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Morning Bulletin – Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
On this St. Patrick's Day, President Obama – or "O'Bama" as the Irish like to call him – and Irish-American Vice President Joe Biden meet with Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen this morning "for talks on the global economy, recent developments in the North, immigration reform in the US and the possible resettlement of Guantánamo Bay detainees in Ireland," reports the Irish Times' Denis Staunton and Stephen Collins.

"The meeting is scheduled to last 40 minutes and it will only be the third bilateral meeting Mr. Obama has had with any foreign leader since his inauguration. The bilateral meeting comes at the start of a day of St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House that will include the traditional shamrock ceremony and a reception for almost 400 people. The president will join the Taoiseach [prime minister] at a lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by House speaker Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Obama is expected to drop by during a meeting at the White House between Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers and national security adviser Jim Jones."

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
AIG FALLOUT: "President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda," write the Washington Post's Michael D. Shear and Paul Kane.

"The populist anger at the executives who ran their firms into the ground is increasingly blowing back on Obama, whom aides yesterday described as having little recourse in the face of legal contracts that guaranteed those bonuses. ...

"White House aides grasped for actions that could soothe sentiment on Main Street and in the halls of Congress, where the fate of the new president's sweeping agendas on health care, climate change and education will be decided. They suggested that the government will use its latest pledged installment of $30 billion for the ailing company to recover the millions in bonuses paid Friday. But the damage control did not seem to satisfy incredulous lawmakers in both parties, who said the image of financial executives taking huge bonuses from a taxpayer-funded rescue puts the president in a politically impossible position."

"The confusion that seemed to mark the White House's AIG response Monday illustrates the bind that Mr. Obama finds himself in," report the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman, Sudeep Reddy and Liam Pleven.

"He needs to convince Americans he shares their mounting fury over the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars being pumped into companies like AIG. At the same time, he needs the executives and employees of those companies to help the government untangle the current financial mess."

Time Magazine's Michael Scherer adds, "Obama's AIG Outrage: All Talk, No Action": "On ABC's The View, Whoopi Goldberg spoke for the rest of the nation when she looked into the camera and said, as if to AIG executives, 'You can't bend us over!' But the sad truth is they can. And they probably will. And President Obama, despite his popularity and moral indignation, has few tools to stop them."

"White House officials said the Treasury would recapture the bonus money by writing new requirements into a $30 billion installment of government aid scheduled to go soon to the ailing insurance conglomerate. The government has already provided $170 billion in taxpayer assistance to keep A.I.G from failing and now owns nearly 80 percent of the company," report the New York Times' Edmund L. Andrews and Jackie Calmes.

"But administration officials conceded that almost all of the most recent round of bonuses, totaling $165 million, had been paid last Friday, one day before the Treasury publicly acknowledged that it had reluctantly approved the payouts. The officials said that people who received the bonuses would probably be able to keep them. By seeking to link repayment of the bonus money to the coming $30 billion in assistance, the administration seemed to leave open the possibility that the company would effectively be repaying taxpayers with taxpayer money. A Treasury official disputed that taxpayers would be repaying themselves, but could not specify how else the company would give back the money."

Politico's Eamon Javers, Victoria McGrane and Lisa Lerer point out, "The outrage spurred on Capitol Hill and among the public at large by the $165 million in bonuses — and the haste with which the White House rushed to respond — underscored a new reality: This is President Barack Obama's bailout now. AIG's woes threaten to severely complicate Obama's hopes of returning to the well — again — for more bailout cash. His administration has already hinted at another $750 billion in bailout funds, but public opinion and congressional resistance will make that a tough sell."

(AP)
PREMATURE PALIN: Sarah Palin anticipation was on in full force Monday as it was revealed that she would be headlining a D.C. fund-raiser for Congressional Republicans in June. But, it turns out, this was all news to Palin.

"Gov. Sarah Palin's spokesman said Monday that congressional Republicans were mistaken in announcing the governor would headline one of the biggest Republican gatherings of the year, the Senate-House dinner in Washington, D.C.," reports the Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham and Erika Bolstad.

"The governor's office said Palin has not even confirmed she would be attending the event. 'I communicated with the governor directly and she did not know anything about it,' said Bill McAllister, the governor's spokesman."

"McAllister said Palin asked him why The Associated Press was reporting that she was going to do this. 'I pointed out the (National Republican Senatorial Committee) press release and she was like, no,' he said.

NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said Monday night that the staff of the governor's national political action committee, SarahPAC, had confirmed Palin would indeed speak at the Senate-House dinner. ...

