Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:42 PM ET, 04/20/2009

Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein writes in his SpyTalk column that "Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on [a court-ordered] NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington." And it gets better. Stein reports that a Justice Department probe was dropped after then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales intervened, because he "wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration's warrantless wiretapping program."

Bob Egelko writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "A San Francisco federal judge rejected on Friday the Obama administration's attempt to derail a challenge to former President George W. Bush's electronic surveillance program by withholding a critical wiretap document."

Carl Hulse writes in the New York Times: "President Obama is running into stiff Congressional resistance to his plans to raise money for his ambitious agenda, and the resulting hole in the budget is threatening a major health care overhaul and other policy initiatives. The administration’s central revenue proposal — limiting the value of affluent Americans’ itemized deductions, including the one for charitable giving — fell flat in Congress, leaving the White House, at least for now, without $318 billion that it wants to set aside to help cover uninsured Americans. At the same time, lawmakers of both parties have warned against moving too quickly on a plan to auction carbon emission permits to produce more than $600 billion."

Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post: "President Obama plans to convene his Cabinet for the first time today, and he will order its members to identify a combined $100 million in budget cuts over the next 90 days, according to a senior administration official. Although the budget cuts would amount to a minuscule portion of federal spending, they are intended to signal the president's determination to cut spending and reform government, the official said."

Peter Wallsten and Faye Fiore write in the Los Angeles that the media's "glimpses into the Obama household are far from spontaneous. Instead, they are part of a careful strategy that has helped bolster the new president's popularity and political clout -- even as he promotes some economic policies, such as bailouts for banks and automakers, that lack broad appeal."

Ashley Parker writes in the New York Times about Mike Kelleher, the director of the White House Office of Correspondence. "He chooses 10 letters, which are slipped into a purple folder and put in the daily briefing book that is delivered to President Obama at the White House residence... 'We pick messages that are compelling, things people say that, when you read it, you get a chill,' said Mr. Kelleher, 47. 'I send him letters that are uncomfortable messages.'"

Ana Marie Cox writes in a Washington Post opinion piece that the White House beat should no longer be considered prestigious.

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald critiques Politico reporter Mike Allen's use of anonymous sources.

John Cook blogs for Gawker that Obama is now doomed. Why? Because ABC News political pundit Mark Halperin now thinks Obama is "dominating." Cook writes that "as David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager who is known to concern himself with real things in the actual world as opposed to the contours of Mark Halperin's ego, used to say on the trail: 'If Politico and Halperin say we're winning, we're losing.'"

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