."
In addition, as CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli reports, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the General Assembly as well.
The Iranian president will sit down with CBS' Katie Couric for an exclusive interview to air tonight on the CBS Evening News.
Also today, "President Barack Obama will have Chinese and Russian support at the United Nations ... for his bid to put the world body on record against the spread of nuclear weapons. That doesn't mean those nations are ready to get tough with Iran or North Korea," report Bloomberg News' Bill Varner and Janine Zacharia.
"Obama, as the first U.S. president to preside over a UN Security Council meeting, will call for a vote on a draft resolution to curb the proliferation and testing of nuclear arms and to safeguard fissile materials. On those goals, he likely will have the unanimous backing of leaders gathered in New York, according to interviews with Security Council diplomats."
"His meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was the highest-level Middle East diplomacy of his presidency, but it fell short of expectations. As recently as a week, ago U.S. officials had hoped it would yield an announcement of renewed formal negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
"However, Obama special envoy George Mitchell was unable to secure a deal in which Israel would freeze construction of West Bank settlements in return for Arab states taking small steps toward recognition."
New York Times' Helen Cooper and Mark Landler, "In Mideast Peace Bid, Obama Pivots in His Demands": "The pivot toward tackling issues that include the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the borders of a future Palestinian state greatly increases the stakes for an administration that has found even small advances to be beyond reach. It also risks making Mr. Obama appear ineffective in having not gained a tangible early goal of his Middle East policy.
"But it also seems to reflect the president's impatience with the slow pace of the peace negotiations and a pragmatic, if also potentially perilous, desire to move forward on something that he has made a hallmark of his foreign policy agenda."
Also at the U.N. yesterday:
Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, "Prime Minister Urges Coordinated Approach to North Korea"
McClatchy Newspaper's Warren P. Strobel and Renee Schoof, "China, U.S. promise bold steps to protect climate"
Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Colum Lynch, "Nations Appear Headed Toward Independent Climate Goals"
Bloomberg News' Kim Chipman, "Obama's Ability to Deliver Climate-Change Measure Questioned"
"'We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place,' said the former Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate Wednesday at a conference sponsored by investment firm CLSA Asia Pacific Markets. 'We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom,' she also said.
"On the foreign-policy front, she told the room full of bankers and executives of the importance of the global fight against terrorism and of finding ways to engage China as a global power. She said China 'rightfully makes a lot of people nervous.'
"Her speech marks an effort to reach out to an international audience and define her political identity since resigning from office earlier this year. Mrs. Palin is among a handful of high-profile Republicans seeking a path back to power for a party that lost control of both houses of Congress and White House in last year's U.S. elections.
"Mrs. Palin's address was officially closed to the media. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a recording of the speech.
The Associated Press' Jeremiah Marquez reports, "'I'm going to call it like I see it and I will share with you candidly a view right from Main Street, Main Street U.S.A.,' Palin told a room full of asset managers and other finance professionals, according to a video of part of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. 'And how perhaps my view of Main Street ... how that affects you and your business.'
"In her speech -- closed to reporters -- Palin argued that many average Americans are uncomfortable with health care reforms that infringe on private enterprise, Chris Palmer, an American fund manager for Gartmore Investment Ltd., told reporters…
"In an apparent reference to renewed tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese that have led to violent riots, the former Alaska governor mentioned China's ethnic problems, arguing they are 'a sign that China lacks mechanisms to deal with regional issues,' Palmer said."
"Her performance, which was closed to the media, divided opinion, adds Agence France-Presse. "Some of those who attended praised her forthright views on government social and economic intervention and others walked out early in disgust.
"'She was brilliant,' said a European delegate, on condition of anonymity. 'She said America was spending a lot of money and it was a temporary solution. Normal people are having to pay more and more but things don't get better. The rich will leave the country and the poor will get poorer.'
"Two US delegates left early, with one saying 'it was awful, we couldn't stand it any longer'. He declined to be identified."
"He also slashed proposed penalties for those who did not comply with the insurance mandate and sought to limit how many people would be subject to a new excise tax on high-end -- or so-called Cadillac -- health plans.
"Baucus' proposals came on the first day that his committee began reworking his long-awaited blueprint.
"His initial proposal faced a barrage of criticism from Democrats and from the only Republican senator sympathetic to the bill, who said that families of moderate means would not be able to afford the bill's mandate that almost everyone have health insurance.
"Baucus' quick response was a sign of the growing pressure on him to move to the left now that hope of winning significant GOP support has all but evaporated."
"One of Mr. Baucus's changes Tuesday could profoundly alter the insurance market, now dominated by employer-sponsored plans," write the New York Times' Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn. "Under the proposal, it would be easier than in his original bill for people with access to insurance through their employers to obtain tax credits to help them buy coverage on their own, in new state-based exchanges.
"Mr. Baucus would still impose a tax on high-cost health plans, generally those with premiums exceeding $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for families, starting in 2013. But he would increase the thresholds for plans covering retirees over the age of 55 and for those covering people in certain high-risk occupations, like law enforcement, firefighting, construction and mining. The threshold for such plans would be raised by $750 for individual coverage and $2,000 for family coverage."
