Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:10 PM ET, 04/21/2009

I've gotten out of the habit of reading Maureen Dowd's opinion column in the New York Times, but yesterday she wrote about how George Lucas, the creator of "Star Wars," doesn't see former vice president Dick Cheney as Darth Vader. "Lucas explained politely as I listened contritely. Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who is turned to the dark side by an older politician and becomes Darth Vader. 'George Bush is Darth Vader,' he said. 'Cheney is the emperor.'... You know, Darth Vader is really a kid from the desert planet near Crawford, and the true evil of the universe is the emperor who pulls all the strings.'" Reminds me of all the talk in 2005 that "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," was an anti-Bush tract in disguise.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "On the theory that every little bit helps, Mr. Obama convened the first cabinet meeting of his presidency on Monday and said that in an effort to make the government 'as efficient as possible' and to ensure that 'every taxpayer dollar is being spent wisely,' he was challenging department heads and agency chiefs to come up with ways to save $100 million over the next 90 days."

Jim Kuhnhenn writes for the Associated Press: "Taxpayers are increasingly exposed to losses and the government is more vulnerable to fraud under Obama administration initiatives that have created a federal bank bailout program of 'unprecedented scope,' a government report finds."

William Foreman writes for the Associated Press: "Former President George W. Bush cracked jokes about how he scoops up after his dog on neighborhood walks and then turned to more serious subjects like terrorism and the financial crisis Saturday during his first overseas trip since leaving office. Bush — in China for the Boao Forum — ... said after he left the White House and moved into his new home in Dallas, Texas, he decided to take his Scottish terrier Barney for a walk. To be a good neighbor, he said he carried a plastic bag so he could clean up his dog's droppings. The task seemed ironic to him, he said. 'I was picking up what I had been dodging for eight years,' Bush said. The former president said after he left the presidency in January, he plopped down on the couch and said, 'Free at last.' But his wife, Laura, piped in: 'You're free to do the dishes,' he said."

Ben Evans writes for the Associated Press: "As a senator, Barack Obama led the charge last year to pass a bill allowing black farmers to seek new discrimination claims against the Agriculture Department. Now he is president, and his administration so far is acting like it wants the potentially budget-busting lawsuits to go away."

Brian Knowlton writes for the New York Times: "The administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to add labor and environmental protections, as President Obama vowed to do during his campaign, the top trade official said on Monday."

And congratulations to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary yesterday "for his eloquent columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focus on the election of the first African-American president, showcasing graceful writing and grasp of the larger historic picture." Robinson told the Post newsroom yesterday: "It is certainly a great honor and privilege to win this award -- to win it for coverage of the biggest political event in my lifetime and one that has such personal meaning for me."

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