Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from David Gergen on AC360° at 10pm ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/21/obama.business/art.obama.briefed.wh.jpg caption="Members of the National Economic Council brief President Obama on the economy Wednesday."]
David Gergen | Bio
CNN Senior Political Analyst
The most consistent line one heard these past few days during the celebrations in Washington was, “I never thought I would live to see this day.” But those who follow the economy closely, including Barack Obama’s own team, were whispering something much scarier than were the millions of others who were so joyous.
“I never thought I would live to see a day when the economy was in such danger, that interest rates were near zero, when some $20 trillion in wealth has vaporized, and when no one is sure what to do.” That, in a nutshell, were the sentiments one heard quietly on the sidelines of parties from economic heavy hitters.
In the two days that have passed since he took the oath, Obama has gotten off to a smooth, smart and successful start, impressing the general public. But dark, stormy clouds continue to gather over the economy:
Tomorrow, President Obama meets with Congressional leaders from the left and the right. The president’s economic recovery plan is running into resistance from Republicans. Obama's $825 billion-plus package is not picking up the level of GOP support that Obama wanted. And some Democrats expressed frustration that the bill doesn't do enough to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure, just $30 billion is reserved for highway repair and construction.
We’re also hearing that Obama may issue an executive order that would reverse a Bush administration policy. That policy banned taxpayer money from funding international family planning groups that promote abortion as an option. Ed Henry will be watching all of this from the White House.
Plus, Ali Velshi will be crunching the numbers, watching the markets and giving us the latest on what Obama’s economic stimulus plans means to you and your stock portfolio.
And, finally a political mystery solved. We’ll be watching at noon when Governor David Paterson finally announces who will take Senator Hillary Clinton’s seat.
Join us tomorrow at 10p ET.
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President Obama’s third day in office was a day of firsts.
The new president plunged into the thorniest foreign policy issues facing his administration, promising a new era of American leadership. He also signed an executive order requiring all American personnel to follow the Army Field Manual during interrogations. That means the CIA and the military are now on the same page. He also made sweeping changes in fighting terror and the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
It was the first full day at the State Department for Secretary of State Clinton. She welcomed her Mideast and Afghanistan-Pakistan envoys, George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke, both new positions.
Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner survived his first vote in the Senate - the Finance Committee voted 18 to 5 to recommend confirmation. The full Senate vote is Monday.
Meantime, a raft of grim economic news gave urgency to his appointment. Jobless claims and home construction both posting worse-than-expected results today, while the furious pace of layoffs continued. Microsoft announcing it will slash up to 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months. That’s a first for Microsoft. The Dow ended the day sharply lower.
At the first White House briefing Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was grilled on President Obama’s nomination of William Lynn to be Deputy Defense Secretary. Lynn used to be a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon. Just yesterday, President Obama implemented new ethics rules, banning his staff from working in areas where they lobbied. Oops. Now it appears that Lynn may be given a special waiver. We’re keeping them honest.
Another first today – Barack Obama became the first president in history who’ll use email. He’s holding on to his cherished Blackberry, an admitted addiction. It’s been souped up with heavy-duty security features.
We’ll have full coverage of all of this - plus an extraordinary look inside Air Force One, including President Obama’s first time on board, just weeks before he was sworn in.
We look forward to seeing you at 10 pm ET. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts and observations on the first two days of the Obama White House. Send us a post!
David Gewirtz | BIO
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing
We now have some official confirmation that President Obama will be using a BlackBerry device in office. In the first of his Daily Press Briefings, newly minted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answered some questions about the President's BlackBerry.
Specifically, he stated:
The President has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends in a way that use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and to do so in a way that is protected.
Gibbs was asked a question about record keeping, in particular, those records that are subject to the Presidential Records Act. Gibbs stated that the emails sent on the BlackBerry are all subject to the Presidential Records Act with the exception of "some narrow exemptions in the Presidential Records Act to afford for strictly personal communications."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/01/19/gaza.pullout.israel/art.gazatanks.afp.gi.jpg caption="Israeli tanks prepare to leave Gaza on Monday."]
Stephen M. Walt
Many supporters of Israel will not criticize its behavior, even when it is engaged in brutal and misguided operations like the recent onslaught on Gaza. In addition to their understandable reluctance to say anything that might aid Israel's enemies, this tendency is based in part on the belief that Israel's political and military leaders are exceptionally smart and thoughtful strategists who understand their threat environment and have a history of success against their adversaries. If so, then it makes little sense for outsiders to second-guess them.
This image of Israeli strategic genius has been nurtured by Israelis over the years and seems to be an article of faith among neoconservatives and other hardline supporters of Israel in the United States. It also fits nicely with the wrongheaded but still popular image of Israel as the perennial David facing a looming Arab Goliath; in this view, only brilliant strategic thinkers could have consistently overcome the supposedly formidable Arab forces arrayed against them.
Arab Affairs Editor
Luqman Yaghan is a young Jordanian student with a simple message to President Barack Obama.. and a question. In a taped message posted on YouTube, he says, “60 years ago in America, the mere thought of having an African American president was a forbidden dream.
Then, year 2008 came along and this dream became true… 60 years ago in Palestine, the mere thought of a Palestinian child in Gaza to have a normal life, just a normal life, no bullets, no blood and no bombs, just a normal life, became a forbidden dream. So, when will our dream come true?”
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Editor's Note: President Barack Obama has asked anyone with ideas about how to run the government to speak up. I try not to shirk my responsibilities, so here’s today’s letter to the White House.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Wow! When I wrote yesterday I was worried about how long it would take for you and your team to figure things out in Oval Office-land, but you certainly haven’t wasted any time: Orders about prisoners in Guantanamo, reviews of Iraq and Afghanistan, promises of more transparency in government, and new rules about lobbying.
You’ve been busy. I spent ten minutes deciding on a tuna wrap for lunch.
And seriously, you even took the oath of office again? I suppose it is better to be safe than sorry, but seems like you have enough to do without that. BTW: Did you know Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur also had to redo the oath?