Is today the day of departure in Egypt?... Another mixed jobs report: Unemployment rate falls to 9%, but economy added just 36,000 net jobs in January… Reagan the pragmatist (and Obama, too)… Potential 2012 GOP field (a la 2008 Dem field) is likely to agree on the big issues but disagree on the small stuff… And Sunday’s “Meet the Press” has John Kerry and James Baker.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Day of Departure? “Tahrir Square filled again with vast crowds of anti-government demonstrators Friday, demanding for the 11th day the immediate ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak,” the Washington Post reports. So far: “Friday's gathering was calm and orderly, without the beatings, bloodshed and widespread arrests of foreign journalists and observers that had sparked outrage the day before.” And it appears the Egyptian army is trying to protect the protestors. Last night, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen said on the “Daily Show”: "In discussions I've had with their military leadership, they have reassured me that they have no intent to fire on their own people. They have taken steps to try to quell the violence." The Obama administration is discussing various scenarios, and the one they hope ends up being the plan is Mubarak leaving sooner rather than later (even though initially all former ambassador Frank Wisner asked of Mubarak earlier this week was to announce he would not run again and that his son would not run either; as one official put it, Wisner went 2-for-2 on the "asks" he made of Mubarak).
*** No single option: In addition, the hope is that the Army steps in to help with a transitional coalition government. However, administration officials say there is no single option. One senior official told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell last night: "There are a number of possible scenarios. We have had a number of conversations with the Egyptians. It's wrong to suggest there is a single plan that we have discussed with the Egyptians.” But they do want Mubarak out ASAP. Here’s more that we can report: The administration also is trying to get other world leaders to lobby Mubarak to leave, and they are having some success with European leaders. By the way, where are the United Nations and the Arab League in all of this? Once again, these institutions, designed to be backstops in a time of crisis, aren’t effective in trying to resolve what we’re seeing in Egypt. And the United States has been filling this role.
*** A mixed jobs report: The AP with the breaking news: “The unemployment rate dropped sharply last month to 9%, the lowest level in nearly two years. But the economy generated only 36,000 net new jobs, the fewest in four months. The January report illustrates how job growth remains the economy's weakest spot, even as other economic indicators point to a recovery that is strengthening. Friday's report offered a conflicting picture on hiring. Unemployment fell because the Labor Department's household survey determined that more than a half-million people without jobs found work. The department conducts a separate survey of businesses, which showed tepid job creation. The two surveys sometimes diverge. Severe winter weather likely reduced the number of jobs created. Harsh snowstorms last month cut into construction employment, which fell by 32,000, the most since May."
*** Reagan the pragmatist: As the political world marks what would be Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday on Sunday, we’ve read and heard plenty about the nation’s 40th president. About his impact on conservatism and today’s Republican Party. About the parallels between his presidency and Obama’s. And about his sunny, optimistic demeanor. But one important aspect of Reagan’s presidency has received less attention: his pragmatism. As an avid reader of National Review and an opponent of Medicare, Reagan was unquestionably a conservative. But he also increased taxes, increased the deficit, signed into law an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and negotiated with the nation considered to be America’s enemy. “In office, Reagan's willingness to take what he could get led to compromises on welfare and education bills when he was governor and on Social Security and tax reform when he was president,” Reagan biographer Lou Cannon has written.
*** Obama the pragmatist, too: This pragmatism, in fact, is where you can draw comparisons with President Obama, even if they’re hardly ideological soul mates. While Reagan read National Review and railed against Medicare, Obama’s background is unquestionably liberal (community organizer, liberal record in the Illinois state Senate). But like Reagan's, Obama’s presidency so far has contained several pragmatic moves -- reaching the tax-cut deal with Republicans, crafting a health plan that could win support from both Bernie Sanders and Kent Conrad, and waving the white flag on closing Gitmo. Although those moves disappointed some in his base -- and forced him to break some campaign promises -- they go to the heart of what Cannon said about Reagan: a willingness to take what you can get.
*** Reagan and the 2012ers: The potential GOP 2012ers have plenty events tied to Reagan’s upcoming birthday. Today, Newt Gingrich (R) screens his documentary, “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny” in Sterling, IL, near Reagan’s birthplace at 4:30 pm ET… Then, tomorrow, Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Mike Pence (who isn’t running for president) speak at an Illinois GOP fundraiser celebrating what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday… And Sarah Palin headlines a banquet at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, CA… Also, Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) today is in Chicago at a policy luncheon, where he speaks around noon ET. By the way, here is MSNBC.com’s slideshow of Reagan. (*** UPDATE *** An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the Illinois Reagan fundraiser is today. It is tomorrow. It's been corrected.)
*** Agreeing on the big stuff… : When you now look back at the 2008 GOP presidential field, what is striking was its ideological diversity. You had someone who supported abortion rights (Rudy Giuliani), a candidate who had previously defended Roe v. Wade and embryonic stem-cell research (Mitt Romney), another person who backed comprehensive immigration reform (John McCain), and even another who opposed the Iraq war (Ron Paul). But four years later, no matter who ends up running, the 2012 GOP field will be much more homogenous. All will oppose abortion and the health-care law. All will probably favor extending the tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Afghanistan. And all will probably oppose comprehensive immigration reform.
*** … And disagreeing over the smaller stuff: Indeed, the field is shaping up to be very similar to the 2008 Dem presidential field, which agreed on the big issues (Iraq, Bush tax cuts, universal health care). What they ended up fighting over were other things -- like resumes, narratives, past votes, and the details. (Of course, it's now ironic that the most heated domestic policy disagreement between Obama and Hillary Clinton was over the individual health-insurance mandate.) That's why the Massachusetts health law potentially looms so large for Romney. Ditto John Thune's TARP vote, Tim Pawlenty's lack of pizzazz, Jon Huntsman's work in the Obama administration, and Haley Barbour's Mississippi roots. The GOP battles won't be over the big ideas and policies. Rather, they'll be over the smaller stuff.
*** “Meet” this Sunday: On “Meet the Press” this weekend, NBC’s David Gregory will interview Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, as well as former Bush 41 Secretary of State James Baker, on the situation in Egypt. There also will be a special roundtable on Reagan’s 100th birthday, with Baker (who also served as Reagan’s chief of staff), Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, and Willie Brown.
*** “Meet” at Brookings: Also, as part of the “Meet the Press at Brookings” series, NBC’s David Gregory yesterday moderated a panel of Middle East experts at the Brookings Institution on the escalating situation in Egypt. What happens if Egypt descends further into chaos and instability? Former CIA intelligence analyst and Middle East expert Ken Pollack said, “Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is a critical element of Al-Qaeda, are probably right now, if they haven’t already done so, thinking this is our moment, this the revolution we have been trying to create for 30 years in Egypt. And my guess is that like Lenin through that sealed train through Germany in World War I, they are trying as hard as they can to get their people back to Egypt to stir up the situation.”
Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 18 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 277 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 367 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
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