8 a.m. ET: Amid the current intense focus on the need for health-care reform, it's easy to forget that at this time last year, the political world was consumed by a much different kind of crisis.
Today, President Obama heads to New York to attempt to revive his push for an overhaul of the financial regulatory system, giving a speech at Federal Hall on the one-year anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers. Obama's address and those of other top administration officials are "aimed at blunting criticism that they lack an 'exit strategy' for withdrawing their support for the financial system with speeches and documents timed for the first anniversary of the worst moments of the crisis," the Wall Street Journal writes. An exit strategy from what? The New York Times reminds that the federal government is currently "the nation’s biggest lender, insurer, automaker and guarantor against risk for investors large and small," and that "government spending accounts for a bigger share of the nation’s economy — 26 percent — than at any time since World War II."
The address does give Obama the chance to do some gloating over what didn't happen after Lehman collapsed -- the economy, bad as it got, never went into a full-scale depression and the financial system, though it wobbled, never fell. For all the recent emphasis on health-care reform, Obama's long-term political health is at least as dependent on the direction of the economy as on health care, so the White House can be expected to tout each bit of evidence that the economy is rebounding between now and November 2010 (and 2012). A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that "seven out of 10 Americans lack confidence the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial industry meltdown," and 80 percent of respondents believe the current condition of the economy is "poor." The White House won't be amplifying this factoid: Bloomberg writes, "The U.S. recovery may be the slowest since World War II to regain all the ground lost during the recession, even if economists’ more optimistic forecasts for expansion turn out to be right."
Thus far there appears to be little political will in Congress, particularly in the Senate, for the kind of far-reaching financial regulatory reform Obama seeks. And there is also precious little time on the legislative calendar, given how many other priorities await action. Politico says "legislation to crack down on the financial industry faces long odds on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers buried by the health care debate and an avalanche of opposition from business groups." With stern forces arrayed against them, "the Administration needs to put some muscle into passing the host of regulatory reform proposals it offered up last spring or watch them whither away," BusinessWeek writes. As the old rules are still mostly in place, the Los Angeles Times observes, "on the whole, Wall Street has recovered more quickly than expected with little difference in how it does business."
On 60 Minutes Sunday night, Obama sought to inject life into another administration priority -- health-care reform. Obama acknowlegded that he will "own" the health-care bill if and when it passes, acknowledging that he will be "the one who's going to be held responsible" if people aren't satisfied with the state of their health care after that. Obama's appearance comes as the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that opposition to Obama's plans "has eased somewhat" and the percentage of respondents who strongly support the president's position has risen, "evening out the intensity gap that has plagued him on the subject."
Can Obama convince members of his own party that they can vote for his plan without jeopardizing their own careers? As The Fix noted this morning, the liberal group Americans United for Change is circulating a new poll making the case that members of Congress would be wise politically to vote in favor of health-care reform. The group is also running a companion TV ad on D.C. cable stations making the same point.
Obama declined to say on 60 Minutes whether he thought Joe Wilson should apologize on the House floor for having called him a liar, though the president did lament that the current debate has become "a big circus." Wilson said Sunday that one apology was enough, and there was no need to make another one on the House floor. Democrats seem intent on keeping this story alive, planning to hold a vote on admonishing Wilson Tuesday if he doesn't change his mind beforehand. Thought Republican leaders have encouraged Wilson to apologize, they seem unlikely to let Democrats take a clean political shot on the House floor -- watch for the GOP to offer a privileged resolution of their own, whether on illegal immigration or Charlie Rangel or some other controversial topic, designed to make members of the majority cast a tough vote.
Rallies in Washington nearly always spur heated debates over media coverage and how authorities handle the event. So how big was Saturday's protest, really? (There's a reason government agencies don't provide crowd estimates anymore.) Were the bulk of attendees representative of mainstream America, or the "fringe"? Were they "angry" in a "reasonably frustrated by the Obama administration" way or a "roll up your windows and lock your doors" way? Some Democrats are also beginning to identify race as a motivating factor behind some anti-Obama sentiment. Maureen Dowd writes, "For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both." Robert Gibbs, for his part, said Sunday, "I don't think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin."
September 14, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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