By RICK KLEIN
Maybe there’s a path for the Republican Party where Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, goes away and never comes back.
Maybe, with the only thing in Washington greater than the Democratic whip count being the president’s approval rating, that GOP comeback is ready to finally, belatedly, begin.
Or maybe the Palin phenomenon will fade out, and the party will look to new voices and new faces after this bizarre, sometimes insane stretch.
But salmon swim upstream for a reason (we presume). And sometimes the point guard gets the ball back.
Palin pulls up for some (parting?) shots with ABC’s Kate Snow.
She’s a touch philosophical for a fishing trip -- but doesn’t sound like she’s ready to pack in any gear for good.
“Politically speaking -- if I die, I die. So be it,” Palin told Snow in remote Dillingham, Alaska, in an interview on “Good Morning America” Tuesday.
On 2012: “Don’t know what the future holds. I’m not gonna shut any door. That -- who knows what doors open. I can’t predict what the next fish run’s gonna look like down on the Nushagak. So I certainly can’t predict what’s gonna happen in the next couple of years.”
“I’m extremely happy.”
More on why she’s resigning: “You don’t just embrace the politics of usual of a lame duck session… milk it the way most politicians do… say, it’s a paycheck and I get to travel around. No! That’s politics as usual,” she said. “I’m being honest with the people whom I looooove.” “I don’t need a title to be the one to usher in what it is that needs to be done in our state or our country,” she said.
(Asked whether she’d be subjected to the same “political bloodsport” if she went for national office, Palin told Snow she’s confident that the “department of law at the White House” would protect her from baseless allegations.) (Is she adding to the bureaucracy?)
How about a shot at the media, in what may be her last round of interviews as governor: “The double standard that's applied here is a bit perplexing. ... Didn't Lisa Murkowski leave office to go take her dad's seat? [Jon] Huntsman left, [Janet] Napolitano just left . . . ,” Palin told the Anchorage Daily News, referring to governors who took positions in President Obama's administration.
Sean Cockerham reports: “Palin said she is embarking on a ‘different, more effective path’ than finishing her term. Asked how, she said she didn't know at this point, other than to campaign for political candidates who represent the values she supports.”
With that, the post-Palin era will have to wait for a while. Reports of her political demise have been vastly exaggerated. And we’ll all have Palin to kick around for at least a while longer.
But is it time to retire the party’s biggest rock star?
David Brooks is in search of “dignity,” and doesn’t find it with Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., or Palin: “Here was a woman who aspires to a high public role but is unfamiliar with the traits of equipoise and constancy, which are the sources of authority and trust,” Brooks writes of Palin.
“But it’s not right to end on a note of cultural pessimism because there is the fact of President Obama. Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.”
National Review’s Rich Lowry: “Sarah Palin’s words served only to throw a tissue of rationalization over a calculated choice made in her personal self-interest. In all likelihood, Palin is going to embrace her political celebrity with gusto, freed from the burdens of the geographic isolation of the Alaska governorship and its (relative to national politics) petty distractions. Her decision wasn’t particularly public-spirited, but neither was it crazy. She has seen her opportunities, and she’s going to take them.”
Lowry: “Whether she becomes more seasoned and more policy-oriented is the key to whether she cashes in her charisma for something more meaningful. As for Alaska, it will be a beloved afterthought.”
“All I know,” said Rush Limbaugh, per the New York Daily News’ Michael Saul, “is that she is going to continue to fire-up people in the conservative Republican base as often as she speaks to 'em.”
Intriguing nuggets, as the back story comes together: “In the weeks before Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced her resignation, she spoke privately with a range of prominent Republican officials – including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani,” ABC’s Justin Rood reports.
In Russia -- with love? ABC’s Jake Tapper sits down with President Obama.
“Ultimately, you know, we’re going to have to see whether a country like Russia, for example, is willing to work with us to apply pressure on Iran,” the president said. “That’s not something we’re going to know the results of, probably for several more months, as we continue to do the hard, diplomatic work of putting this coalition together to tell Iran, make the better choice.”
And on Vice President Joe Biden’s admission that the administration “misread” the economy at the beginning of the year, the president sounds skeptical on a second stimulus.
