CBSN

Morning Bulletin: Monday, May 18, 2009

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

President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House at 10:30am ET where the Israeli-Palestinan dispute will be the main topic of conversation.

(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is signaling he may resist President Barack Obama's pressure to support Palestinian statehood as the two leaders try to tackle an array of Mideast issues Monday on which they disagree," reports the Associated Press Amy Tiebel. "A senior aide to Netanyahu, national security adviser Uzi Arad, suggested the Israeli leader might not yield to pressure from Obama for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. He also seemed to hint that Israel might consider military action against Iran when he said there was a 'sense of urgency' in Israel over the Iranian nuclear threat."

"Such rhetoric suggests diplomatic high stakes as the two men hold their first White House meeting against a backdrop of disagreement over several key issues: U.S. overtures to once-shunned Iran and Syria and pressure on Israel to support a Palestinian state. The Obama administration is trying to promote dialogue with Iran and Syria, Israel's arch foes. Israel fears such efforts could lead to greater tolerance for Iran's nuclear ambitions. Before his Feb. 10 election, Netanyahu derided the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which stalled late last year, as a waste of time. While not opposing the Obama administration's efforts to promote dialogue with Iran and Syria, Israel is skeptical. Like Washington, it dismisses Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful and fears the U.S. outreach could lead to greater tolerance for Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Israelis are also worried by the recent diplomatic shuttles to Syria for fear they reward Damascus even as it maintains close ties to Tehran and harbors Iranian proxies that have warred with Israel, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Gaza's Hamas."

"Middle Eastern leaders have listened to President Obama say that he intends to achieve the peace deal that has eluded so many of his predecessors. Now they're about to find out just how hard he'll push to get it," writes the Los Angeles Times' Paul Richter. "Obama today holds his first White House meeting with Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a conservative who has pointedly stopped short of accepting the idea of a Palestinian state, which is the goal of the president and most other world leaders. Whether Netanyahu clings to that position will have a major bearing on the tenor of the visit."

"There long have been predictions that the first Oval Office meeting between the two leaders would result in a noisy collision, as happened in 1996 when Netanyahu, in his previous term as prime minister, met with President Clinton. But officials of both countries say that will not happen this time, in part because Netanyahu knows that Israelis want him to get along with the leaders of their nation's allies and protectors. Yet the Israeli leader no doubt will probe to see how much effort and political capital the busy president is willing to expend on an effort that has so often proved fruitless. Leaders of many Arab and European countries, who want Obama to pressure Israel toward concessions, are watching with some anxiety. 'The question is, what will he do when he meets resistance?' wondered an Arab diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The diplomat said that on several international issues, such as the suspected terrorist detainees and the U.S. desire for a European economic stimulus, Obama has proved to be a compromiser, and some Arabs are fearful about what he'll be willing to concede. Obama's advisors are divided on whether he should press hard at a time when a deal appears so difficult."

In terms of Iran, "Officials on both sides are hopeful that the two leaders will hammer out a broad understanding on dealing with Tehran over the next year," adds Politico's David S. Cloud. "But on key questions about the tactics and timing of dealing with Iran's nuclear program, the two men have deep differences, almost certainly more than even an Oval Office meeting and an intimate lunch can fully resolve. It comes down to pressuring Iran - how much and how quickly - and how the two resolve that question may well determine whether there's hope of bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to the table in the early part of Obama's term.

"U.S. officials favor a slow approach to Iran, letting Obama's diplomatic outreach to Tehran continue for months, and, if that fails, resorting to tougher economic sanctions aimed at gradually isolating the regime. Top administration officials have signaled deep unease about eventually resorting to military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, if diplomacy and sanctions fail. Netanyahu agrees on the need to isolate Tehran, but worries that the prolonged U.S. timetable for achieving that goal will give Iran more time to progress on its nuclear program. He favors moving to tough sanctions sooner and, if necessary, airstrikes aimed at setting the Iranian program back years. Israeli officials especially worry that Obama, in his quest for a diplomatic deal, might accept something less than verifiable agreement that would deny Iran the capability of producing nuclear weapons."

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
CLIMATE CHANGE: "The House Energy and Commerce Committee planned to begin work on legislation that, for the first time, would limit the emissions blamed for global warming," reports the Associated Press' Dina Cappiello. "Across the Potomac River in Virginia, the Environmental Protection Agency scheduled a public hearing on a proposal that could lead to regulating six greenhouse gases under existing law. Which proposal will ultimately win out depends mostly on Congress. The House bill would largely pre-empt the EPA from forcing industries to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Instead, it writes a new chapter that would put a price on each ton of pollution and allow industry to decide how to meet increasingly more stringent targets. The bill also requires more electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar. President Barack Obama has made it clear that he prefers new legislation to cope with the problem. .. And EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at a hearing last week told lawmakers that the EPA finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare would not necessarily lead to regulation. She said the agency was compelled to weigh in on the threat posed by greenhouse gases after a 2007 Supreme Court ruling found them to be air pollutants."

Meantime, writes the Los Angeles Times' Jim Tankersley, "Sprawling across about 9,000 acres of rolling farmland in southwestern Indiana is one of the world's biggest aluminum smelters, operated by Alcoa Inc. The maze of rectangular buildings and giant smokestacks consumes enough electricity to supply a city of 200,000 -- power generated by burning more than 2 million tons of coal a year. So it may be surprising that company executives are pushing Congress to pass a version of President Obama's plan for combating global warming. After all, Obama wants to slap hefty fees on facilities like Alcoa's that pump millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air. Those fees could raise costs for the company and leave it vulnerable to foreign competitors."

