From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough: As anyone who has turned on a television set in the past 12-15 hours has noticed, Michael Jackson's passing will overshadow any political news today -- and perhaps throughout the weekend. Of course, that's probably welcome news to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, as well as to a Republican Party that was going to have to endure more "What's wrong with the GOP?" stories. Also, the Jackson news, plus the fact that it's the Friday before Congress leaves for its July 4 break, makes it a ripe opportunity for a bad news dump. So what/who will it be? Still, politics doesn't stop. President Obama meets in the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 10:30 am ET, and the two hold a joint press conference an hour later.
Obviously, much of the coverage of today's bilateral will focus on some of the tension between the two world leaders, particularly over fiscal policy (Merkel has questioned the U.S. spending, while the Obama administration has wondered why Germany isn't doing more to counteract the global recession). But do note that this is the THIRD personal meeting between the two since Obama became president. The biggest news that Merkel and Obama could make would be on the issue of Iran.
*** Pick your title -- Human Nature, PYT, The Lady in My Life, The Way You Make Me Feel, She's Out of My Life, The Girl is Mine: Mark Sanford tries to return to some normalcy today, when he holds a cabinet meeting at 12:30 pm. But the calls for him to resign are getting louder now that he's admitted to visiting his Argentine girlfriend while on a taxpayer-funded trip. "While the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with," Sanford said in a statement yesterday. "That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip." That's not satisfying some South Carolina Republicans, however. "I think he's gone, it's over," said state Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler Jr., per the New York Times. "Leaving aside his personal life, when you use taxpayer dollars, that's what Republicans are all about -- spending tax dollars wisely. This was not spending tax dollars wisely." The next three weeks are huge for Sanford. If there's a drip-drip of more allegations, then he probably can't hang on. But he's got two things going for him now: 1) Michael Jackson's death, and 2) the July 4th holiday. Both could be disruptions that keep him out of the public eye a tad.
*** Thriller (on Capitol Hill): Perhaps the biggest drama in politics today will be in the House of Representatives, where Democrats are trying to bring to the floor -- and then pass -- the energy/climate change/cap-and-trade legislation. Per NBC's Mike Viqueira, Democrats last night didn't think they had the votes to pass the bill. And if they don't have the votes, they aren't going to bring it to the floor. Viq adds that the legislation is up in the air as of this morning. Right now, House Democrats plan to move forward with the bill first thing today. But it's not in the bag. Speaker Pelosi was seen stalking the floor yesterday during votes to button-hole wavering Democrats. Of course, today's drama sparks this question: If the energy bill is THIS heavy of a lift in the Democratic-controlled House, then how the heck is the White House going to get this bill out of the Senate?
Video: House Democrats just announced that they'll take a vote on a sweeping climate change bill by the end of the week. Venture capitalist Ira Ehrenpreis discusses why investing in green energy pays off in an economic downturn.
*** Beat It: Speaking to reporters at yesterday's Christian Science Monitor breakfast, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel listed a few contrasts between this year's health-care fight and the one that failed in '93-94 (industry groups are now playing a constructive role in the reform, the House committees drafting the legislation are now working together, and the administration is now allowing Congress to draft the legislation). But here's another difference: The majority of TV ad spending is SUPPORTING the White House's health-care efforts -- not OPPOSING them. That's also true on energy. To put it simply, Harry and Louise are getting overwhelmed right now. The campaign apparatus that serves as Obama's backstop is like nothing we've seen for a president, well, maybe ever. And that apparatus is probably enough to blunt special interest pressure. We've seen one example already -- the MoveOn TV ad against Dianne Feinstein. It's a message the group and Obama supporters hope is received by other wavering Democrats on health care. Also, the New York Times has a C.W.-setting piece on how the Obama White House and Senate Democrats are at an impasse over how to pay for health care.
*** Wanna Be Startin' Somethin': Missing those daily superdelegate counts? The speculation about when states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan would hold their primaries/caucuses? Come on, admit it -- you miss it. Well, if you are, you can head over Saturday morning to the first meeting of the DNC's Democratic Change Commission, which has been tasked with reforming 1) the primary calendar, 2) the number of superdelegates, and 3) the caucus system. Presiding over the meeting will be DNC chair Tim Kaine and commission co-chairs Jim Clyburn and Claire McCaskill, and there isn't supposed to be any big news. The 37-member commission will listen to a presentation of Democratic Party presidential nominations by Rhodes Cook; a look at the superdelegates by Elaine Kamarck; and an examination of the caucus system by Organizing for America's Mitch Stewart. This is all in the fact-gathering stage, but ask yourself this: How likely is it that this DNC would dramatically change a system that helped launch the president's campaign? Iowa and South Carolina are VERY safe. As for the superdelegate system, well that's another story…
*** Because I'm bad, I'm bad, come on (or sha-mon): Per Politico, "House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) engaged in a late-afternoon shouting match on the House floor after Obey reportedly rebuffed Waters on an earmark request, aides and witnesses said." More: "Witnesses, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it appeared that Waters pushed or shoved Obey. The pair were seen shouting at each other and had to be separated by members -- who were crowded on the floor casting final votes before heading off to a party at the White House." She wanted him to fund a program in her name. Obey, no fan of projects in members' names -- so-called "monuments to me" -- said no. The scuffle ensued. Will this make Obey a hero on Fox News opinion programs? Stay tuned.
*** Rock With You (and Reagan): Finally, while covering the Reagan White House, NBC's Andrea Mitchell remembers vividly Michael Jackson's photo-op with the late president. Reagan (and Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole) granted him a presidential public safety communication award on May 14, 1984, to thank him for allowing the White House to use his hit song, "Beat it" in a campaign against teen drunken driving. "Well, isn't this a thriller," Reagan said at the time. "We haven't seen this many people since we left China." The Washington Post reported then: "'Just think, you all came to see me,' Reagan added, looking out over the crowd on the South Lawn of the White House."
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 130 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 494 days
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.