Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:31 PM ET, 02/20/2009

Tahman Bradley writes for ABC: "Former President Bill Clinton gives President Barack Obama an 'A' grade for his first month in office, but tells ABC News that Obama needs to put on a more positive face when speaking to the American people about the economy and must keep pressure on Republicans who try to obstruct his plans....Clinton gives former President George W. Bush a harsh review on the economy, however, blaming the Republican for the current fiscal crisis by not moving sooner to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. 'I personally believe, based on my experience over the years with the economy, that if we moved aggressively on this home problem a year and a half ago, even a year ago, as much as 90 percent of the current crisis could have been avoided,' he said."

Alina Selyukh writes for the National Journal: "With just one signature, President Obama not only sent $787 billion rolling into the U.S. economy, he also moved a few steps closer to fulfilling at least 38 pledges he made on the campaign trail, scratching one completely off the to-do list."

Kevin G. Hall writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan thinks it's necessary. His successor, Ben Bernanke, doesn't rule it out. From editorial pages to the blogosphere to boardrooms, this is the question on many minds: Should the United States nationalize some banks?"

The Associated Press reports: "Invoking his own name-and-shame policy, President Barack Obama warned the nation's mayors on Friday that he will 'call them out' if they waste the money from his massive economic stimulus plan."

Kim Chipman and Daniel Whitten write for Bloomberg that at the Treasury Department, "Secretary Timothy Geithner is the only Senate-confirmed appointment. Among the missing: a deputy secretary, an administrator for the bank- bailout program, undersecretaries for domestic finance and international affairs, and a general counsel. 'It's absolutely shocking we don't have a full Treasury Department given the enormous economic and banking challenges we face,' said Darrell West, head of government studies at the Washington-based Brookings Institution."

Eamon Javers writes for Politico: "There are no former CEOs in the Obama Cabinet. And among the people who make up his daily inner circle, there is only a dollop or two of top-level private sector experience. This is a notable absence, particularly for an administration whose domestic reputation will hinge on whether it can reverse one of the steepest economic downturns in decades."

Robin Shulman writes in The Washington Post: "Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr., who was named Thursday to direct the new White House Office of Urban Affairs, said he wants cities to become economic centers that can pull the country out of a recession and improve American competitiveness in a global market."

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times: "Visiting the Central Intelligence Agency to swear in Leon E. Panetta as the agency's 19th director, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Thursday that the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies 'gave Al Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool.' Considering the setting — the C.I.A. lobby where several hundred agency employees greeted the vice president with cheers — Mr. Biden's remarks implied a tough judgment on parts of the agency's record under the previous administration.

From the transcript of Biden's remarks: "We expect you to provide independent analysis, and not engage in group-think. And we expect you to tell us the facts as you know them, wherever they may lead –- not what you think we want to hear."

John Barry writes for Newsweek: "President Obama was initially wary of agreeing to this week's announced deployment of some 17,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, according to administration sources. He preferred to await the outcome of a full-blown review on U.S. strategy in the country which could land on his desk in six weeks or so. But with critical elections looming, even that delay wasn't acceptable."

Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers recounts encounters in Afghanistan that illustrate "the distrust and anger that U.S.-led forces face as the Obama administration tries to stem the Taliban-led insurgency by sending more American troops to Afghanistan and ramping up a strategy to start making good on years of empty U.S. vows to better the lives of ordinary Afghans."

Peter Finn and Julie Tate write in The Washington Post: "A former British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be flown home early next week, marking the first transfer of a Guantanamo detainee by the Obama administration....The British government had pressed the new administration to make the case of Binyam Mohammed a priority. The release of the Ethiopian native could come as early as Monday, the day Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is scheduled to visit the military facility with top Justice Department officials who are leading a review of the cases of the approximately 245 detainees held there."

Joe Palazzolo writes for Legal Times: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is giving the Obama administration one week to determine whether to press ahead with President George W. Bush's claim that his former aides are absolutely immune to congressional subpoenas...The Justice Department had asked the court for two additional weeks to state its position in the case, but the court issued an order Thursday requiring the Justice Department to file its opening brief by Feb. 25. The Justice Department immediately filed a motion to reconsider, emphasizing the need for more time to negotiate an increasingly complex range of interests."

Martina Stewart reports for CNN: "A California Republican congressman has called on President Obama to put in place a system that ensures all White House emails be preserved even if official business was done through private e- mail accounts. Rep. Darrell Issa, the senior Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made the request in a February 18 letter to White House Counsel Greg Craig."

Matt Corley of Thinkprogress.org notes: "This newfound interest in the use of outside e-mail accounts at the White House is ironic, considering [Issa's] dismissal of such concerns when Democrats investigated the Bush administration's use of RNC e-mail accounts."

Chris Soghoian writes for CNET that Recovery.gov, the newly-launched Web site devoted to making the stimulus bill transparent and accountable, initially blocked all search engines from indexing its site.

Richard Leiby assesses Michelle Obama's first month in The Washington Post and finds that "she has pushed beyond her initial self-definition as 'mom in chief,' notably visiting four Cabinet-level federal agencies to rally workers and tout her husband's agenda. She has also read to children, promoted community involvement and participated in a forum for African American women at Howard University. Her celebrity status draws adoring crowds. But a review of her public remarks finds scant reference to policy."

Washington Post opinion columnist Charles Krauthammer says a "supine" Obama foreign policy has turned the U.S. into "a grinning Goliath staggering about sporting a 'kick me' sign on his back."

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