1. White House officials had a double-barreled message: for the NATO strategy to work -- for an infusion of U.S. troops to have the possibility of success -- the government of Afghanistan must be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people. Either a run-off election or a coalition government would do -- though it's President Karzai's choice. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on CBS's "Face The Nation" that the U.S. government shouldn't be seen as influencing the election.
"...what would be worse is if the Afghan people thought that the course that was chosen was done by the determination of the United States. And then it would lose the legitimacy and the credibility to the Afghan people."
2. But Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), speaking for conservatives, said that while a stable government in Afghanistan was critical, it shouldn't be the linchpin of the U.S. strategy. ""I hope President Karzai understands that our national security interests don't depend entirely on his decision there whether to allow a recount. Obviously the legitimacy of that government is an important component of it. My point is it shouldn't be the lynch pin for us deciding whether we're going to protect our national security interests in that region."
On CNN's State of the Union with John King, Emanuel said it would be "reckless" for the president to make his decision without a thorough review of whether the Karzai government has the potential to be seen as legitimate.
3. Sen. John Kerry (R-MA), on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: "I don't think they are about to take over the country. Al Qaeda is not essentially here today. It is in northwest Pakistan and in some 58 or 59 other countries in the world."
4. Is the President tough enough, asked National Journal? David Axelrod, on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, answered:
I think, if the president weren't tough, we wouldn't be where we are vis-à-vis trying to deal with the economy, two wars, and some--remember what he inherited here. He walked in the door, we had the worst economy since the Great Depression. He had to take immediate steps to pull us back from what many thought might be a Great Depression. He had to sort out in Afghanistan a war where we had seven years of drift and no policy. And he passed a series of things that are going to move this country forward, from children's health care to pay equity for women, a series of things...This Congress has passed more legislation in the first term of this president than any president in our lifetime. So I think he has been plenty tough. I think people want toughness, but they also want to have thoughtful leadership. And that requires reviewing these issues, thinking them through clearly, and bringing people along, and that's what he's doing."
Axelrod was not willing to say whether President Obama would actually sign a bill getting rid of the insurance industry's anti-trust exemption.
5. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said it was "too soon" and perhaps "premature" to say whether a second stimulus was needed. She was responding to this chart, presented by NBC's David Gregory: