5:45 p.m. ET: Things are looking up for President Obama. The economic stimulus bill has passed the House and is set to do the same in the Senate. Sure, no Republicans backed the bill, but maybe this whole bipartisanship thing was overrated anyway. More importantly, no Cabinet nominees have quit or been forced out today, and that has to be a positive sign.
Perhaps Obama is getting good vibes because it's the birthday weekend of his hero, Abraham Lincoln. Speaking of which, The Rundown is going to celebrate Presidents' Day by not browsing or running anything down. Back Tuesday with all the latest wisdom and Web links.
8 a.m. ET: Say this for being president -- at least it's never boring.
Just as President Obama seemed to be hitting his stride on the stimulus bill yesterday, whipping up support outside the Beltway as he counted down the hours until the measure was on his desk, the White House got hit with a fresh piece of bad news, as Judd Gregg withdrew his own nomination for Commerce secretary. And it wasn't even Friday the 13th yet. What will befall the new administration today? Another Cabinet implosion? Locusts?
Gregg's move has prompted a fresh new round of stories on bipartisanship in Washington, or lack thereof. But is it a testament to the capital's partisan divide, or just to one man's indecisiveness? Yes, Gregg is a Republican and a conservative. Yes, he disagrees with Obama on the stimulus and the Census and a host of other issues. But Gregg knew that two weeks ago, and so did Obama. It's hard to see how Obama is really to blame for this, unless you fault him for a) picking a conservative Republican in the first place for a traditionally partisan job; or b) not saying initially to Gregg, "Are you absolutely, super-duper sure about this?" You can bet that will be added to the standard vetting questionnaire.
Whoever's fault the withdrawal itself was, the administration's handling of the story was not one of its finer moments so far. Though the timeline remains muddled, it is clear that the White House knew ahead of time that Gregg was going to pull out, so it's odd that officials seemed so unprepared initially to respond. It's also odd that Obama himself and his people didn't have their stories straight on what they knew about Gregg's decision and when they knew it.
With that distraction behind them, Team Obama can go back today to fighting for the stimulus bill. The House vote happens today and passage is assured, but the administration does have to keep working to convince the public this is the right thing to do. Rahm Emanuel acknowledged to reporters Thursday night that his side had lost control of the stimulus message. If the polling is any indication, Democrats seem to have righted that ship as this week progressed, though the measure itself still does not command a powerful majority of support.
The process of assembling the bill may not have succeeded in adding many backers, as much of the news Thursday was centered on the fact that the bill still wasn't available either to the public or the bill's opponents. (It is available now.) The measure will not actually be available for 48 hours before Congress votes on it, nor will it be out for five days before Obama signs it.
Even Obama's trip to Peoria yesterday to rally support for the bill didn't go exactly as planned. As he had the day before, Obama again suggested that Caterpillar's CEO said the company would rehire employees if the stimulus passed. After which the CEO basically said that wasn't true. Were he and Gregg teaming up just to ruin Obama's day? Perhaps the administration will have better luck today.
February 13, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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