Moments before that comment, Smith spun severe division in the White House over the war this way: "...these folks are infused with ambition and intelligence and have lots of things at stake and there really is quite a lot of friction among them all, as they're theoretically trying to get to the same place." Woodward replied: "I mean, it's intense....so much is unsettled. The President's committed to 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. But, in these secret meetings in the Situation Room in the White House, he repeatedly says, 'we need a plan to get out. There can be no wiggle room. I'm not going to do ten years.'"
The Washington Post reporter then observed: "[Obama] is out of Afghanistan psychologically and the question is, for a commander in chief, don't you have to be kind of the guy who's up there, 'Yes, we can. We're going to win.'?" At that point, Smith ran to Obama's defense with the "blank check" remark.