By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Even as many have criticized the Obama administration for being a step behind on the rapidly changing situation in Egypt, the president and his team are trying to stay a step ahead of the GOP on the domestic front.
First, there was the op-ed in Sunday's New York Times by Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, where he laid out the “tough calls” the president will be making on the budget.
“Next week, a debate will begin in Washington and throughout our country about the best way forward,” Lew wrote. “The Obama administration will come to these discussions with a responsible, sensible and achievable plan to put the country on a fiscally sustainable path.” http://nyti.ms/fp894r
But, he noted, “this will not be easy … every decision to invest in one program will necessitate a cut somewhere else.”
Then there's Obama's outreach to frenemy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The president heads across Lafayette Park this morning to “attempt to mend strained relations between his administration and the business community,” ABC’s Karen Travers reports. http://abcn.ws/gn3IFC
We’ll probably hear echoes of the point he made in his weekly address on Saturday: “If we make America the best place to do business, businesses should make their mark in America. They should set up shop here, and hire our workers, and pay decent wages, and invest in the future of this nation," he said. “Our workers will succeed. Our nation will prosper.”
The significance of the visit, Travers notes, is clear: “Obama and the Chamber butted heads throughout the fall campaign season over the use of foreign money in American elections. Chamber President Tom Donohue did not shy away from attacking the White House over the health care law and financial reform for the first two years of Obama's term. But in the lead up to the speech, both the White House and the Chamber emphasized the areas where they agree and their shared understanding of the need to focus on job creation.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Donahue addressed the central question about the complicated relationship with his neighbor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: “What's changed now?”
“I would use four words," Donohue said. “The election has changed.” http://wapo.st/eXzxnq
BOTTOM LINE: The business community is still in a wait-and-see mode. In private conversations we've had with some business types, it’s obvious that frustration still exists with the “uncertainty” over the impact of health care law on their bottom lines. Obama doesn't necessarily have to win them over, but he, at least, needs to neutralize them. The stronger Obama — and the economy — look next year, the more likely that business will want to hedge their bets and campaign giving. And, the fight on financial regulation reform — and the rhetoric that went along with it — has caused irreparable damage to a good chunk of the Democrats' fundraising base in New York.
CHAMBER NOTE. Obama’s speech is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. today. He will address more than 200 business leaders in the Hall of Flags at the Chamber’s headquarters in Washington, DC. As a Chamber official notes, “The Chamber has hosted nearly every president in our 98 year history (including Kennedy during our 50th anniversary in 1962). The idea of the U.S. Chamber actually came from a president: President William Howard Taft, in a message to Congress on December 7, 1911, in which he addressed the need for a ‘central organization in touch with associations and chambers of commerce throughout the country and able to keep purely American interests in a closer touch with different phases of commercial affairs.’ Four months later, on April 12, 1912, President Taft's vision became a reality when a group of 700 delegates from various commercial and trade organizations came together to create a unified body of business interest that today is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
EGYPT UPDATE. The scene in Cairo’s Tahir Square remains almost jubilant, with protesters content and pensive, according to ABC News reporters on the ground there. There are still thousands of people there who will not leave. They say they are not satisfied that the opposition leaders, who met with the government yesterday, speak for them. But, the real reason why many not be leaving is that they fear retribution. It is almost certain that the secret police and military intelligence are watching and filming the square. Ironically, the place that was the most dangerous in the city just a few days ago for protesters may now be its safest.
