Discuss as:

Obama agenda: Merkel, health, Iraq

The AP previews today's Obama-Merkel meeting. "President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel probably will hold to their disparate views on the Afghanistan war and economic policy in the midst of worldwide financial problems during a meeting Friday."

Speaking of negotiating and bending and lobbying moderate Dems, the AP looks at how some liberals in the party are worried the president will bend too much.

Is there a bigger story in the world that no one is covering than the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq's major cities next week? "Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken to calling the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq's cities by next Tuesday a 'great victory,' a repulsion of foreign occupiers he compares to the rebellion against British troops in 1920… American commanders have hewed far more closely to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing combat forces from Iraq's cities than expected only a few weeks ago, according to American and Iraqi officials. ... The day itself has been declared a national holiday, though it is not yet clear whether Iraq will hold the "feast and festivals" he recently promised. American and Iraqi officials acknowledge the risks -- to Mr. Maliki's political position and to Iraqis' safety."

 Video: A massive bombing that left scores of people dead in Baghdad Wednesday has raised new fears that the U.S. is entering a bad phase in Iraq just days ahead of a troop pullout. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Per the New York Times, John McCain was making demands for his support of any immigration bill. "President Obama told a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday that Congress should begin debating a comprehensive immigration plan by year's end or early next year, but Republicans said they would support a measure only if it included an expansion of guest worker programs. Leading the call for that provision was Senator John McCain of Arizona, who told Mr. Obama he would have to take his 'political lumps' and stand up to labor unions that oppose the idea. The president praised Mr. McCain for paying 'a significant political cost for doing the right thing.'"

"Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday the administration will send legislative language to Congress in the next few days to create a consumer financial products agency, one of the key parts of its overhaul plan. ... But he refused to answer a question on whether he had been informed ahead of time by Citigroup Inc. of its plans to modify its salary arrangements for many bank employees."

"Seeking to avoid the legislative minutia that has consumed some of his predecessors, President Barack Obama is pushing his agenda through Congress by outlining a broad vision of his policy goals and then letting lawmakers fill in the blanks. Republicans would like to make him pay for that. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill see in Obama's approach a chance to paint the young president as disengaged from the work required to address the country's ills. 'It's the perpetual campaign,' said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 'It's photo-ops; it doesn't happen to include doing the hard work it takes to solve big problems that he talks about but I don't ever see him doing.'"

(You can call Obama a lot of things, but is "disengaged" one of them?)

As we reported yesterday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry's former-brother-in law -- who remains a close friend -- and two more Obama top fundraisers were handed plum jobs as ambassadors to Italy, Austria and Finland.

"Straw huts, hula dancers and kids playing with hula hoops were all on display Thursday evening in the White House's backyard - not the typical congressional picnic," AP writes. "President Barack Obama wanted it this way for the annual picnic for members of Congress and their families. 'I just want to say to all the members of Congress, you've been working hard. I wish I could give you all trips to Hawaii,' Obama said in his brief remarks. 'But I figured since, given our budget crunch we can't do that, that we'd at least bring Hawaii to you.'" (Check out the photo of Obama and daughter dancing with lays on.)