8 a.m. ET: On occasion, politicians jetting overseas are accused of going on cushy "junkets." But given the thorny agenda for President Obama's imminent trip to Mexico and the Caribbean, he may just return home by the end of the jaunt wishing he had stayed in Washington. There will be no talk of puppies on this visit, and no Easter egg rolls. Just illegal immigration, Cuba policy, a drug war that is spiraling out of control and America's alleged culpability for dragging down every economy in the hemisphere.
When Obama went to Europe, he drew praise from some quarters and criticism from others for projecting humility, apologizing for the country's past mistakes and stressing that the U.S. needs help on a variety of fronts. Obama looks likely to take a similar tack on this trip. In an interview Wednesday with CNN en Español, Obama said, "There's no senior partner or junior partner," in our relationship with Latin America. He said that the U.S. wouldn't meddle in the political affairs of other countries, and refrained from criticizing Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader known for his anti-U.S. rhetoric. "We want to listen and learn as well as talk, and that approach, I think, of mutual respect and finding common interests, is one that ultimately will serve everybody," Obama said.
Obama also reiterated that he is "a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform," but as always, the devil is in the details. Despite a burst of coverage in recent days suggesting the issue is moving to the front burner, there has been no substantive sign from either the Hill or the White House that immigration will actually be on the agenda this year. It remains below health care, energy and the financial crisis on the president's priority list.
Beyond the president's trip abroad, the story likely to draw the most attention in politics today is the New York Times' scoop on NSA eavesdropping. The paper reports that the spy agency "intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year." The practice is described "as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional." What? And make sure you read to the end of the piece, which says the NSA "tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant" because the member was supposedly in contact with "an extremist who had possible terrorist ties." Get ready for some very colorful hearings on the Hill about this.
Tax Day is over, so we can go back to not caring about the issue for the next 364 days. (Kidding! Please don't mail The Rundown any teabags.) Conservative activists staged tea parties all across the land, finally getting the coverage from elite media outlets that had been absent in the days preceding the events. Many prominent Republicans joined such rallies (though some important ones didn't), and the party is now hoping to build long-term momentum from that brief burst of unity.
Obama's own tax returns, meanwhile, showed that the First Family took a hit because he was campaigning for president last year. They only made $2.7 million in 2008, after having brought in $4.2 million the year before. Times are tough all over.
April 16, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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