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Morning Bulletin – Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
(CBS)
President Obama begins his day talking health care with House Democratic leaders and he'll make a public statement after that meeting at 10am ET.

At 10:15, Mr. Obama receives his daily economic briefing and, according to the White House, "the Vice President will present the President with the first Quarterly Report on progress implementing the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009."

Following that meeting at 11:30am ET, he and Vice President Biden will hold a closed-door meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions to consult with them as he decides on his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

**The Hill's Alexander Bolton, "Clock ticks for nominee"

**Washington Post's Peter Slevin, "Obama Makes Empathy a Requirement for Court"

**Associated Press' Ben Feller, "Obama's court pick to be shaped by his experience"

Meantime, tonight at Arizona State University, President Obama tackles the first of two controversial commencement addresses. The ASU controversy is not of his making; instead, it's the criticism the school is receiving for inviting Mr. Obama to speak and not bestow an honorary degree. On Sunday, the president heads to Notre Dame, where anti-abortion rights Catholics are upset at the school for allowing the pro-abortion rights Obama to speak.

In Tempe tonight, Mr. Obama will deliver his address at 10:10pm ET, following a pre-ceremony program featuring rock icon Alice Cooper. As for that honorary degree, despite the outcry, ASU is holding its ground, first saying his "body of work is yet to come", then explaining that the school doesn't give honorary degrees to sitting politicians. In lieu of the degree, the school will name a scholarship in his honor.

(AP)
As for his remarks, "Obama will deliver the commencement address during what has evolved into a Sun Devil Stadium extravaganza that will pit his trademark soaring oratory against the Valley's soaring temperatures," reports the Arizona Republic's Dan Nowicki.

"Many of the 71,000 people expected for the speech will wait for hours in searing triple-digit heat to hear a speech that will last about 20 minutes. The president is expected to 'discuss the amazing opportunity that graduates have, the challenging world that they enter into,' said Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary. As he has done before, he is likely to talk about the importance of 'the choices that you make leaving college, about being involved in your community and serving a purpose higher than yourself.' ...

"Obama, who visited the Tempe campus in October 2007 as a presidential candidate and views Arizona as a key swing state for his 2012 re-election, comes to ASU as his administration readies a major education-reform push. The White House has hinted that, unlike Obama's Feb. 18 announcement in Mesa of his administration's housing-mortgage rescue plan, today's address will focus less on policy and more on traditional, forward-looking inspirational rhetoric."

(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
GOP'S FUTURE: "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's announcement yesterday that he will run for the Senate is being cast by Republicans as a sign that their political fortunes are turning for the better with the emergence of a new crop of moderate voices lining up for 2010 races," writes the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.

"'It's a big tent with plenty of room for the Charlie Crists of this world,' said Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, of the current state of the GOP. Crist, who was elected governor in 2006 after a stint as Florida's attorney general, is the most high-profile of a series of middle-of-the-road Republicans being recruited by National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Tex.) ...

"Cornyn's decision to not only enlist Crist for the race but also endorse him moments after his candidacy became official -- despite the fact that former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a favorite of conservatives, is also running -- is a sign that Republican leaders charged with recruiting candidates for 2010 have made clear where they come down in the dispute between the GOP's moderate wing and its conservative faction."

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten adds, "It is a heated debate in the struggling Republican Party: whether to broaden its ideology or follow the advice of Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and others who argue against deviating from core conservative principles.

"Now, the GOP has a chance to see whether a moderate can become a model for Republican resurgence, with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announcing Tuesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate in that politically important state. Crist, who has bucked the GOP's conservative wing on voting rights, global warming and other issues, enjoys high approval ratings. But with the governor facing a conservative in the primary, Republican leaders across the country have seized on Florida as a battleground in the larger philosophical war over the party's future."

Meantime, "To the chagrin, perhaps, of Republicans looking to rebuild the tattered party, Dick Cheney has grabbed the spotlight," writes the Associated Press' Steven R. Hurst.

(CBS)
"The recurring theme of the once-reclusive and largely unpopular former vice president: President Barack Obama has put Americans in danger of a new terrorist attack by promising to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and banning torture. When Obama took office, former President George W. Bush went quietly to his new house in Texas, slipped intentionally into anonymity and honored protocol by staying silent about his successor. But Cheney, widely remembered for heading to undisclosed secure locations at times of national crisis and for working invisibly behind the scenes, has done just the opposite."

Time Magazine's Michael Duffy writes, "In the last few days, former Vice President Dick Cheney has appeared on CBS' Face the Nation and Fox News to defend the Bush team's harsh interrogation practices. His daughter Liz has done a turn on MSNBC to echo her father. Next week, Cheney is scheduled to give a speech called 'Keeping America Safe' at the American Enterprise Institute.

"For a man whose public profile was almost non-existent while he was a public servant, it's clear from his schedule alone that private citizen Cheney hasn't merely resurfaced — he's gone on the offensive. The question is why? ...

"What's quite clear about Cheney's sudden chatty spree is that Cheney wants to refocus the question about waterboarding and other interrogation techniques from whether they were legal to whether they worked. After eight years on the front lines of the war on terror, perhaps that is all a man can see. ...