"But a growing number of coal users have come to believe that, with the right tweaks, Obama's plan would not only help the environment but boost their profits. 'If we act wisely and swiftly,' Alcoa global issues director Meg McDonald told a House committee last month, climate legislation 'will assist in restoring growth and provide the means for America to be the global leader in low-carbon technology.' Politically, the decision to get behind the broad outlines of climate legislation mirrors the push by insurers and pharmaceutical companies to remake the nation's healthcare system: In both cases, corporate strategists concluded that some government action was likely, and they might fare better at the table than on the sidelines."

5021001OBAMA AT NOTRE DAME: "President Barack Obama directly addressed the divide over abortion in the U.S. yesterday, telling graduates at the University of Notre Dame that both sides must engage in a dialogue with 'open hearts," reports Bloomberg News' Edwin Chen. "The president, whose appearance at the Roman Catholic University drew protests from some clergy and groups objecting to his support for abortion rights, urged Americans to change the tone of the debate over the issue and find areas of common ground even if they can't completely overcome differences. 'I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away,' Obama said in his speech to 2,500 graduates at the university's campus in northern Indiana. 'While we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.'"

"The president's appearance at Notre Dame returned to the forefront a national debate over abortion and other social issues that shadowed his two predecessors and that Obama largely has sidestepped. It likely will escalate again with Obama's nomination in the coming weeks of a new U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring. Obama arrived in South Bend, Indiana, to demonstrations by both critics and supporters. At least two protesters in the audience of about 12,000 people interrupted Obama's opening remarks. They were booed by many in the rest of the crowd, which began to chant Obama's campaign theme, 'Yes, we can,' before order was restored less than a minute later."

(AP Photo)
ALSO TODAY: First Lady Michelle Obama is in New York City where she'll attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Wing and, later, she'll be joined by Jill Biden at the American Ballet's Spring Gala at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Vice President Biden delivers the commencement address at Wake Forest University before leaving for a trip to Southeastern Europe. This week, he'll visit leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo.

REPLACING SOUTER:
NY Times' Neil A. Lewis, "Republicans in Senate Lower Expectations of a Court Fight"

Associated Press' Charles Babington, "Finding clues in Obama's Senate record on justices"

HEALTH CARE
Politico's Patrick O'Connor and Jonathan Martin, "Obama tries to sway GOP in favor of health care"

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "Dems unclear where Baucus will side on health care reform"

Associated Press' Stephen Ohlemacher, "Congress has little appetite for health care taxes"

4876687CIA INTERROGATIONS
CBS News' Michelle Levi, "Torture Photos: To Release Or Keep Classified?"

Bloomberg News' Romaine Bostick, "Pelosi Must Provide Proof or Apology on CIA Memo, Boehner Says"

Politico's Andy Barr, "GOP turns up volume on Pelosi comment on CIA"

NY Times' John Harwood, "A Leadership Test for an Unbowed Pelosi"

(CBS)
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
CBS News' Katie Couric's "60 Minutes" profile of Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

Washington Post's Dan Balz, "As President, Obama Is Unafraid to Disappoint His Allies"

Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman, "Liberals Fret Over Obama's Compromises"

Bloomberg News' Michael Forsyth and Justin Blum, "Huntsman Seen as Effective as China Relations Evolves"

Washington Post's David Cho, "At Geithner's Treasury, Key Decisions on Hold"

NY Times' Jeff Zeleny, "From Serving in Iraq to Welcoming White House Guests"

Politico's Carol E. Lee, "Obama's foreign policy voice, speechwriter Ben Rhodes"

(AP)
GOP'S FUTURE
Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet, "Steele Still Likes Powell ... and Cheney and Limbaugh and... Tim Kaine?!"

Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid, "Club for Growth Wears on Some Republicans"

Las Vegas Review-Journal's Molly Ball, "Ensign trip to Iowa fuels 2012 speculation"

MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT
Politico's Manu Raju, "Coleman doesn't fight impact of court decision"

FUTURE RACES
Bloomberg News' Matthew Benjamin, "Rising Incomes May Help Democrats Avert 2010 Election Debacle"

Politico's Ben Smith, "GOP sounds alarm on Latino voter gap"

2009 CA state propositions: Sacramento Bee

2009 VA Governor: Washington Post, "Polls in Va. Governor's Race Haven't Met Post's Standards"

2009 Pittsburgh Mayor: New York Times' Sean D. Hammill, "In Pittsburgh, Primary Tests Young Mayor's Hold on Power"

2010 FL Governor: Associated Press, "Fla. AG McCollum to enter governor's race"

2010 TX Governor: Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak, "Texas Gov. Rick Perry secession comment resonates near and far"

2010 DE Senate: Wilmington News Journal's Nicole Gaudiano, "GOP's best courting Castle for Senate"

2010 FL Senate: Ft. Myers News-Press' Bill Cotterell, "2010 Florida election turning into quite a race"

2010 KY Senate: Associated Press' Janet Cappiello Blake, "Sen. Mitch McConnell skirts Bunning endorsement"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.