8 a.m. ET: Often, anything a president touches immediately turns to politics. So far, that has not been the case with the burgeoning swine flu crisis. It's still a story about a public health emergency, and mostly not a story about the effectiveness of President Obama's response. Not yet, anyway.
Obama said yesterday there currently is "not a cause for alarm," and while the situation in Mexico certainly is dire, it's possible the media is overhyping the domestic crisis just a bit. Fortunately, as Robert Gibbs had to announce repeatedly, Obama himself is healthy. This is not actually an episode of "24."
There is action on the Hill. Swine flu hearings are planned in both chambers, and the Senate will consider Kathleen Sebelius' nomination for Health and Human Services Secretary later today. Sebelius had been expected to plunge immediately into the health care reform debate, but now she has more immediate concerns. The swine flu crisis has provided another Cabinet official, Janet Napolitano, the chance to play a visible public role and temporarily put her own controversies behind her.
Meanwhile, in case you hadn't already gotten the message, the White House doesn't think much of the impending 100-day milestone. David Axelrod called it a "Hallmark holiday," Dan Pfeiffer dubbed it "an arbitrary demarcation of time" and Gibbs says the administration is just "playing along" with the press. So in that spirit, all they're doing is, um, scheduling a prime-time news conference, disseminating long lists of accomplishments, offering senior officials for interviews and pushing favorable storylines. Oh, and the Democratic National Committee is running a 60-second TV ad lauding Obama's first 100 days. But that's all. It's a silly milestone.
Given the historic nature of Obama's election, one subject that has gotten relatively little attention is race. A new New York Times/CBS News survey found that 66 percent of respondents now believe that race relations in the U.S. are "generally good," a 13 percent increase since last July. Like other polls this week, this one gave Obama high marks overall and found that a growing share of the public believes the country is headed in the right direction. Elsewhere in today's Grey Lady, Ross Douthat demonstrates his Google savvy by titling his debut column, "Cheney for President." Douthat writes, "At the very least, a Cheney-Obama contest would have clarified conservatism’s present political predicament." With apologies to John McCain, it also would have been a much more interesting campaign.
With the swine flu crisis growing and that 100-day mark upon us, news that might normally make big headlines is being pushed further down the page. GM, for example, is dumping Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab as it attempts to win more federal aid and survive. When all is said and done, the government may own at least half of GM. At the urging of the Treasury Department, Chrysler stakeholders have an initial agreement that would give the United Auto Workers a 55 percent stake in the company. Those are the sorts of issues that await Obama after this crisis ends.
April 28, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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