4:50 p.m. ET: President Obama is getting a lot of attention for the boldness of his speech to the Turkish parliament today, with much of the coverage focused on the lengths to which Obama went to reassure the Muslim world that America is not its enemy. (Note that Obama wasn't so bold as to actually say the word "genocide.")
But if you're looking for a profile in courage this afternoon, you might want to look closer to home. Robert Gates today outlined a Pentagon budget plan that would cut funding for several major programs, including the F-22 fighter. Why is this brave? Because defense contractors have a lot of lobbyists, and because they have made sure to spread production and supply for programs like the F-22 all over the country to ensure that as many members of Congress as possible have a stake in them. So you can expect the Defense secretary to get a lot of "frank" phone calls from lawmakers in the coming hours, days and weeks.
Will Gates' ambitious plans survive the parochial gauntlet on Capitol Hill? It will be awhile before we find out, but at least he's trying.
8 a.m. ET: If the first 11 weeks of President Obama's tenure have taught us anything, it's just how much power -- both hard and soft -- the president really has. He can take over massive companies, fire CEOs, spend hundreds of billions of dollars and draw massive audiences in foreign capitals. In Europe this week, he has been a private dealmaker and a public superstar.
Yet this first major foreign trip has also shown us how much the president can't do. In London, Obama did not get other nations to commit to the levels of stimulus spending he had wanted. In Strasbourg, he did not persuade allies to offer more than a handful of troops for Afghanistan. And in New York, the U.S. was unable Sunday to coax the UN Security Council to agree on a response to North Korea's missile launch. (To be fair, Obama himself wasn't actually at the UN twisting arms.)
Minutes from now, Obama will address the Turkish Parliament, and the betting here is that he will not -- with this single gesture -- persuade the Muslim world to drop its mistrust of the U.S. or, for that matter, make Americans feel more positively toward Muslims. But Obama can work to keep Turkey as a vital ally in the Middle East. He can do that, in part, by encouraging the EU to accept Turkey as a member. And Obama can try not to offend his hosts on the subject of the Armenian "genocide." Obama's first question at his news conference this morning with the Turkish president was on this subject -- specifically his past position that it was indeed genocide -- and Obama said he has "not changed views" on the controversy but, "I want to be as encouraging as possible" of talks between Turkey and Armenia.
In Washington, Robert Gates will unveil the Pentagon's future budget strategy at a 1:30 p.m. press conference today. The basic outlines of his plan have already been leaked, prepping the capital for what is said to be a significant shift in focus. Gates' blueprint will likely prove that at least one industry in town -- defense lobbying -- is recession-proof, as K Street will mobilize its troops to protect clients' costly programs from the knife.
This afternoon, Vice President Biden will throw out the first pitch at the Baltimore Orioles' home opener at Camden Yards. Traffic on both I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway can be terrible, so The Rundown recommends that Biden take his beloved Amtrak or the MARC train when he heads north. The Rundown also suggests that the vice president practice a bit, because if there was ever one time he might want to emulate George W. Bush -- it's now. Bush famously threw a strike when he took the mound before a 2001 World Series game, single-handedly lifting American's spirits after 9/11, or something like that. (Bush is actually doing the honors for the Texas Rangers tonight.) Biden's predecessor as VP actually got booed when he threw a first pitch in 2006. Biden already knows this without being told -- whatever Cheney did, do the opposite.
April 6, 2009; 4:50 PM ET
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