4:30 p.m. ET: President Obama appears to have decided that today is "Opposite Day." Or at the very least, he decided that today is the day to reverse key policiies of his predecessor.
First, Obama announced an important shift in federal government policies on funding stem cell research, lifting restrictions imposed by George W. Bush back in 2001. The move was not unexpected, nor were the reactions from the left and the right. Separate from conservatives' criticsm of Obama's move on moral or substantive grounds, some on the right are also attacking the timing of his decision, suggesting the president should remain focused on the economy rather than engaging in distracting fights like this. Robert Gibbs defended against that argument in his briefing today, saying the administration could do many things at once and would not "kick the can down the road" on important topics.
Then Obama ordered executive branch officials to consult with the attorney general before following the instructions contained in Bush's signing statements, which were a source of much controversy during his administration. Obama presumably wishes that he could get rid a of a whole host of other Bush-era policies with the stroke of a pen, but for now these two moves will have to do.
8 a.m. ET: President Obama will please his party and anger much of the opposition today when he lifts constraints on funding for human embryonic stem cell research, kicking off a week that will also feature ongoing partisan debates over the massive omnibus spending bill and the administration's financial rescue plans.
Even as Republicans castigate Obama for his decision on stem cells, the president can take heart that so far, voters don't seem to be blaming Democrats for the perceived lack of bipartisanship in Washington during his administration. Or at least, not as much as they blame Republicans. The latest Newsweek poll finds that voters are tied on the question of whether congressional Democrats have done enough to "listen" to Republicans, but a clear majority believes Republicans have not done enough to listen to Democrats. A large majority also said that Obama has made "a reasonable effort" to work with and listen to Republicans, while the GOP has not returned the favor.
Some "leftover business" from last year -- the $410 billion omnibus package -- was left over just a little longer over the weekend, as Harry Reid couldn't quite get the 60 votes in the Senate necessary to move the package along last week. Reid will try again Tuesday, this time allowing 12 more Republican amendments than had been allowed before. Ted Kennedy, the subject of a star-studded Kennedy Center tribute Sunday night, is expected to be on hand in the Senate for the debate this time around.
Speaking of Reid, he was the subject of a pair of "man in the news" profiles over the weekend. The Washington Post reports that Reid "felt liberated" by the 2008 election, since he didn't particularly enjoy being the Democrats' lead "attack dog" and prefers being a quiet dealmaker. As the Los Angeles Times points out, being so liberated means Reid has more time to focus on his 2010 race, which could be difficult, given his conservative state and leadership position, but only if Republicans can find a good candidate.
Instead, Republicans seem to be listening to Rush Limbaugh. This story just refuses to die, as the controversial radio host -- however many listeners he may have -- was the subject of a whole lot more press coverage over the weekend. (And liberal groups keep running ads about him.) David Frum got some play for declaring that "Rush is wrong," while the Wall Street Journal weighs in on whether this focus on Limbaugh is helpful for the GOP. No, it's not, but over time it may prove to be a distraction for Democrats as well.
March 9, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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