Meanwhile, in an interview with “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour, the country’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman, sent a message to the protestors in Cairo: go home and let things go back to "normal." … "We can say only go home," to the protestors. "We cannot do more than that. We cannot push them by force," he said. … "I want the opposition to know that with this limited time, we can do what President Mubarak has offered. And we cannot do more.” ABC’s Josh Miller and Huma Khan write “And in the most expansive meeting of its kind since the protests began on Jan 25, Suleiman met Sunday with a wide range of Egypt's opposition groups to discuss reforms that would put the country on a path toward greater democracy.” http://abcn.ws/hAZZH
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that while the White House has made it clear they want Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave “soon, they don’t want it to be too soon.” Administration officials are worried about leaving a power vacuum in the country if reforms are not implemented before Mubarak’s exit, paving the way for extremist elements in the Muslim Brotherhood to rise to power. “They don’t have majority support in Egypt,” Obama said of the Brotherhood in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on Sunday. “But they are well-organized. There are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S. There’s no doubt about it.” http://abcn.ws/ghgHB
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein will talk Egypt with former Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, whose four-decade diplomatic career included stints as ambassador to the United Nations, Russia, India, Israel, and several other countries. He was also under secretary of state for political affairs during the latter years of the Clinton Administration. Also on the program, ABC News' Jim Sciutto, who will have the latest from Cairo. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
RUMSFELD EXCLUSIVE: 'It's Possible' Troop Decisions Were a Mistake in Iraq. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sat down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer for an exclusive television interview — his first since 2006 — timed to coincide with the publication of his new memoir, “Known and Unknown.” On the war in Iraq: Rumsfeld concedes that "it's possible" that decisions on how many troops to send into Iraq marked the biggest mistake of the war. "In a war, many things cost lives," Rumsfeld told Sawyer. Pressed on the fact that President Bush has written that cutting troop levels in Iraq was "the most important failure in the execution of the war," Rumsfeld called that "interesting." "I don't have enough confidence to say that that's right. I think that it's possible. We had [an] enormous number of troops ready to go in. They had — we had off-ramps, if they weren't needed." "It's hard to know," Rumsfeld continued. "You know, the path you didn't take is always smoother." (h/t ABC’s Rick Klein) http://abcn.ws/dTNDqb
TRUMP TESTS THE WATERS. Rep. Heath Schuler, D-N.C. is one of the 20 Blue Dog Democats who plan to meet with businessman Donald Trump today in New York City. The meeting with Trump, who has expressed interest in running for president in 2012, is set to last an hour. Sources say they will talk about the economy and ideas Trump has for improving it.
DECLARING WAR. “The Republican-led House this week will push through legislation aimed at making government rules and regulations less burdensome for business, setting up a standoff with President Obama over some of his key initiatives, including the new health care law, and testing Obama's efforts to appear more business friendly,” the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio reports. “The House measure, scheduled for a vote Thursday, would require committees ‘to inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations’ and the rules' effect on jobs and economic growth. The GOP's assault on federal regulations will begin in the Government and Oversight Reform Committee, where business leaders will testify this week about which regulations they believe are hindering job creation.” http://bit.ly/ifjwrN
IOWA OUTLOOK. “The fate-turning spectacle of the Iowa caucuses will unfold a year from today – or even sooner – but where are the big names?” The Des Moines Register’s Tom Beaumont notes. “A string of prospects have visited Iowa in the past few weeks, dropping hints about their plans. Yet the three Republicans at the top of national presidential preference polls have left few clues in Iowa. What's up with Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee? Despite their public silence, forces are in motion that could shape an Iowa strategy for Romney and lay the groundwork for a Palin campaign here. But Iowa and national strategists see few signs pointing to a sequel to Huckabee's 2008 campaign.” http://bit.ly/iemWRO
CONGRESSIONAL SECURITY POST-TUCSON. “Paul Gosar, a freshman Congressman representing Arizona’s vast First District, was holding his first ‘house call’ with constituents last week when he was interrupted by a seemingly unbalanced man,” The New York Times’ Timothy Williams writes. “Mr. Gosar, a Republican, appeared unfazed, but one month after Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at a political event in Tucson, members of Congress are wrestling with one of the most fundamental aspects of American democracy: deciding how and when to interact with constituents. … Nearly all the members of Congress who have resumed meeting with the public since the shooting now do so with a police presence — in some cases a substantial one. The result has been a growing formalization of an exchange that has long been a hallmark of popular politics, from the raucous town-hall-style meetings during the health care debate to gentler interactions with individual constituents on a Saturday afternoon.” http://nyti.ms/i9C7y4
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