5192102"The committee, which hopes to finish its work by the end of this week, is the latest stop in a months-long process that still lacks a clear finish line. Everything done in Senate Finance may be changed again on the Senate floor, or later in a House of Representatives-Senate conference committee. Any final legislation is months away," adds McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman.
Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence, "Health Reform Bill Starts a Perilous, Partisan Journey Through Senate"
Meantime, on the House side, The Hill's Mike Soraghan reports, "Speaker Pelosi is backing away from a deal she cut with centrists to advance health reform, said a source familiar with talks.
"Pelosi's decision to move away from the agreement that was made with a group of Blue Dogs to get the bill out of committee would steer the healthcare legislation back to the left as she prepares for a floor vote.
"Pelosi is planning to include a government-run public option in the House version of the healthcare bill. She wants to model it on Medicare, with providers getting reimbursed on a scale pegged to Medicare rates."
Bloomberg News' Roger Runningen and Edwin Chen, "Orszag Sees Health-Care Overhaul Passing in Six Weeks": "Congress will likely complete a health-care bill within six weeks, and a measure being drafted by the Senate Finance Committee may provide the basis for final legislation, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag said.
"'The goal would be, yes, over next six weeks or so, maybe sooner,' Orszag said in an interview as the finance panel headed by Montana Democrat Max Baucus began revising the measure, President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
"Orszag praised Baucus's $856 billion proposal, saying it 'definitely' shows that 'you can devise a health-reform bill that significantly expands coverage while doing so in a way that is not only deficit-neutral' but 'deficit-reducing.'"
Wall Street Journal's Henry J. Pulizzi and Leslie Scism, "Biden Says Rising Health Premiums Show Need for Overhaul"
New York Times' Jackie Calmes on Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, "G.O.P. Senator Draws Critics in Both Parties"
"All attention now turns to Patrick, who has been weighing the appointment options with a close circle of advisers in recent days, asking them to cast a wide net, according to a person with knowledge of the process who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. It has been an 'extensive vetting process,' but the governor is still mulling over candidates, the person said.
"The governor is hoping to be able to appoint someone tomorrow or Friday, the person said...
"Kennedy's two sons, US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island and businessman Edward M. Kennedy Jr., have told Governor Patrick that their first choice for an interim senator is former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr., according to a Kennedy family associate.
Associated Press, "Curt Schilling won't run for Kennedy's seat in Senate"
5290143AFGHANISTAN: NY Times' Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller, "Obama Is Considering Strategy Shift in Afghan War": "President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan, officials said Tuesday. The options under review are part of what administration officials described as a wholesale reconsideration of a strategy the president announced with fanfare just six months ago. Two new intelligence reports are being conducted to evaluate Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said."
Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson, "Less Peril for Civilians, but More for Troops": "Concern is rising in Congress and among military families over a sharp increase in U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan at a time when senior military officials acknowledge that American service members are facing greater risks under a new strategy that emphasizes protecting Afghan civilians."
Wall Street Journal's Yochi J. Dreazen, Neil King Jr., and Peter Spiegel, "Congress Presses on War Plan": "The Pentagon is rebuffing congressional calls for the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan to personally make the case for the war, amid the growing political tumult over the Obama administration's handling of the conflict. An array of powerful lawmakers from both parties, including the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, want Gen. Stanley McChrystal to testify about the challenges confronting the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan and his plan for beating back the resurgent Taliban."
52804532009 VA GOV: Washington Post's Anita Kumar, "Deeds, McDonnell Court the Black Vote": " Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McDonnell wooed the all-important African-American vote at a candidate's forum tonight at historically black Virginia Union University in Richmond."
Richmond Times-Dispatch's Jeff E. Schapiro: "McDonnell said he shares President Barack Obama's support for charter schools, which operate largely independent of a central bureaucracy, as a way to revive urban educational systems.
"McDonnell said later that, although there is a Democratic Party tradition among blacks, 'I'm not writing one vote off.'
"He went on to remind reporters that his African-American backers include Sheila Johnson, a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and a major donor in 2005 to Democrat Timothy M. Kaine's successful campaign for governor."
2009 NJ GOV: The Trentonian's Alex Gecan, "Trenton billboard depicts Obama as Corzine running mate": "Several new billboards throughout the state — including one on Perry Street in Trenton — portray President Obama at a podium, with Corzine looking on. The slogan of the billboards reads 'Keep it going.' ... The new thrust comes as Corzine trails Republican nominee Chris Christie by anywhere between five and 11 percentage points. The intended interpretation might get lost on the voting public, especially when it is emblazoned on a billboard that appears to be advertising an Obama-Corzine ticket."
CBS' Katie Couric's interview with conservative talk show host Glenn Beck:
Washington Post's Carrie Johnson, "Obama to Set Higher Bar for Keeping State Secrets"
NY Daily News' Kenneth Lovett and Eric Pearson, "Paterson: Obama administration can't get anything due to fear of GOP"
Wall Street Journal's Suzanne Sataline, "GOP Sees Hope in New York Race"
LA Times' Cathleen Decker, "GOP gubernatorial candidate Whitman launches radio ads"
CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli, "Pawlenty, Potential 2012 Candidate, Launching PAC"