8 a.m. ET: After spending the first six weeks of his term focused primarily on domestic affairs, President Obama is devoting the bulk of this week to navigating international waters, hosting a "special" ally in Washington as trouble spots continue to bubble up all over the globe.
Gordon Brown will address a joint session of Congress this morning (much of his planned speech is here), one day after the British prime minister huddled with Obama at the White House to discuss the world economic crisis. Obama even did his best Jim Cramer impression, suggesting now might just be a good time for Americans to jump into the stock market, while Brown did his own FDR impression, raising the prospect of a "global New Deal."
At the same time, Obama parried questions about an unusual "secret" letter he sent to Russia recently, one that either did or did not offer to give up on building missile defense installations in Eastern Europe in exchange for Russian help containing Iran's nuclear program. Pakistan's problems are also on the radar, as they are nearly every day, after terrorists there attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, visited the West Bank to meet with Palestinian officials after a round of talks with the Israelis. (Got a caption for this photo? Comment below.) And John Murtha, always on message, suggested it might just take 600,000 troops to pacify Afghanistan.
It's all in a day's work for an administration that has been preoccupied with the banks, the budget and other priorities here at home. The wealth of news abroad has not actually shortened the list of domestic problems Obama has to tackle. For one, the administration needs to figure out exactly how hard it wants to push on the subject of earmarks in spending bills. Just to briefly recap, Obama bragged that the stimulus bill had no earmarks, yet he seems ready to sign an omnibus bill that has thousands. He has talked about banning earmarks in the future, yet he requested them while he was in Congress, as did Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel and Ray LaHood and Sasha and Malia (okay, they've never requested an earmark, but it might be the fastest way for them to get that dog they want).
When it's not pushing back against Obama on earmarks, the House will spend the remainder of this week trying to dislodge two bills that have gotten stuck in the legislative gears. The bill to give D.C. a voting member of Congress has become stalled by gun politics, and it looks like the district may not be able to gain representation in the House without losing control of its own gun policies. The bankruptcy and housing reform bill has also been slowed in the House, though it now looks likely to get a vote on Thursday after a deal was struck on "cram-downs."
Democrats' legislative problems may be easier to sort out than the Republican party chief's political ones. Michael Steele has put himself in a terrible position by getting into a spat with Rush Limbaugh (perhaps you've heard of him?). Steele drew the ire of Republicans for criticizing Limbaugh, and now he's drawing the derision of everyone else for apologizing so quickly. Not an auspicious start to his tenure as RNC chairman.
March 4, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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