From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Just a little patience? Are we starting to see evidence of the country's (especially the media's) short-attention span take hold? From the left, Paul Krugman today contends that the Obama stimulus was too small, and that he'll need a second stimulus. "The latest data confirm those worries — and suggest that the Obama administration's economic policies are already falling behind the curve." (Krugman has influence with congressional Dems, so expect to hear some chatter about a second stimulus.) And from the right, Sens. John McCain and Richard Shelby argued over the weekend whether enough is being done with the banks. "'Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), speaking on 'Fox News Sunday,' said that in its early efforts to stabilize the banking system, the Obama administration has 'started off badly with a message that was not specific.'" (You've gotta love the irony of McCain criticizing Obama for not being specific on the banking crisis; that was part of McCain's problem during the campaign.) All of this seems to be creating an atmosphere of, "We need to do something and need to do something now" again, right? Then again, today is just Day 49 for the Obama administration, and as our recent NBC/WSJ poll noted, 84% believe that Obama inherited the economic problems, and 66% of those people said that Obama had at least a year before he was responsible for them.
*** Stem cell day: Outside of his reversal of the Mexico City Policy on overseas abortions and his nomination of Kathleen Sebelius to head HHS (which angered some anti-abortion activists), Obama hasn't really waded into the culture wars during his first seven weeks as president. But that changes at 11:45 am ET today, when he delivers remarks and then signs an executive order lifting the Bush administration's restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research. Under Bush, NBC's John Yang notes, no federal funding could be used for research on stem-cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001 -- the date he announced his policy from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. What Obama's executive order will do is remove that "artificial deadline," in the words of a senior administration official, for the creation of stem cell-lines. In short, after Monday, new stem-cell lines may be created for the purposes of research. But the change will not be overnight, Yang adds; it will take the National Institutes of Health some time to develop research guidelines. Also, as the New York Times points out, Obama will leave it to Congress to decide on the thorniest issue of all: whether the "legislative ban on federal financing for human embryo experiments should also be overturned."
*** Other stem cell odds and ends: A few other things worth noting for today's stem-cell news: Polls taken in 2007 showed that about 60% of the public supports embryonic stem-cell research, and loosening the Bush restrictions has been a bipartisan aim… Indeed, joining Obama today will be three Republicans who support the science: Orrin Hatch, Arlen Specter, and Mike Castle... What's more, it's quite likely that the Bush policy would have been reversed even if McCain had won back in November, since the Arizona senator also favors this research.
*** Under his skin? While the president did his best to avoid making news in his recent interview with the New York Times, let's not ignore his decision to call back and re-answer the paper's question whether -- as conservatives are arguing -- Obama is driving this country towards socialism. "[H]e called reporters from the Oval Office to assert that his actions have been 'entirely consistent with free-market principles' and to point out that large-scale government intervention in the markets and expansion of social welfare programs began under President George W. Bush." Clearly, the president was irked by the use of the word. And we wonder if Schumer said the word "moderate" so much during his "Meet the Press" interview, that it was an intentional response to the "socialist" line of questioning.
*** The earmark tightrope: Just askin', but will Obama have the credibility to both sign this omnibus AND lecture Congress about the number of earmarks? It's apparently what the White House is going to attempt to do this week, but it's a very tough line to walk. The Hill says the omnibus bill is expected to pass this week.
*** Geithner watch: The announcement over the weekend of three key Treasury appointments should be enough to calm down the percolating stories about staffing issues at this important department. And yet, the New York Times ran a potentially C.W.-setting piece about whether Geithner is in over his head. "Analysts say it is far too early to know if Mr. Geithner and his team will be effective. But some worry that political and financial constraints have made them reluctant to grapple with the full magnitude of the crisis." and
*** Frum strikes back: Also over the weekend, Newsweek fired the latest salvo in the Limbaugh wars when it published a story entitled "Why Rush is Wrong." The wrinkle here: The piece was by conservative David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter. "Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic Party in the 1980s," Frum writes. "He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important." Americans United for Change also is going up with another TV ad tying Limbaugh to the Republicans. One other Limbaugh thought: It was interesting to hear Gingrich on "Meet the Press" basically distance himself from Limbaugh in the same way Steele attempted to do, but Gingrich just did it more eloquently -- and in a way that wouldn't draw Limbaugh's ire.
Video: Gingrich discusses Rush Limbaugh's role in the GOP on "Meet the Press."
*** Captain Kirk: On Capitol Hill today at 5:00 pm ET, the Senate Finance Committee holds its confirmation hearing for Ron Kirk, President Obama's pick to be U.S. trade representative. The biggest controversy: The Finance Committee's discovery that Kirk owed thousands of dollars in back taxes. As the Washington Times' editorial page puts it, "Good grief! Yet another presidential nominee … owes back taxes. He joins Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, former Sen. Tom Daschle, failed Chief Performance Officer candidate Nancy Killefer, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (whose husband was the offender) among those nominated who owed back taxes."
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 85 days
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Countdown to Election Day 2009: 239 days
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