8 a.m. ET: Even for presidents, the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. So as Wednesday's 100-day milestone approaches, watch closely to see whether the White House's carefully choreographed effort to tout the administration's accomplishments and lay the groundwork for more big-ticket initiatives is instead overshadowed by a public health crisis.
Swine flu has dominated headlines for the last two days, presenting President Obama with an unexpected challenge. The U.S. has declared a "public health emergency," though Janet Napolitano yesterday cautioned, "That sounds more severe than really it is." Administration officials did say they expect many more cases of the flu to be discovered in the coming days, which ensures that the focus on this crisis will only grow as the week progresses. Is there anything Obama can or should be doing to address the crisis that he isn't already? It doesn't appear so, but it does appear that his Wednesday prime-time press conference could end up being dominated by flu talk, which is certainly not how the White House drew it up.
The swine flu crisis and the rest of the world's problems didn't stop Obama from playing golf Sunday. The president's poll numbers are good enough that the White House presumably isn't too concerned that Obama's political enemies will take pictures like these and try to portray him as elitist or out of touch. At Sunday's press briefing on swine flu, Robert Gibbs was asked: "What if anything are we meant to read into the fact the President Obama decided to go golfing today? Is this part of your effort to reassure Americans that there's no need to panic?" Gibbs said he wouldn't "draw a direct conclusion" between the flu news and the golf outing, but that's our job in the press -- to read meaning into every single thing the president does. (By the way, Obama lost yesterday. Does that symbolize something?)
On the Hill, Obama's $3.5 trillion budget will be on the House floor early this week, and on the Senate floor Wednesday or soon after. The House is also set to take up a credit card reform measure this week, after Obama jawboned banking executives last week at the White House about the need for the industry to make some changes on its own. The Senate's credit card bill isn't ready for floor action yet, as some Republicans and moderate Democrats believe it is too hard on banks. One other previously stalled item -- Kathleen Sebelius' nomination to be HHS secretary -- is finally ready for action, with a Tuesday Senate vote on tap. Now might be a good time to finally get someone in that job.
In bailout news, Chrysler managed to strike a deal with the United Auto Workers and Fiat that should pave the way for the company to receive more government cash. Note that the new Washington Post/ABC News poll gives Obama high marks for handling every issue except for the auto industry crisis, with 41 percent approving of his approach and 53 percent disapproving. Is the public upset that he is committing so much government money to the auto companies, preferring instead to let them sink or swim on their own? Or is the public simply upset that Obama hasn't been able to fix the ailing industry?
As The Fix notes, the Post poll also delivered a mixed verdict on how Obama is handling the issue of Bush-era interrogation policies. With Republicans still clamoring for the release of additional CIA memos that purportedly show that the interrogations yielded useful intelligence, Gibbs said Sunday that it would take a few weeks for the administration to review the material and decide whether to release it. It's possible that by the time the memos are released their impact will be muted, as the firestorm on this subject will have died down and the press will instead be concentrating on something like health care or climate change. Hopefully, for everyone's sake, we won't still be focused on swine flu.
April 27, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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