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First thoughts: Something for everyone

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Something for everyone: An extraordinary thing happened yesterday: President Obama gave a high-profile speech, and no one in D.C. really criticized it. Not congressional Republicans or the RNC. Not liberal Democrats or Blue Dogs. Even Dick Cheney didn't utter a word, although he certainly made his case in his Hannity interview earlier in the week. The reason for the lack of criticism -- beyond Obama's early 7:40 am ET start time -- was that the Nobel speech contained something for almost everyone to like. Newt Gingrich praised its declaration that evil exists in the world. ("A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies," Obama said. "Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.") Sarah Palin liked it because of its reminder that war is sometimes necessary. ("To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism," he said. "It is a recognition of history.")

*** Breaking from Bush: Yet largely lost in all the talk about the hawkish part of Obama's speech (the explanation of "just" wars, his defense of the military escalation in Afghanistan) was the president's absolute rejection of the Bush years. In fact, it's important to remember that this was perhaps the main reason why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in the first place. "That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions," the president said. "We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard." That Obama could say that and not receive any GOP criticism for it might very well be the most extraordinary part of yesterday's speech. Is Dick Cheney now standing alone?

*** The Obama Doctrine? As we wrote yesterday, Obama's Nobel speech now gives us a pretty firm grasp of his foreign policy philosophy: idealistic realism. "We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice," the president said at the end of the speech. "We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that -- for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth." In fact, you can put together all of Obama's major speeches on foreign soil -- Cairo, Moscow, Prague, Tokyo, and now Oslo -- and you can build the foundation for the Obama Doctrine. We know both the policies he'll pursue while in office and the philosophical reasoning behind the policies.

*** Biden and Dodd: With Obama returning from his overseas trip -- he arrives back at White House in the early afternoon -- the political spotlight moves to Vice President Biden and the 2010 midterms. At 1:45 pm ET, Biden holds an event in East Hartford, CT to tout the stimulus funds the state has received. Joining Biden will be Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent for the entire 2010 cycle. With polls consistently showing Dodd trailing all of the GOP challengers running to defeat him, the Cook Political Report has moved the race from "Toss-Up" to "Lean Republican." Just to give you some perspective, the Cook Report in Dec. 2005 still had Rick Santorum in the "Toss-Up" category. "Democrats have given Dodd time to attempt to repair his problems, but nothing appears to have helped enough to salvage his position," the Cook Report wrote yesterday. Colleen Flanagan of the Connecticut Democratic Party responded: "It's no secret what the Washington smart guys think about this race. But it just doesn't matter what they think. They don't vote in Connecticut and they don't really understand Chris Dodd's decades of service and the relationship he's built with folks here."

*** "Meet" focuses on the economy: Be sure to tune into "Meet the Press" this Sunday, which will devote the hour to a discussion on jobs and the economy. NBC's David Gregory will interview Obama economic adviser Christina Romer, and the roundtable includes Alan Greenspan, CNBC's Jim Cramer, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), and potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R).

*** Speaking of the economy… : A new CNBC poll -- conducted by pollster Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R) -- has Obama's economic approval rating at 46%, the Democratic Party's at 39%, and the GOP's at 26%. Also in the poll, a plurality (43%) believes the economy will improve in the course of the next year. And the survey shows a lack in confidence in American institutions: 77% say they have confidence in the military, compared with 39% for the Supreme Court, 24% for the Fed, 19% for the Treasury Department, 18% for FEMA, 17% for health insurance companies, 15% for Congress, and 10% for the financial industry. Ouch. Here's one more thing: By a 54%-33% margin, Americans say they prefer using the leftover TARP money for deficit reduction rather than for more stimulus spending.

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