SarahPAC spokeswoman Meg Stapleton could not be reached for comment Monday night. McAllister said Palin is aware of the event but has not confirmed. He said he had no idea why it was announced. 'I don't know, I'm kind of stunned. ... She's been invited, but that's as far as it's gone from our end, is my understanding,' McAllister said."

ALSO TODAY: The president meets with the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees this morning and will make brief remarks after their meeting.

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to YouthBuild AmeriCorps volunteers at 10am ET.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at 10am ET and later she meets with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Dan Richman and Andrea James, "Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday."

LATER THIS WEEK: President Obama travels to California – and he'll be a guest on Jay Leno on Thursday night.

4861593Also, expect Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to unveil the administration's plan to deal with banks' toxic assets. And, as Time Magazine's Massimo Calabresi points out, there's a lot at stake for Geithner.

"Not only will the health of the banks and the economy depend on whether his new program is well-received; Geithner's reputation will be on the line as well. Panned after he put out a vague framework Feb. 10, the new Treasury secretary only has so many chances to instill confidence.

"With the new bank plan, he's getting a second one, but it will be a hard sell. After the $180 billion AIG bailout initiated last summer, the $700 billion financial-system booster last fall, and the $878 billion stimulus package this winter, convincing Americans their money isn't being wasted is no easy task. Geithner has said the government may put up as much as a $1 trillion in loans and guarantees to subsidize the sale of the toxic assets to private investors.

"Though that money could come back to the government if the assets start trading again, many Americans see it going down a sinkhole. Says Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, 'There's a narrative out there in the public mind that the government's bailing out banks' — in other words, helping rich bankers keep their summer homes."

AIG

Bloomberg's Karen Freifeld and Hugh Son, "AIG May Have to Reveal More Bonus Data, Faces Cuomo Subpoena"

Associated Press' Nigel Duara, "Senator suggests AIG execs should kill themselves"

LA Times' Jim Puzzanghera and Tom Hamburger, "Bonuses won't be easy to recover"

NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin, "The Case for Paying the A.I.G. Bonuses"

BUDGET / ECONOMIC STIMULUS

LA Times' Maura Reynolds, "Obama acts to boost small-business lending"

Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon, "Group Forecasts Tax Bills Under Obama's Proposal"

The Hill's Susan Crabtree, "Analysis: Plan Would Not Block Bridge To Nowhere"

Washington Post's Philip Rucker, "One of Those Earmarks That Bug People"

Associated Press' Matt Apuzzo and Brett J. Blackledge, "Washington still writing stimulus rules" http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090317/ap_on_go_pr_wh/stimulus_what_now

Wall Street Journal's Michael M. Phillips, "Shovels Are There, but the Readiness May Not Be"

NY Times' Jennifer Steinhauer, "A Race to Be the First to Use Stimulus Money"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

LA Times' Peter Nicholas and Janet Hook, "Obama goes on the offensive"

Slate's John Dickerson, "Obama's plans to adapt FDR's model to address today's economy"

Politico's Carol E. Lee, "VP: Obama's job harder than FDR's"

Washington Post's Scott Wilson, "Obama Team Derides Cheney's Criticisms"

NY Times' Charlie Savage, "Obama Undercuts Whistleblowers, Senator Says"

NY Times' Neil A. Lewis, "Moderate Is Said to Be Pick for Court"

FOREIGN POLICY / TRADE

LA Times' Paul Richter, "Obama wavers on pledge to declare Armenian genocide"

MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT

Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid, "Minnesota Senate Standoff Plays Into GOP's Hands"

Politico's Manu Raju, "GOP eyes Bush v. Gore to save Coleman seat"

FUTURE RACES

2010 OH Governor: Quinnipiac University Poll, "Ohio Gov. Strickland's Approval Slips, But Still Strong"

2010 TX Governor: Austin American-Statesman, "Perry trails Hutchison in poll"

2010 CT Senate: Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid, "Dodd's Safe Perch Is Shaken by Bailout"

2010 PA Senate: Philadelphia Inquirer's Thomas Fitzgerald, "Pa. labor offers Specter a deal"

2010 PA Senate: Philadelphia Bulletin's Chris Friend, "Specter, Luksik And Perhaps Toomey Vie For Position"

ALSO:

McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman, "GOP 'trackers' stalk Dems in hunt for 'macaca' moment"

Politico's Andie Coller, "Are politicians spamming YouTube?"

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