8 a.m. ET: The first and best strategy for any politician seeking to survive a scandal is to change the subject as quickly as possible, and restore some semblance of normalcy. For Mark Sanford, the tragic death yesterday of Michael Jackson had the unintentional side effect of vastly reducing the national media's focus on his foibles. But Sanford still has to contend with the press and the public in South Carolina, and so the governor appears intent on returning to work and adopting the classic message, "Nothing to see here, move along." Will it work?
Sanford will hold a Cabinet meeting today to discuss state business, even as some donors and local politicians call for him to resign. The State reports: "Early polls show a majority of state residents think the governor should step down. But a flood of calls for Sanford’s resignation from the state’s political class might not materialize because of the impact such a move would have on next year’s race to replace him." There is no consensus within the GOP on who should be the party standard-bearer if Sanford leaves office, and as long as Republicans are divided on that question many of them will hesitate to push the incumbent aside. Haley Barbour, the man who succeeded Sanford atop the RGA, thinks Sanford should keep his job.
There's always a chance that Sanford won't have a choice, that the decision won't be his to make. Much of the coverage today is focused on the governor's state-funded trip to Argentina in 2008, a visit for which Sanford -- without admitting any wrongdoing -- said yesterday he would reimburse the taxpayers. The hunt for any evidence of official impropriety will continue, as critics in the press and the political class who might be hesitant to chastise Sanford for a strictly private mistake will quickly change their tune if he is found to have abused his office. It likely won't help his cause that Sanford's staff gave security officials the runaround when they were looking for him last weekend.
In Washington, the massive climate change bill is nearing passage in the House, expected to get a vote in the chamber tonight. Nancy Pelosi has been throwing her weight around all week, lobbying members for a cause that is more personally important to her than almost anything else since she became speaker. And Obama, Rahm Emanuel and other administration officials spent Thursday calling undecided lawmakers for their support. (Aside from handling the climate bill, the House will also be dealing today with the fallout from last night's reported shoving match between David Obey and Maxine Waters. We definitely will be hearing more about this.)
On the Senate side, a deal on health care reform is said to be near. Even if there is some consensus on the details of the bill, opinions still vary on how to pay for reform. "House and Senate leaders do not like" Obama's funding ideas, the New York Times reports, "but cannot agree on alternatives." On a broader level, as Kaiser Health News notes, Obama will have to convince the middle class that reform is worth the sacrifice for them.
In Iran, the governing regime continues to say that the presidential election results were legitimate, making it more and more difficult for the opposition to keep up the fight. "Across the Arab world, Iran's massive opposition protests have triggered a wave of soul-searching and conflicting emotions," the Washington Post reports. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps attacking Obama for allegedly "interfering" in Iranian affairs. Along those same lines, an Iranian diplomat went on CNN and -- somewhat incoherently -- suggested the CIA might have killed the now-famous Neda.
In closing, simply because the news is sad and the writing is strong, here is the top of the Los Angeles Times obituary of Michael Jackson: "Michael Jackson was fascinated by celebrity tragedy. He had a statue of Marilyn Monroe in his home and studied the sad Hollywood exile of Charlie Chaplin. He married the daughter of Elvis Presley.
"Jackson met his own untimely death Thursday at age 50, and more than any of those past icons, he left a complicated legacy. As a child star, he was so talented he seemed lit from within; as a middle-aged man, he was viewed as something akin to a visiting alien who, like Tinkerbell, would cease to exist if the applause ever stopped."
June 26, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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