The Note, 3/13/09: Obama Push Gets Boost from First Lady

By Nitya

Mar 13, 2009 8:19am

klein The Note, 3/13/09: Obama Push Gets Boost from First LadyBY RICK KLEIN

Who’s better at running an organization by himself — Tim Geithner or Michael Steele?

If the stock market is a lagging indicator of an economic recovery — what is a poll?

Which Obama allies will be harder to get on board for further stimulus funds — those foreign, or domestic?

Will Jon Stewart’s joust with Jim Cramer catch Cramer in a . . . crossfire? (Stewart: “I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a [bleeping] game.”)

So as the White House gets action from one ally, it’s putting another one into action — the one, like President Bush’s closest ally, who always gets the biggest reception, no matter where she goes.

“It hurts. It hurts,” First Lady Michelle Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts, on hearing about military families on food stamps. “These are people who are willing to send their loved ones off to, perhaps, give their lives — the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, they’re living back at home on food stamps. It’s not right, and it’s not where we should be as a nation.”

The White House is pushing back hard on the too-much-all-at-once narrative, and the first lady knows how to push back, hard yet gently.

Said the first lady: “There’s also people who say that he’s not doing enough, you know? So I think that’s part of the process. You know, we are at a time when we’re gonna have to try a lot of things. Some of it won’t work, some of them will. I think right now people understand that we’re gonna have to all work together and make a set of sacrifices. And they have faith — as I do — that our current commander-in-chief will see us through these times.”

“I believe in this nation, and I believe in my husband.”

On breaking in the new house: “We’ve had some guests who’ve broken some things, but not the kids. And they know who they are.” (And when Robin Roberts admired the results of her workouts: “Well, I covered my arms up.”)

This is a different face for an administration that wouldn’t mind a change in subject.

“With this series of events, she appears ready to step out as a more forceful advocate for her husband and his policies,”’s Chris Cillizza writes on “The Fix” blog.
“Polling suggests a more active role for Michelle Obama will be greeted
warmly by the public. In a January Washington Post/ABC News survey, 72
percent of those polled said they had a favorable impression toward the
First Lady while just 17 percent felt unfavorably toward her.”

The AP headline: “Michelle Obama begins advocacy as first lady.”

Stepping out: “The trip to North Carolina was Mrs. Obama’s first
work trip outside of Washington, and she used it to focus attention on
the challenges faced by soldiers and their families in this time of
war. Supporting the military and their families is one of Mrs. Obama’s
priorities,” Rachel L. Swarns writes in The New York Times.

Nothing like an early, early makeover: “Earlier this year, the Obama
administration invited top editors of three of Washington’s local
luxury lifestyle magazines — Capitol File, DC magazine and Washington
Life — to a meeting where they discussed, among other things, how
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama can embrace Washington’s
glittery social scene,” the Washington Times’ Stephanie Green reports.

While we’re talking allies — Robert Gibbs has a big one in taking on Jim Cramer.

Another “Crossfire” moment? Stewart vs. Cramer didn’t disappoint — and nobody captures a moment quite like Jon Stewart.

“I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s
not a f—– game,” Stewart told an uncharacteristically sheepish Jim
Cramer, on “The Daily Show” Thursday. “We’re both snake-oil salesmen to
a certain extent. . . .But we do label it ‘snake oil’ here.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal: “Stripped of his loud,
arm-waving hyperbolic TV persona, Cramer tried to defend himself,
apologized for some mistakes and said he would try to do better.”

“Jon Stewart nails the zeitgeist,” blogs Andrew Willis, of the Globe
and Mail
. “For the YouTube generation, Mr. Stewart is issuing a call to
arms, against a system that went radically wrong. As someone who works
in the business media, the talk show host’s critiques are, to put it
mildly, food for thought.”

“It’s true: Jon Stewart has become Edward R. Murrow,” James Fallows
blogs for The Atlantic

Maybe one reason why all of this matters: “Mr. Obama’s approval
ratings, while good, aren’t exceptionally high by historical standards
for a new president. His support has grown more polarized in recent
weeks, and people have noticeably more faith in the president himself
than in some of his programs,” Gerald F. Seib writes in his Wall Street
Journal column
. “All told, the findings suggest the Obama forces hardly
have reason to panic. But they do indicate it’s likely to be important
for the president to be able to point to some signs of economic
improvement by later this year.”

Double-punch from the Journal: “It is simply wrong for commentators
to continue to focus on President Barack Obama’s high levels of
popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of
public confidence in the work of his administration,” Doug Schoen and
Scott Rasmussen write in an op-ed
. “Indeed, a detailed look at recent
survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American
people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his
initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different
policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.”

(And when does a harmless feature story about a staffer maybe reveal
just a little too much? “This is what my job is like. . . . It’s one
emergency after the next,” White House ethics adviser Norm Eisen tells
The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow

Over on that other political side — can Michael Steele survive?
(Probably.) Will he be a relevant force in GOP efforts in 2010?
(Probably not.) Will he last longer than that? (Almost certainly not.)

“Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s series of
gaffes turned into something more serious Thursday, as leaders of a
pillar of the GOP — the anti-abortion movement — shifted into open
revolt,” Politico’s Ben Smith reports. “The flap also added to worries
generated by a series of earlier, less policy-oriented statements,
ranging from insulting radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to offering
‘slum love’ to Indian-American Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.).”

Was there no one on the Steele team that could stop the damaging
comments — from Tony Perkins, Mike Huckabee, and Ken Blackwell, among

“Some conservatives are openly mulling whether the party’s first
black chairman should keep his job in the wake of a provocative
interview he did with GQ magazine,” USA Today’s Jill Lawrence writes.

