4:50 p.m. ET: Fridays in Washington can be sleepy, particularly when the president is abroad and Congress is in recess. But today has turned out to be newsier than most on the domestic policy front.
The EPA today "issued a proposal today finding greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to the public's health and welfare," which could lead to the agency issuing sweeping new regulations on, well, everything. Of course, just because the EPA can issue tough new regulations doesn't mean it WILL, but the reaction has already been pretty tough.
Conservatives suspect this is the first step toward a cap and trade program, or what John Boehner calls a "a backdoor attempt to enact a national energy tax." Environmental groups are, not surprisingly, much happier about the decision. But there are still, as Grist puts it, "unanswered questions about how the agency will go forward and which industries will be most affected."
8 a.m. ET: When it comes to dealing with the perceived sins or flaws in the policies of his predecessor, President Obama has worked to appease his supporters without necessarily giving them all that they want. He relaxes Cuba policy, but won't get rid of the embargo. He talks about the importance of immigration reform, but won't do it this year. He institutes a tough ban on lobbyists in his administration, then grants exceptions. The pattern holds as Obama has grappled with President George W. Bush's most controversial legal policies; Obama has repudiated many of Bush's actions even while frustrating his supporters on state secrets, warrantless wiretapping and "rendition" of terror suspects.
Yesterday, Obama attempted his latest high-wire act. The Justice Department released memos detailing brutal interrogation methods used by the CIA, even as Obama said that the CIA operatives who used the methods would not face prosecution. The release comes after a heated internal debate at the White House, and the morning after, it appears that no one is completely happy with the compromise.
Liberals and civil rights groups believe Obama is waffling on a defining moral issue. How, Glenn Greenwald asks, can officials tasked with enforcing the law simply ignore it when the politics get tricky? Conservatives, meanwhile, are happy that there won't be prosecutions at the CIA, but two writers who have a unique perspective on the issue -- Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey -- say the memos' release "was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy." More broadly, Victor Davis Hanson complains, Obama "proclaims no more of George W. Bush’s 'War on Terror,' even as he silently keeps most of it in place. The result is as confusing as it soon will be dangerous."
The timing may or may not be deliberate, but it is fortuitous for Obama that the controversy over the torture memos is playing out in Washington while he is conducting diplomacy 2,000 miles south. Obama and Felipe Calderón presented a mostly united front yesterday, as the two presidents agreed on several issues but disagreed on the U.S. assault weapons ban. Obama did call on the Senate to pass a treaty combatting illegal arms trafficking. So as has been the case in domestic politics, the Mexican president got at least some of what he wanted from Obama, but not all. At this weekend's Summit of the Americas, Latin American leaders want not just gestures, but sweeping change in their relationship with the U.S. It's unlikely they'll get it.
Over at the Treasury Department, trouble may be brewing for the man Obama has put in charge of fixing the auto industry. Steven Rattner is reportedly involved in an SEC probe of "an alleged kickback scheme at New York state's pension fund." Team Obama says it was already aware of the issue when it gave Rattner his job, and his old private equity firm says it expects "that no action will be taken" as a result of the investigation. Still, as a rule of thumb, it's best not to have any of your senior administration officials appearing in the same paragraph as "alleged kickback scheme." It's also preferable not to be linked in any way with the film "Chooch," which looks like a real hidden gem.
And, as a special Friday treat, we have some Sarah Palin news. (Hear that, Google? SARAH PALIN.) After assiduously avoiding most political opportunities outside of Alaska, she decided to appear last night at a legendary event -- the Vanderburgh County Right to Life banquet in Evansville, Ind. -- and spoke emotionally of the birth of her son, Trig (over to you, Andrew Sullivan). Palin received a rapturous reception in Indiana, but not all is well for her back in Alaska. Her controversial nominee for state attorney general was voted down by the Legislature.
April 17, 2009; 4:50 PM ET
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