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The Rundown

4:45 p.m. ET: The headline on the Post's story about President Obama's address on the economy today is, "In Georgetown Speech, Obama Offers Cautious Optimism." The most important word there is "cautious," because on the same day that the president counseled patience before an economic recovery, the government released data showing that retail sales had slumped in March. The stock market promptly dropped, with the Dow ending the day down 138 points.

Such are the perils of presidential prognostications on the economy. Actually, it's difficult for almost anyone to forecast accurately. Ben Bernanke also offered some glimmers of hope today, and the markets didn't much care. But Obama is in an especially tough position, as he tries to stay positive without being accused of being out of touch.

Obama also sought to link the nation's long-term economic health to its ability to reform entitlement programs and revamp the health care system. Those are long-term propositions, particularly when it comes to Medicare and Social Security. Obama can only hope that the economy starts to rebound long before those programs are substantively reformed (if they ever are). If it doesn't, Obama won't have much reason for optimism -- cautious or otherwise.

8 a.m. ET: Twenty-three weeks ago today, Barack Obama won Florida, marking the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has taken the state since 1996. Obama succeeded, in part, by capturing a larger-than-expected portion of the Cuban-American vote. And now he's doing something previous administrations of both parties have either opposed or been afraid to do -- softening U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Obama is lifting spending and travel restrictions for Americans with family on the island, and he's also allowing U.S. telecommunications companies to get into the Cuban market. (OMG -- maybe the country will be freed by Twitter!) Reaction in South Florida yesterday was mixed, with some critics complaining that Obama should at least have extracted some concessions from the Cuban regime before "unilaterally" making the change. The administration's move did represent a middle ground, since Obama did not lift the 50-year-old trade embargo.

Obama's move signaled that he is unafraid of being called "soft" on dictators or communism, or having his policies more generally pilloried by Republicans. And why should he be? Though some of his individual moves -- particularly in dealing with the financial crisis -- have been controversial, the president retains strong support in the polls across the board. In a new Public Strategies/Politico poll, 66 percent of respondents said they trust Obama "to identify the right solutions to the problems we face as a nation.” So when he speaks today on the economy at Georgetown University, Obama will be addressing a national audience still more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In Minnesota, meanwhile, our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end. A three-judge panel ruled yesterday: ""The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the Nov. 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately." That means Al Franken's victory over Norm Coleman will stand, if this is really the end of the dispute. Of course, it's not. Coleman is vowing to appeal to the Minnesota state supreme court. So we could be in for several more months of legal wrangling, but it's also possible that Franken could be seated in the Senate by May or June, depending on how soon Tim Pawlenty is finally willing to certify a winner in the case.

Speaking of legal wrangling, are a half-dozen former Bush administration officials about to be indicted by a Spanish court? Yes, according to The Daily Beast, which reports that prosecutors will seek charges against the "Bush Six" over "their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo." The officials -- who include Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and Doug Feith -- have mostly stayed mum on the charges, though Feith is said to be "baffled by the allegations." How would the Team Obama handle such charges? Presumably the administration would ignore a request by a foreign court to extradite the ex-officials, once again inflaming a liberal blogosphere that is already agitated over Obama's failure to reverse some of Bush's most controversial policies on state secrets.

In happier Bush alumni news, Condoleeza Rice has also been keeping busy. She spent the weekend watching fellow Stanford-ite Tiger Woods at the Masters, and wrote about it for that same Daily Beast. Did you know that Rice and Woods once "stormed the court together" at a Stanford-Duke basketball game? Or that she likes golfer Anthony Kim's "swagger?" Now you do.

By Ben Pershing  |  April 14, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
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Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 12:22 PM

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