The upshot: “It appears highly unlikely that there would be any
serious move to recall Mr. Steele, who is barely two months into a
two-year job. The political repercussions of replacing the party’s
first African-American chairman would be too severe, several Republican
leaders said, and there are no obvious candidates ready to take the
job,” The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney writes.

“Nonetheless, there were expressions of anguish over what many
Republicans described as Mr. Steele’s growing pains as he takes on the
role of leader of a party struggling to find its way after its defeat
in the November elections. This latest episode seems likely to diminish
his conservative credentials further, undercutting his ability to
present his case for his party and raise money,” he writes.

“Though some party activists may be dissatisfied with Steele, they
appear to be stuck with him for the foreseeable future, since RNC rules
set a high standard for ousting a sitting chairman,” The Boston Globe’s
Joseph Williams writes
. “Several political analysts also said the board
that made history by electing its first African-American leader is
probably loathe to sack him just a few weeks into his tenure — a move
that would be a public-relations nightmare for a party struggling to
shed its lily-white image in the age of President Obama.”

(What matters more for his near-term fate — fundraising figures, or
the New York-20 House race? Was it an accident that a fundraising
pitch went out last night,
subject line: “It’s time to set the record
straight.” That would be the president’s record, but still . . . )

The fallout: “Perhaps Steele is trying to remake the Republican
Party in his own image. Could be an effective big-tent strategy — if
he’d pick an image and stick with it,” Laura Vozzella writes in her
Baltimore Sun column

“He’s become clownish. And that judgment could endure until the end
of his tenure,” The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder blogs (welcome back!).
“But it probably won’t. While Steele’s stock is lower than Citigroup’s
right now, his legacy will be most likely determined by whether he can
help Republicans begin to win elections again.”

A painful prescription, from Chris Kofinis, writing for The Hill:
“The time has come for the Republican Party, if it wants to survive as
a political party, to undergo an ideological vasectomy and cut off
(once and for all) these far-right voices. It will painful (unless
someone knows the equivalent of local anesthetic for a political
party), but it will save their party in the long run.”

Who doesn’t love when Gov. Ed Rendell plays pundit? “The people who
control the party — not the voters — but the people who control the
party are not going to allow ideological flexibility,” Rendell, D-Pa.,
said at a Christian Science Monitor lunch, per ABC’s Teddy Davis. “I
think Michael Steele’s days are numbered.”

On the subject of tough going: “Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner got
such a torrent of angry criticism from Republican senators today that
by the end of the hearing some Republicans lawmakers acknowledged how
‘tough’ and ‘intense’ it had been,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports.

Said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.: “If you do have a plan, you
haven’t persuaded us yet, and until you persuade us, confidence won’t
come back.”

Will Geithner be received better abroad? “President Obama, wildly
popular abroad throughout his presidential campaign, is walking into
one of his toughest sells yet on the international stage. But first,
his Treasury secretary faces the task of paving the way for Obama to
meet other world leaders at the G-20 in London on April 2,” The Hill’s
Silla Brush writes.
“Obama has called on the G-20 nations, whose
finance ministers are set to meet in Britain starting Friday, to spend
hundreds of billions of dollars to stimulate a global economy that the
World Bank predicted would contract in 2009 for the first time since
World War II.”

Another one: “Democratic sources say that H. Rodgin Cohen, a partner
in the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and the leading
candidate for Deputy Treasury Secretary, has withdrawn from
consideration,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reports. “It’s the third
withdrawal of a top Treasury Department staff pick in less than a

And maybe another one: “President Obama’s newly appointed chief
information officer is on leave from his post after an FBI raid
Thursday that resulted in the arrests of his former deputy and another
man in connection with a D.C. government bribery scandal,” Gary
Emerling and Christina Bellantoni write in the Washington Times.

“Authorities did not implicate Vivek Kundra in the scandal, but a White
House official said he was on leave ‘until further details become
known’ about the investigation into the D.C. Office of the Chief
Technology Officer, which Mr. Kundra headed from 2007 until this year.”

We can see earmarks from our house: “The omnibus spending bill that
President Barack Obama signed on Wednesday includes earmarks that [Gov.
Sarah] Palin sought,” Jonathan Stein and David Corn report for Mother
. “According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based
watchdog group, Alaska will receive more money, per capita, from the
bill’s earmarks than any other state. (Alaska will pocket $209.71 for
each state resident.) One hundred earmarks in the bill, worth a total
of $143.9 million, are tagged for Palin’s state.”

New from the DNC: The “Party of No” clock.

Could it finally be coming to an end? (Not necessarily.) “The
marathon U.S. Senate trial sprinted down the homestretch Thursday as
DFLer Al Franken called his final witnesses and Republican Norm Coleman
posed his last challenges, setting the stage for judges to hear closing
arguments today,” Pat Doyle reports in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“After seven weeks of testimony and thousands of bits of evidence, the
end of the trial — if not the final outcome — is finally in sight.”

The Kicker:

“If you’re looking for a way to serve the country, join the Marines
or go to Treasury. I think they’re both very difficult.” — Sen.
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
, feeling a little bad for Treasury Secretary Tim

“Mr. Chairman, I would rather listen than to talk.” — Sen. Roland
Burris, D-Ill., giving his colleagues (and the public) the silent
treatment, per Roll Call’s “Heard on the Hill” column.

Follow The Note on Twitter:

Bookmark the link below to get The Note’s daily morning analysis:

For up-to-the-minute political updates check out The Note’s blog . . . all day every day:

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus