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John King: Obama's political team on full throttle

  • Story Highlights
  • On the foreign policy front, Afghanistan and Pakistan dominate
  • President: "Our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists"
  • Economy is the other issue on Team Obama's mind as it blankets the airwaves
  • Is President Obama getting weary of the job? So far, it's "invigorating"
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By John King
CNN Chief National Correspondent
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Editor's note: John King, CNN's chief national correspondent and "State of the Union" host, examines the news made in Sunday talk and offers up this Monday morning crib sheet on what to watch this week in politics.

CNN's John King reviews the political scene on Sunday and what you can expect in the week ahead.

CNN's John King reviews the political scene on Sunday and what you can expect in the week ahead.

(CNN) -- It was an extraordinary Sunday, reflecting the many challenges facing the still young Obama administration.

Why extraordinary? Traditionally, when an administration --Republican or Democratic -- offers up the president for a Sunday interview, the other programs are left without senior administration guests. It is a simple strategy: When the president speaks, he stands alone.

But the Obama White House took a dramatically different approach this week.

Yes, President Obama made his first appearance on a Sunday interview since moving into the White House. But the administration also made available two Cabinet secretaries, Treasury and Defense, as well as the top general and top diplomat charged with implementing the risky new Afghanistan/Pakistan policy.

There's a lot to digest from the Sunday blitz:

"...if we have a high value target in our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we are going after it. But our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists." -- President Obama on CBS' "Face the Nation" See CNN Political Ticker for more

"I think the president made that clear the other day where he talked about consulting with the Pakistanis. If it ultimately comes to it, we will, if necessary, take action. " -- Gen. David Petraeus on CNN's "State of the Union" Video Watch more the interview with Gen. Petraeus »

"There isn't any question that the government [of Afghanistan] has corruption of high levels. ... We do think it's a cancer. President Karzai says publicly that he agrees with that. Now it's up to his government to take action." -- Ambassador Richard Holbrooke on CNN's "State of the Union"

"I think some of our allies will send additional forces to provide security there before the August elections in Afghanistan." -- Secretary Robert Gates on "Fox News Sunday" Key events to watch this week; your personal research packet; front pages around the country »

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, careful going

Petraeus carefully chose his words about whether -- and under what circumstances -- the U.S. military might launch operations inside Pakistan.

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It is a highly controversial issue with the Pakistani government, which repeatedly assures its people the United States has agreed not to operate inside Pakistan. But Obama promised during the campaign he would take such bold steps if necessary, and the question going forward is whether the military sees the need, or opportunities, to launch secret operations that cause tensions between Islamabad and Pakistan.

Also telling was the candor with which Petraeus and Holbrooke acknowledged huge questions:

• Whether the Karzai government in Afghanistan is up to the challenge of fighting corruption.

• Whether they feel safe sharing sensitive information with Pakistani officials because of longstanding ties between the country's security services and al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Read more about the situation with Pakistan

The comments by Gates about the possibility of getting other nations to offer more troops in Afghanistan raise the stakes for the president as he travels to Europe this week. A big challenge is to get longer-term commitments beyond symbolic deployments around the Afghan elections.

Two interesting voices were raised from the Republican side on this issue. The first was from the man who ran against Obama in Campaign 2008, who voiced the opinion that the commander-in-chief was not as candid as he needed to be about the stakes in Afghanistan. And the top Republican in the Congress gave the new strategy his backing:

• "The main thing I would have done in that speech and I'm sorry to say is, to tell the American people that it's going to be long, hard and tough and as these additional troops come in and as we move into the south -- which we do not have control of -- the southern part of Afghanistan, there is going to be an increase in casualties." -- Sen. John McCain on NBC's "Meet the Press"

"There is no other choice. And I want to commend the administration. The surge in Iraq worked. I wish they could bring themselves to say that and I think the surge in Afghanistan is likely to work as well under the brilliant leadership of General Petraeus." -- Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell on CNN's "State of the Union" Video Watch more of McConnell's comments »

The economy stays front and center

The other key topic of Sunday conversation was, of course, the economy. In Congress, Senate Democrats looking to pare back spending a bit have declined to make permanent a new Obama middle class tax cut that was included in the nearly $800 billion stimulus plan.

The president isn't ready to give up on that issue just yet:

"I strongly believe that we should continue those tax cuts. We should make them permanent because the average worker out there -- the average family saw their wages and incomes flat line even during boom times over the last decade. And there's been a huge growth in income at the very top echelons but not for average American workers. They've been losing ground. So I think it's the right thing to do" -- President Obama on CBS' "Face the Nation"

Other key voices were heard Sunday as the budget and economy debate heads into an important week, both in Congress and in the president's agenda overseas:

• "No nation can spend this way and get out of it without debasing the currency and the U.S. returning to a period that we had in the late '70s and early '80s where we had inflation and high unemployment and higher taxes." -- Sen. John McCain on NBC's "Meet the Press"

• "The big mistake governments make in financial crises is to sit back, hope it's going to work itself out, put the brakes on too quickly, not act aggressively enough and we can't afford to make that mistake." -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on ABC's "This Week"

• "We're essentially saying: 'Come make your case'. Nobody likes funding these things. We would like to see more definition than in the last package so this is our way of exercising a little leverage over it. If it's needed, we will all be there to support it." -- Rep. John Spratt, D-South Carolina, on CNN's "State of the Union," explaining why the congressional budget resolutions eliminated a $250 billion "placeholder" the Obama White House wants in case it needs more money for Wall Street bailouts. Video Watch more of Spratt's comments »

"They're not quite there yet.... What we're trying to let them know is that we want to have a successful auto industry, U.S. auto industry. We think we can have a successful U.S. auto industry. But it's got to be one that's realistically designed to weather this storm and to emerge -- at the other end -- much more lean, mean, and competitive than it currently is." -- President Obama on CBS' "Face the Nation" on whether U.S. automakers Chrysler and General Motors have met his test for more government assistance.

Any regrets so far, Mr. President?

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And finally, the president was asked on CBS if he felt like Thomas Jefferson, who said at the end of his term the presidency had brought him "nothing but increasing drudgery and a daily loss of friends."

"I don't think I've lost any friends. But I'm sure I've strained some friendships. And-- look, this-- this is an invigorating job. In some ways, I feel incredibly fortunate to be in this job at a time where the presidency really matters. You know, I'm-- this is not a caretaker presidency right now. Every decision we're making counts. And my team understands that." -- President Obama on "Face the Nation"

All About PakistanAfghanistanU.S. National EconomyBarack ObamaThomas Jefferson

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