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Obama agenda: Reviewing the speech

The front page of the Boston Globe: "Amid declining support for the war around the country and in his own Democratic Party on Capitol Hill, Obama last night avoided using the language of outright victory used so often during his presidential campaign. Instead of talk of 'winning' in Afghanistan, he spoke of degrading the Taliban's capabilities enough to transfer responsibility for security to Afghans themselves, similar to the handover that is underway in Iraq."

The New York Post also points out that "win" was missing from the speech. "President Obama told the nation last night that he will send more 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and start bringing US forces home in mid-2011 -- but the word 'win' was nowhere in his 4,581-word prime-time address."

The New York Daily News' cover (below Tiger and John Gotti Jr. beating "the rap again") is Obama: "It won't be easy."

The AP's Woodward fact-checks Obama's speech: "Can more U.S. troops in Afghanistan really convert Afghans into an effective fighting force? Will allies answer the call to do more? Is Pakistan truly prepared to take on the extremists who pose the greatest threat? President Barack Obama said yes in his speech Tuesday laying out his plan to pour 30,000 more troops into the Afghan war, then begin pulling out in 18 months. The prospects, though, at least judging by recent history, are mixed."

The Los Angeles Times' McManus writes about the rationale for setting a withdrawal timetable. "The Taliban may be the deadliest threat the U.S. faces in Afghanistan, but it is by no means the only enemy. Almost as dangerous is the corruption and incompetence of Hamid Karzai's government, which has alienated Afghans and allowed the Taliban to stage a resurgence… The president's speech aimed to address all three of those problems at once -- and make time an ally instead of an enemy. Obama's hope is that setting a timetable for withdrawal is the best way to compel his balky partner Karzai to clean up his government and train bigger and better Afghan forces to take over most of the battle."

The Wall Street Journal's Jerry Seib: [T]he relationship between the American and Afghan presidents now becomes one of the world's most important, and most complex. American officials alternate between exasperation at Mr. Karzai for his flaws and failings, and a realization they have no choice but to build him into a stronger foundation for stopping Islamic extremists. It's hardly clear that the U.S. can simultaneously critique and strengthen Mr. Karzai. The Obama approach, as the president himself describes it, sounds an awful lot like tough love."

USA Today notes the tricky situation Obama faces in which much of his base disagrees with sending more troops to Afghanistan. "'I'm a big fan of the president's,' said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. 'But I think he's come to the wrong conclusion.' That leaves Obama in a perilous political situation, facing a potential mutiny on this issue among liberal interest groups such as MoveOn that helped elect him and Democratic legislators on whom he is counting to pass a health care bill in the next few weeks."

Today, Obama "has a meeting scheduled with Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina."