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Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:50 PM ET, 05/ 1/2009

Robert Barnes writes in The Washington Post: "Justice David H. Souter, the Republican-appointed New England jurist who has become a reliable member of the liberal bloc on the Supreme Court, has told friends that he plans to retire, according to a government official....A vacancy would give President Obama his first chance to begin reshaping the court but would not likely change the dynamic on a bench that is often evenly split between the liberal and conservative blocs, with moderate conservative Justice Anthony M. Kennedy often holding the pivotal role." Barnes has a list of possible replacements.

In the New York Times, Jackie Calmes tries her hand at the pox-on-both-your-houses school of political reporting, writing that Obama's budget thinking is "the Democratic version of Reaganomics, the supply-side theory that replaced Republicans’ longtime belief in balanced budgets. As popularized by President Ronald Reagan, the theory holds that cutting income taxes encourages people to work harder and to produce more goods, sparking economic growth and increased tax revenues." But there's a huge difference between saying that tax cuts pay for themselves -- which they objectively don't -- and saying that investments in infrastructure, education, health care and energy pay off in long term growth and a strong economy. Calmes does allow an administration official to make that point: "'I would be worried,' Mr. Obama’s budget director, Peter R. Orszag, said in an interview, 'if the gestalt out there was that we were saying that these investments will by themselves bring down the deficit, as opposed to they will help spur economic performance, partially offsetting the costs of the investments in the first place, which is a much different thing." Nevertheless, Calmes writes that "some economists" think "both parties want it all."

Deborah Solomon, Jonathan Weisman and Laura Meckler write in the Wall Street Journal: "On Jan. 20, Timothy Geithner took control of the Treasury Department, directing the government's response to the financial crisis. Within three weeks, the White House tightened its grip, alarmed by the poor reaction to Mr. Geithner's performance during the rollout of his rescue plan, government officials say. Since then, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been so involved in the workings of the Treasury that 'Rahm wants it' has become an unofficial mantra among some at the Treasury, according to government officials."

Peter Whoriskey, Brady Dennis and Kendra Marr write in The Washington Post: "Chrysler, the nation's third-largest automaker, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday, with President Obama promising that court relief would give the company a 'new lease on life.' The administration's efforts to avert a bankruptcy filing were frustrated by some hedge funds, which Obama referred to as 'a small group of speculators,' that rejected the government's final offer to settle their claims against Chrysler out of court."

William Wan, Ashley Halsey III and Michael D. Shear write in The Washington Post: "A federal agent who traveled to Mexico with President Obama this month probably contracted swine flu and infected several members of his family in Anne Arundel County, prompting assurances yesterday from the White House that the president was safe."

Scott Wilson and Spencer S. Hsu write in The Washington Post: "The Obama administration has relied on a Bush-era public health strategy aimed at coordinating its response across an array of government agencies in the week since the first reports of a swine flu outbreak emerged, officials say, as it attempts to balance safety concerns with a desire to prevent a panic."

Lydia Saad reports for Gallup: "Gallup Poll Daily tracking during President Obama's first 100 days in office finds broad support for him among Americans affiliated with most major U.S. religions. U.S. Muslims and Jews give Obama his highest job approval ratings, at 85% and 79%, respectively. He also receives solid majority support from Roman Catholics (67%) and Protestants (58%), and more approval than disapproval from Mormons."

Dick Polman, blogging for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has some good follow-up questions for Obama based on the comments he made about the state secrets privilege Wednesday night. (For background, see my post from yesterday, Obama Backs Down on State Secrets.) Polman asks: "Is it credible to believe that Obama's legal team signed on to the Bush blanket-privilege doctrine only because they were pressed for time? If that's true, then how come the Obama team has twice invoked the blanket doctrine in subsequent cases? Does he regret breaking an important campaign promise? And how hard will Obama really work to trim back the doctrine? In his response, he never mentioned the long-pending Senate bill that would allow judges to privately examine sensitive material without tossing out entire cases; would he support such a bill?"

Ross Douthat writes for the Atlantic: "In a variety of different ways, George W. Bush helped make Barack Obama's first hundred days a ringing success." For instance, "over the short term, at least, the burdens that Bush left his successor have proven to be tremendous political assets." Also: "The fact that the Bush Administration had acknowledged the use of waterboarding and allowed the Red Cross access to high-value detainees enabled Obama to plausibly claim that he wasn't revealing any information whose secrecy hadn't been essentially compromised already." And, Douthat writes, "had Afghanistan been relatively stable, and Iraq in its pre-surge state of chaos - Obama's initial foreign-policy choices would have been considerably more difficult."

Greg Mitchell notes for Editor and Publisher that today is the sixth anniversary of "Mission Accomplished."

Nancy A. Youssef writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "The Obama administration is determined to continue withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq on schedule, despite a surge of violence in two Iraqi cities that shows no signs of abating and could increase in the weeks ahead, administration and military officials said this week."

Nancy Jo Sales writes for Vanity Fair: "George W. Bush shows no signs of concern, regret, or wear and tear. He’s relaxed and smiling, seemingly at peace with the world, which, some would argue, he left so much worse off." She describes his recent talk in Calgary, which was full of stand-up comedy.

Markos "Kos" Moulitsas blogs: "So Obama's budget passed yesterday with zero Republican votes. And you know what was the best part? The Administration didn't give a damn and the media didn't give a damn. All that Obama talk about 'bipartisanship' has ceased, and as a result, the media is no longer claiming Obama is a loser because he failed to garner Republican support."

Mark Knoller writes for CBS News: "As one among a throng of reporters last evening in the East Room, I was struck by the degree to which the White House Press Corps has been tamed, if not mollified, on one aspect of our conduct. Nowadays, it’s standard practice at these sessions to wait quietly for the President to call the name of the next reporter from whom he’ll take a question....It’s very different from when I first started covering presidential news conferences in 1976."

Video of Obama winning a basketball shoot-out with UConn's Lady Huskers has now become the fifth-most-watched White House video on Youtube, with over 320,000 views as of this morning.

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