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First Thoughts: Truce?

White House and U.S. Chamber put aside their differences, for now… Why they both need each other, and why the 2011-2012 legislative calendar encourages the détente… Obama’s speech to U.S. Chamber takes place at 11:30 am ET… Speaking of adversaries putting aside their differences, Obama sat down yesterday with FOX’s Bill O’Reilly… “Placate the opposition” week?... Sarah Palin, media ombudsman… And when Reagan becomes all things to all people.


President Obama greets audience members after speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington today.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Truce? In the last election cycle, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent millions against Democratic candidates and President Obama’s health-care legislation, while the White House criticized the business group for, among other things, failing to disclose its donors. Now? Obama today delivers a speech at the Chamber. Many are casting it as the White House appeasing an adversary, even if just temporarily. But the same can be said of the Chamber, too. The AP writes, “The White House and the Chamber now are highlighting areas of common ground and expressing a joint commitment to creating jobs. Obama has stressed his new economic agenda, featuring competitiveness, innovation, energy and entrepreneurship. Disagreements linger and are no less vehement, but they no longer are the subject of loud legislative battles and big dollar advertising campaigns by the Chamber.”

*** Why they both need each other: Part of this détente is due to the White House’s realization that Obama can’t win re-election if he’s perceived as anti-business (even though that charge doesn’t pass the smell test with the Dow above 12,000 and with corporations raking in big profits). Similarly, the Chamber probably realizes that it can’t be seen as anti-Obama if there’s a good chance he remains president for the next six years (as several high-profile companies have quit the group since it launched its attacks on the Obama White House and its legislative priorities). So in that respect, the speech today is as important to the Chamber as it is to Obama. But much of the truce is also the reality of the 2011-2012 legislative calendar. “Having achieved his principal goals on health care and financial regulation (while failing on capping carbon emissions), Mr. Obama has moved toward less polarizing priorities,” CNBC’s John Harwood writes in the New York Times. “And Republicans’ new strength on Capitol Hill requires that any substantive action have bipartisan support.”

*** Time, history, and Taft: Obama’s speech to the U.S. Chamber takes place at 11:30 am ET. And the Chamber emails First Read these facts: 1) “The Chamber has hosted nearly every president in our 98 year history (including Kennedy during our 50th anniv in 1962).” 2) “The idea of the U.S. Chamber actually came from a president: President William Howard Taft, [who] in a message to Congress on December 7, 1911, addressed the need for a ‘central organization in touch with associations and chambers of commerce throughout the country and able to keep purely American interests in a closer touch with different phases of commercial affairs.’”  

*** Obama vs. O’Reilly: Speaking of adversaries putting aside their differences, the president sat down with FOX’s Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl yesterday in what has become a tradition of Obama granting an interview to the network broadcasting the big game. What Obama said about Mubarak and Egypt: “Only he knows what he’s going to do. But here’s what we know -- is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was. The Egyptian people want freedom.” When O’Reilly responded that the U.S. can’t force Mubarak to leave, Obama answered, “But what we can do, Bill, is we can say that, ‘The time is now for you to start making a change in that country.’” And then O’Reilly asked Obama about his harshest critics. “Even the folks who hate you, they don’t know you… What they hate is whatever funhouse mirror image of you that’s out there. And they don’t know you. And so, you don’t take it personally." Interestingly, the tone of the interview was more adversarial than the questions themselves.

*** Sarah Palin, media ombudsman: After speaking Friday night in California to mark Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, Sarah Palin sat down with CBN's David Brody to talk about Obama's handling of the crisis in Egypt ("This is that 3am White House phone call and it seems ... that that call went right to the answering machine") and what she might do differently if she runs for president ("I would continue on the same course of not really caring what other people say about me or worrying about the things that they make up"). But then she said this about the political media: "I think much of the mainstream media is already becoming so irrelevant because there is not balance... There is not truth coming out of the mainstream media, and I know that first hand... I want the mainstream media, and I’ve said this for a couple of years now, I want to help ‘em. I have a journalism degree, that is what I studied." Could it be the one thing that TRULY animates Palin and fires her up is media criticism? Of course, she does what many partisan media critics do: use some outlier opinion/activist media slight to attempt to define the entire practicing MSM. Still, it clearly fires her up. Watch out Mr. Bozell; she may be after YOUR job, not Obama’s!

*** Reagan becomes all things to all people? And don’t miss this take, via Politico, on the celebration marking Reagan’s 100th birthday. “On the eve of what would have been his 100th birthday, Ronald Reagan is entering the final stages of a civic canonization that leaves even some of his most fervent admirers uneasy. The longstanding conservative icon, lampooned in life by the left, is being elevated into the pantheon of American leaders who transcended partisan politics. What worries the right about this is that by being sculpted in marble, Reagan may be stripped of the traits that made him so revered among conservatives and despised by liberals. In other words, if the 40th president is all things to all people, he means nothing to anyone.”

Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 15 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 274 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 364 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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