8 a.m. ET: In the last 48 hours, the crucial story of President Obama's new puppy finally broke wide. The first family's choice of which church to attend, for Easter services and beyond, received breathless attention. Today, the Obamas and 30,000 of their closest friends (including Fergie and Ziggy Marley!) will attend the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
But in between all those pressing matters, the president authorized a military operation to rescue the American captain being held hostage by Somali pirates. He called for a global effort to fight challenges like the financial crisis and nuclear proliferation. And after this morning's egg roll, Obama will spend the afternoon getting his daily briefing on the state of the economy and meeting with the Defense secretary.
Every president plays these two roles -- celebrity and commander-in-chief -- and finding the right balance between the two will be key to Obama's long-term success. lf Obama's administration so far were a magazine it would be half People, half The Economist, and it would sell really well (because Obama would always be on the cover). Obama has already exhibited a deft touch with the symbolic part of his job, and his advisers are keen to ensure he appears just as comfortable ordering a military strike as he does picking a puppy or filling out his NCAA bracket. That's why the White House released a detailed tick-tock of the days leading up to yesterday's successful rescue operation, showing Obama to be heavily engaged in managing the crisis.
Building up the nation's infrastructure may not be as sexy as foiling pirates, but doling out cash for bridges and highways -- and taking credit for it -- is one of the better parts of the president's job. Later this morning, Obama and Vice President Biden will head to the Transportation Department to brag about all the infrastructure jobs being created by February's stimulus bill. Also on hand will be Ray LaHood, whose portfolio includes reaching out to his fellow moderate Republicans in Congress. How's that going so far? Republicans haven't exactly been scrambling to back Obama's agenda.
One measure that likely will get a bipartisan vote, with LaHood's help, is the massive highway reauthorization bill that the House and Senate will take up in the coming months. Two more Republicans -- Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Bloomerg, along with Democrat Ed Rendell -- asked Obama last month to take the lead on the highway bill, and not let Congress hijack the measure with its dastardly earmarks. Obama already faces a challenge keeping the stimulus bill for Iraq and Afghanistan "clean," and the highway bill may be even tougher.
Obama never actually pledged to ban earmarks but he did say he would curb their use. Getting Congress to resist the urge to load up the transportation bill with pet projects will be tricky. But aside from earmarks, the highway bill will actually be one of the easier bills Obama has to deal with this year, since almost everyone likes to vote for it. The real test for Obama on the Hill will come when he tries to push through health care reform, an energy bill and new financial regulations. Beyond LaHood, Obama also has Rahm Emanuel helping him court the legislative branch, and the president will need all the powers of persuasion he can muster. Maybe that's Obama's third role after celebrity-in-chief and commander-in-chief -- lobbyist-in-chief.
April 13, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Go to full archive for The Rundown »
Please email us to report offensive comments.
The comments to this entry are closed.