"A far darker explanation for the spring offensive isn't about the past but the future. Obama officials spied something like a set up in Cheney's latest gambit. One of the Bush' teams biggest talking points in its final days in office was an insistence that its greatest accomplishment was preventing a second attack in the years after Sept. 11. By laying down the charge now that Obama has made the country less safe, the Bush team may be able to point fingers of blame if a second attack ever comes.

"Cheney has never had great political instincts, but it's also possible that with the Republican party scattered and adrift, he sees little to lose and perhaps something to gain from stating his case now. Cheney briefly ran for president in 1996, and though he is unlikely to make that mistake again, he may see a chance to boost his dismal approval ratings at least within the battered ranks of the GOP.

"The argument against this is that it is difficult to believe even the former vice president thinks a personal campaign for waterboarding is a good political move."

4762464"A party that has over the years been the home of a series of optimistic figures in American politics — from Ronald Reagan to Jack Kemp, who died last week, to (at times) George W. Bush — is increasingly coming across as downbeat or angry. And it is something that has Republicans increasingly worried," adds the New York Times' Adam Nagourney.

"How important is this? Certainly, the Republican party's first task obstacle is finding compelling leaders to make the case against the Democrats, as it builds itself back up for the elections of 2010 and 2012. And of course it has to hone an agenda that offers specific alternatives to Mr. Obama's far-reaching shifts in economic, social and national security policy. Yet tone matters. Time and time again, Americans have responded to optimism, delivered even in — indeed, particularly in — the most dire times, and even when that sunny message cloaked an attack.

"In many ways, Reagan's presidency was symbolized by one 1984 reelection advertisement, 'It's morning again in America,' just as Bill Clinton's was by his choice of Fleetwood Mac's 'Don't Stop' as a musical reminder that he was 'thinking about tomorrow.' Mike Murphy, a one-time senior adviser to Mr. McCain, argued that Mr. McCain's hopes of winning the presidency were doomed when he lost the 'Happy Warrior' stance that had defined his political persona for so long, and simply went on the attack last year. 'Tone is important,' he said. 'Ultimately, the message has to be about big things,' said Mr. Murphy. 'But tone is how you wrap it.'"

Also, reports Politico's Andy Barr, "GOP govs plan Tea Party sequel"

ALSO TODAY: First Lady Michelle Obama will read to third-graders at D.C.'s Ferebee-Hope Community School.

Former President Bill Clinton is in Northern Virginia today to campaign with his friend and former campaign fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe, who is running in June's Democratic gubernatorial primary there. They'll make two stops in Herndon and Annandale, Va.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers the commencement address at New York University at 11am ET.

ECONOMY / STIMULUS / BAILOUTS

Washington Post's David Cho and Brady Dennis, "Officials Knew of AIG Bonuses Months Before Firestorm"

Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon and Damian Paletta, "U.S. Eyes Bank Pay Overhaul"

NY Times' Michael Cooper, "Stimulus Aid Trickles Out, but States Seek Quicker Relief"

HEALTH CARE

USA Today's John Fritze, "Senators weigh tax hikes to pay for health care for uninsured"

Associated Press' Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "Tax health care to pay for health care?"

NY Times' David Leonhardt, "Health Care, a Lesson in Pain"

SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE

Wall Street Journal's T.W. Farnam, "Social Security, Medicare Face Insolvency Sooner"

AFGHANISTAN / FOREIGN POLICY

Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson, "McChrystal To Take On a Wider Mission"

Washington Post's Walter Pincus, "At Hill Hearing, Details Sought on Afghanistan-Pakistan Policy"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

CQ Politics' Kathleen Hunter, "Interior Nomination Likely To Be Rejected In Senate"

MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT

Minneapolis Star Tribune's Paul Walsh, "Ventura tells Coleman: Quit, you hypocrite"

St. Paul Pioneer Press' Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, "Coleman requests campaign pay fees"

FUTURE RACES

2010 NY Governor: Quinnipiac University Poll, "New York Gov. Paterson Gets Low Scores From All Races, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Giuliani Narrows Gap With Cuomo In Governor's Race"

2010 FL Senate: Miami Herald's Steve Bousquet, "Crist's record will be put to the test"

2010 FL Senate: NY Times' Damien Cave and Gary Fineout, "Restless in Tallahassee, or With Eye on 2012, Governor Rolls Dice"

2010 FL Senate: St. Petersburg Times' Adam C. Smith, "Only uncertainty is certain in Florida this election cycle"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "Chris Kennedy, mulling Illinois Senate bid many need name ID boost"

2010 NV Senate: Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "Dearth of challengers could mean a free ride for Harry Reid"

2010 OH Senate: Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik, "Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner hit the campaign trail hard"

2010 PA Senate: Allentown Morning Call's Josh Drobnyk, "Outsider no more, Toomey shoring up status in GOP"

2010 UT Senate: Salt Lake Tribune's Robert Gehrke, "Oops! Shurtleff unveils Senate bid plans on Twitter"

ETC.

Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham, "Palin signs deal to write book for HarperCollins by 2010"

Associated Press' Jim Abrams, "Report: One-fourth of overseas votes go uncounted"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.