8 a.m. ET: President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia minutes ago, and as he begins a trip designed to improve his country's relationship with the Muslim world, America's relationship with a key ally -- Israel -- is just as much in the spotlight.
Obama's visit and his much-anticipated speech in Cairo Thursday come as his administration is putting increased pressure on Israel to halt settlement activity. The Associated Press says "Obama has gotten tough with Israel ... in what appears to be a clear break from decades of U.S. policy." The timing of Obama's shift hasn't been lost on anyone, including Israel supporters in the president's own party, who fret that he is being too tough on the Jewish state. Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, met with top U.S. officials in Washington yesterday in an effort to defuse tensions over the settlement issue. Barak got a surprise visit from Obama himself (leading to the inevitable "Barak Meets Barack" headline).
But will taking a stronger stance toward Israel be enough for Obama to make real headway in the Middle East? Anthony Shadid writes that as Obama attempts to reach out to the Muslim world, "he will face the legacy of names like Haditha, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib." The Wall Street Journal says Obama "will face a cynical -- and in some corners, hostile -- audience" for his speech. A Gallup poll taken in March showed that only 25 percent of Egyptians approve of the job performance of U.S. leaders, though that number is roughly double what it was for much of George W. Bush's presidency.
Back home, the White House is focused on Sonia Sotomayor's ongoing goodwill tour of Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court nominee will meet with several more senators today after beginning her rounds yesterday. Democrats took the opportunity to help Sotomayor explain what she really meant with her now-famous "wise Latina" comment. Notably, a key GOP member of the Judiciary Committee, John Cornyn, said: "We don’t have enough Republicans to filibuster even if we wanted to, which I don’t think we do." But that doesn't mean the minority will necessary allow a quick confirmation. While Democrats want Sotomayor in place by August, Republicans suggest September is a more likely target.
Not surprisingly, given the distance between now and the 2012 election, the GOP presidential field is wide open. A CNN/Opinion Research poll of Republicans released yesterday showed Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney essentially tied at the top, with Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush trailing that trio. The survey also showed that the unfavorable ratings of all of those Republicans, except for Palin, have dropped recently. The poll did not include Tim Pawlenty, who announced yesterday he will not run for a third term as governor and is thus now free to hang out in Iowa as much as he likes.
Though he risks exposing himself to charges of bias, The Rundown is a Los Angeles native and so would like to conclude by praising Obama for his infinite wisdom. Handicapping the NBA Finals yesterday, Obama said, "The Lakers in six, I think." Yes we can, Mr. President.
June 3, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Go to full archive for The Rundown »
Please email us to report offensive comments.
The comments to this entry are closed.