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Reviewing the Inauguration

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Transcripts of interviews on the Inauguration of President Obama with Christopher Hitchens, Bill Kristol, Rich Lowry, and John Podhoretz are all posted, as is a transcript of yesterday’s conversation with Senator Jon Kyl in which he predicts Eric Holder will be confirmed.

Yesterday’s hour long conversation with actor Gary Sinise is also posted. Playing the roles of historical figures such as Harry Truman and George Wallace has turned Sinise into a history-lover, and it shows, as does his genuine appreciation for and service on behalf of the American military.

If you aren’t reading Mike Allen’s “Playbook” at every morning, you are missing the best wake-up call in the world. He even summarizes his own website’s work, as with this cheat sheet on a longer piece by John Harris and Jim VandeHei on the key questions about the new president’s policies:[# More #]

WILL THERE BE A SURGE IN AFGHANISTAN? Politico’s John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei on “What we don’t know about Obama”: “The stirring rhetoric witnessed on the campaign trail and in Tuesday’s inaugural address is laced with spacious language -flexible enough to support conflicting conclusions about what he really believes.” Their questions, with Playbook’s guesses at the end:

1) DOES HE REALLY THINK AFGHANISTAN IS WINNABLE? … If he intends to win in Afghanistan, he is not going to be a Peacemaker President. To the contrary, he is committing himself to being just as much of a War President as George W. Bush, certainly for the first term and very possibly for a potential second. Most military experts think a decisive win in Afghanistan -as opposed to a muddle-through strategy leading to a gradual withdrawal -will involve a major surge in troops and a willingness to tolerate high costs and high casualties. …

2) DO DEFICITS MATTER? … His inaugural address warned about the need to cut programs that don’t work and make ‘hard choices.’ Does he really mean it? If so, the second half of Obama’s first term likely will be marked by austerity just as much as the first half is going to be marked by massive spending in the name of economic stimulus. …

3) HOW FAST IS TOO FAST IN IRAQ? The president says he still wants U.S. troops out of Iraq in 16 months. Tellingly, he always adds caveats that conditions and advice from commanders will dictate the pace. … [T]his remains an extremely volatile region that could erupt in new bloodshed. Will Obama still cling to a speedy pull-out if it means the country could implode?

4) WHAT’S IN THE FILES? … Since Tuesday, Obama has all the same files, and all the same access to the nation’s top secrets, that Bush and Cheney ever did. How will Obama react when he gets a constant morning diet of dire warnings? The president seems intent on shutting down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and ending torture-and has surrounded himself with critics of both who are unlikely to tolerate backsliding. But it is not unfathomable that Obama has a ‘Few Good Men’ moment and has to tell liberals and civil libertarians they can’t handle the truth-and that drastic steps sometimes need to be taken to avert disastrous consequences.

5) DO UNIONS WEAR WHITE HATS? Obama, for the entire campaign, said all the right things when it comes to keeping peace with Big Labor. … Lately, he sounds like a man rethinking his enthusiasm. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, he suggested he would not aggressively push for legislation to free workers to easily unionize … Even Nancy Pelosi seems inclined to cut him some slack for a while on this one-but at some point the pressure will intensify and we will learn if this is truly a pro-union White House.

6) CAN U.S. POWER SAVE DARFUR? Darfur will be the first test case – but almost certainly not the last one – in which we will learn just how strongly Obama believes his stated view that the United States should act aggressively when it can use its military power to stop genocide or other humanitarian catastrophes. There is powerful momentum inside the Democratic Party to come the aid of the suffering people of Darfur. Among the biggest advocates are two of Obama’s top advisers: Biden and U.N Ambassador-designate Susan Rice. But with the military stretched thin, and with many others in his administration more skeptical about the use of force on problems that don’t directly threaten national security, nothing is likely to happen unless Obama puts his own influence and reputation strongly behind an intervention. During the campaign, he signaled a willingness to intervene, but also cautioned: “There’s a lot of cruelty around the world. We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time.”

7) HOW MUCH DOES HE HAVE TO PLACATE THE LEFT? … Politically savvy liberal activists are an important reason Obama beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic nominating contest, and a big reason he blew through all fund-raising records. It will be hard for Obama to govern without their enthusiasm. On the other hand, it will be tough to reinvent politics if Obama is forced to routinely throw bouquets to the various factions of the Democratic Party.


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