Morning Must Reads -- Gibbs undermines Obama 

Two Parties Join Together, Then Resume Divided Ways

When will President Obama give up on the Robert Gibbs experiment?

Immediately after Obama made a surprise appearance in a snow-emptied press briefing room to emphasize that he was sincere about his new call for bipartisanship, Gibb took the podium for a bit of prop comedy at the expense of the GOP.

In taking follow-up questions from reporters, Gibbs went into a rehearsed, tedious bit Sarah Palin writing talking points on her hand. He wrote his grocery list and “ hope and change” on his own hand. That he lacked the good sense to keep his palm on the podium after Obama’s remarks should be enough to get him sacked.

Gibbs, who often uses sarcasm and put downs, immediately undercut Obama’s message about seeking an open dialogue with a petty attack totally out of place for anyone working at the White House, let alone the public face of the administration. If Obama ever needed proof of what a liability Gibbs has become, Tuesday’s performance should prove that his press secretary is far out of his depth.

Writers Helene Cooper and Carl Hulse look at the uneven efforts of the Obama White House to prove that the president has rediscovered post-partisanship.

“Tuesday’s meeting was the first in what administration officials say will be monthly bipartisan sessions, which Mr. Obama called for in the State of the Union address. Mr. Obama declared that ‘a sense of purpose that transcends petty politics’ must be forged by Democrats and Republicans to address national problems.”


Wall Street Journal -- Union-Backed Nominee Blocked in Senate

The president has a bipartisanship image problem, but when it comes to passing legislation, his challenges are all Democratic in nature.

Republicans were ready to use their newly enlarged minority for a first party-line filibuster to stop the appointment of a hard-line union lawyer to the National Labor Relations Board. But before they could try their first Brown-out, key Democrats abandoned ship. Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln both jumped off the train and joined the Republican filibuster against the personification of Card Check.

While party leaders got some moderates facing voters this fall, like Indiana’s Evan Bayh and Colorado’s Michael Bennet, to back the controversial nominee, the defection of four Democratic Senators (Landrieu of Louisiana and Pryor of Arkansas both sat out the vote once it was clear the president and his labor allies had been shut down) reveals again why Democrats, despite supermajority control of Washington for most of a year, accomplished so little.

Writers Melanie Trottman and Kris Maher look at what’s next for Democrats and big labor (aside from pinning the blame on the GOP):

“Richard Trumka, president of labor federation AFL-CIO, called the outcome Washington politics-as-usual and said it was ‘reprehensible that a minority in the U.S. Senate has blocked an up-or-down vote’ on Mr. Becker. Mr. Trumka said he would support President Barack Obama in making recess appointments of critical government posts ‘if that's what it takes to get around minority delay and obstruction.’”


Los Angeles Times -- Senate jobs bill a show of bipartisanship

The bipartisanship being lately embraced by the majority party was supposed to be capped off by some Republican support for a Senate jobs/stimulus/unemployment bill. But the evil winter weather pushed back the timeline and left the Democrat’s claims resting on bipartisan opposition to one of the president’s key nominees and the schlock comedy of the White House press secretary.

Writers By Janet Hook and Christi Parsons look at what will likely be in the bill that Harry Reid hopes will get some love from across the aisle. To make that happen, Reid may need to sweeten his offer.

“[The] cornerstone would be a proposal to give businesses that hire unemployed workers this year an exemption from the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. If they keep those workers more than a year, employers would get an additional $1,000 tax credit per employee.

Other provisions of the bill are, for the most part, expansions or extensions of existing policies. The tax break for new equipment purchases by small businesses would be increased. The bill expands the Build America Bonds program, which subsidizes interest costs for state and local bonds issued to finance infrastructure projects. It extends until May 31 unemployment payments and healthcare subsidies for the jobless, which otherwise would expire for many people at the end of the month.”


New York Times -- House Closes for 2 Weeks; Senate In and Out

I have to shovel some new pathways into the back yard because the dog is running out of operational space after six days of snow siege.

Writer David Herszenhorn tells us that the House is giving up – they’re gone until Feb. 22. Harry Reid, who is such a bad poker player that he even tries to bluff a blizzard, is talking about jamming through his jobs bill on Thursday.

Republicans need a couple more days to get on board through negotiations, and the conditions here are so dreadful – howling winds, drifting snow and no public transportation – that getting staffers to the Senate is too tough.

“If comity prevails, the Senate could finish up votes on the jobs bill on Thursday, and senators could head out for their own Presidents’ Day recess. If not, Mr. Reid indicated that he may need to schedule a vote next weekend.”


New York Times -- U.S. Eyes Tougher Sanctions Over Iran Nuclear Program

While the administration is very busy defending itself against charges that the president has been soft on terrorism, pressure is mounting on the diplomatic front as well.

Iran is tweaking Obama over uranium enrichment, making more demands about how and where the delivery of nuclear fuel should be made and promising to make their own if the West does not comply.

That again leaves Obama doing an unconvincing Bush impersonation in talking about tough new sanctions and isolation for Iran as a year of engagement and dialogue produce nothing but an emboldened regime in Tehran.

Writers Helene Cooper and Mark Landler look at the administration’s frustrations.

“As the Obama administration lays the groundwork for a resolution, it is racing against a couple of timetables.

The first is set by Iran’s nuclear program and the administration’s sense of urgency to act. The second is set by the dynamics of the Security Council, where France currently presides.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been aggressive in pushing for new sanctions, especially in the energy sector, according to American and European officials. The next member to hold the chair is Gabon, an African nation less likely to push hard for a resolution.”

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Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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