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First thoughts: Meeting the press, again

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Meeting the press, again: The last -- and only other -- time President Obama conducted a primetime news conference was on Feb. 9, the very day he traveled to Indiana to sell his stimulus plan. Since that newser six weeks ago, the president signed that stimulus into law (2/17); announced he was redeploying 17,000 troops to Afghanistan (2/17); unveiled his $3.6 trillion budget (2/26); announced his plans to bring home troops from Iraq in 19 months (2/27); began facing the furor over the AIG bonuses (3/16); and went on the road to sell his budget (3/18). Indeed, tonight's news conference comes at a crucial time for Obama. While his poll ratings have held steady, the public's anger over bailouts and the AIG bonus mess in particular have created a volatile political environment. "The American public is rooting for him. They want him to succeed," Democratic pollster Peter Hart told NBC. "But against that, they want answers." Before the news conference, which begins at 8:01 pm ET, Obama meets in the morning with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Also today, the president calls the space station, and we might learn more about the administration's plan about the drug violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Video: President Obama is taking his economic message directly to the people with his second prime-time news conference since becoming president. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

*** A lesson learned? The new polls out in the last few days all seem to agree on one thing: AIG has not hurt Obama personally. Instead, it has hurt Washington, Wall Street, and some views on the economic fixes -- but not the president. The lesson the White House will take from these polls? They aren't risking over-exposure; they probably believe that had the president NOT done this six-day media blitz, he would have been more singed on AIG than he was. But he was out there talking all week about it and wasn't hunkered down at the White House. Look back at this last week and realize this will be a lesson the Obama White House learns.

*** From Wall Street goat to genius? Six weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Geithner got panned after his first policy rollout -- and then pretty much every day after that. But after unveiling yesterday's toxic-asset plan, and with the Dow jumping up almost 500 points, Geithner has suddenly turned into a Wall Street hero, at least for now. As Jackie Calmes writes, "This time President Obama directed some of the stagecraft. This time … Geithner fleshed out the substance of their long-anticipated program to remove banks' toxic assets and revive the financial system. And this time the reaction was widely positive, giving the embattled Mr. Geithner a critically needed boost." But it's important to keep this in mind: While the press will continue to watch the market's daily reactions to the administration's policies, what truly matters is what the Dow and the economy in general look like come the summer and fall of 2010. And one other risk: Will some on Main Street look at Wall Street's reaction and wonder if this new banking plan is TOO pro-Wall Street?

*** Slowly but surely: One potential question that Obama might receive tonight -- on the dearth of high-level appointees at the Treasury Department -- might be a tad easier for him to answer now that he announced yesterday that he's filling three of the top four jobs underneath Geithner. The picks: Neal Wolin (deputy secretary), Lael Brainard (undersecretary for international affairs), and Bush appointee Stuart Levey (undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence), who will remain at the post he's held since 2004. These picks come as government expert Paul Light writes a New York Times op-ed arguing that Congress needs to do a better job speeding up the confirmation process. Light also makes this point: While the Senate has confirmed just one Treasury appointee, Geithner is hardly alone at Treasury. "He has an at-will chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, press officer, three special counselors and 50 at-will appointees working in his executive suite." Still, something needs to give on the confirmation process. The Senate Finance Committee is holding up the vetting process at an unprecedented rate.  

*** Regulators, mount up: Speaking of the Treasury Department, Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify on AIG oversight before House Financial Services Committee beginning at 10:00 am ET. During his testimony, Geithner will urge Congress to pass legislation that would give the federal government new regulatory powers, including "resolution authority," to help ensure that key financial institutions that fail don't pose risk to the country's financial system. "We must ensure that our country never faces this situation again," Geithner is expected to say. "To achieve that goal, the administration and Congress have to work together to enact comprehensive regulatory reform and eliminate gaps in supervision. All institutions and markets that could pose systemic risk will be subject to strong oversight, including appropriate constraints on risk-taking. Regulators must apply standards, not just to protect the soundness of individual institutions, but to protect the stability of the system as a whole." This new agency could be a public way for the Treasury Department to appoint a secretary of AIG or an AIG czar. Keep this in mind: AIG has received more government guarantees than the annual budgets of State and Homeland Security COMBINED!!!

*** Global author: In advance of the upcoming G-20 meeting in Europe, the president has written an op-ed running in more than 30 countries (including the U.S.) that calls for bold international action to confront the global economic crisis. "Our leadership is grounded in a simple premise: We will act boldly to lift the American economy out of crisis and reform our regulatory structure, and these actions will be strengthened by complementary action abroad," he says. "Through our example, the United States can promote a global recovery and build confidence around the world; and if the London Summit helps galvanize collective action, we can forge a secure recovery, and future crises can be averted."

*** 2012 watch: Last night, DNC chair Tim Kaine announced he was appointing 37 members -- including Jim Clyburn and Claire McCaskill as co-chairs -- to look at the Democratic presidential primary calendar and nominating process. (Obama campaign manager David Plouffe also is a member of the commission.) Question here: Do we really think Obama's DNC is going to back any plan that costs Iowa or South Carolina its place in the calendar? For those folks in Michigan and Florida looking for a role early in the process, they may have to start asking for a rotation of some sort beginning in 2016 -- not 2012. Then again, the length of the primary process in 2008 could help sell some states and state party leaders that earlier isn't necessarily better. In fact, could this lead to a push to guarantee longer primary seasons? The quick end of the 2008 GOP primary campaign doomed McCain.

*** More 2012: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal headlines a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which takes place at the National Building Museum in DC at 7:00 pm ET. Remember the last time Jindal was the main GOP responder to an Obama event in primetime?
Countdown to NY-20 special: 7 days
Countdown to Obama's 100th day: 36 days 
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 70 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 77 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 224 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 588 days

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