“There’s nothing that we would have done differently,” Obama told Tapper. Regarding what’s next: “This is something that we wrestle with constantly. . . . It is at a certain point potentially counterproductive if we’re spending more money that we’re having to borrow.”
Not that the pressure won’t be there. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., on the possibility of a second stimulus: “I think that it is probably needed,” he said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” Monday. “We’re going to need to have some further discussion. It will probably take place towards the end of the year and we want to take a look at the economic conditions at the time. But it certainly should be on the table at this point.”
Outside pressure: “A group of unions, including the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said they will start pressing lawmakers for a jobs bill. They said the $787 billion economic stimulus approved earlier this year, though helpful, wasn’t big enough and didn’t include enough government spending,” The Hill’s Walter Alarkon reports.
Inside pressure: “The U.S. should consider drafting a second stimulus package focusing on infrastructure projects because the $787 billion approved in February was ‘a bit too small,’ said Laura Tyson, an adviser to President Barack Obama,” per Bloomberg’s Shamim Adam. “The current plan ‘will have a positive effect, but the real economy is a sicker patient,’ Tyson said in a speech in Singapore today.”
Compromise? “There may be room for a middle ground,” Gerald Seib writes in his Wall Street Journal column, on the possibility of a second stimulus. “Let's say, for example, that the administration pushed later this year for a bill extending unemployment benefits that otherwise would expire. That would be a form of stimulus. And perhaps lawmakers would choose to attach a few additional doses of fiscal or tax stimulus to that bill. Whether that amounted to Stimulus II would be a question of labeling, but the effect would be pretty much the same.”
Movement on health care: Vice President Joe Biden is set to announce an agreement with hospitals that puts some of their skin in the game.
“The nation's hospitals agreed last night to contribute $155 billion over 10 years toward the cost of insuring the 47 million Americans without health coverage, according to two industry sources,” Ceci Connolly writes in The Washington Post. “The agreement that three hospital associations reached with White House officials and leaders of the Senate Finance Committee is the latest in a series of side deals that aim to reduce the cost of revamping the nation's health-care system and to neutralize influential industries that have historically opposed such reforms.”
Love these voluntary agreements: “If an agreement is finalized, it would be the latest step in an on-going effort by the White House to win concessions from major health industry groups to help pay for legislation aimed at providing health insurance to all Americans. Democrats are hoping to keep the cost of the overhaul at about $1 trillion over 10 years,” The New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn reports.
A concession -- and maybe a much bigger development -- from the White House: “It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday,” per The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler and Janet Adamy.
“The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable, Emanuel told them.
Paying for it: “House Ways and Means Committee members are likely to propose a surtax on high-income Americans to help pay for an overhaul of the health-care system, according to people familiar with the plan,” Bloomberg’s Ryan J. Donmoyer reports. “The tax would be similar to, yet much smaller than, a surtax proposed in 2007 by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a person familiar with the committee’s talks said. That plan would have added at least a 4 percent levy on incomes exceeding $200,000, and was projected to reap as much as $832 billion over 10 years.”
Maybe it all doesn’t have to be voted on by the August break -- but it has to be close: “If Senate Democrats can get their act together just long enough to marry those two [committee] proposals into something the president can get behind, a popular Obama could fill the inevitable August political vacuum with his trademark, high-minded rhetoric and rally the country behind whatever Congress comes up with,” Roll Call’s Emily Pierce writes.
Your day in Russia: “In a polite atmosphere where both men seemed reserved, President Obama met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this morning at his dacha in Moscow, Novo Ogaryovo, for a working breakfast that marked the first meeting of the two leaders,” ABC’s Ann Compton and Karen Travers report.
Said Obama: “We may not end up agreeing on everything, but I think that we can have a tone of mutual respect and consultation that will serve both the American people and the Russian people well.”
On the speech: “President Obama today called on Russians to put aside their former roles as Cold War foes of the United States and join together to work to curb nuclear weapons and to improve the economic and social lives of people around the globe,” Christi Parsons and Michael Muskal report in the Los Angeles Times.
Change: “You get to choose where change will take us,” the president said. “Because the future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground -- the future belongs to young people with the education and imagination to create.”
Agreement on nuclear weapons, but maybe not much more than that: “The progress reflected an effort to re-establish ties a year after Russia’s war with Georgia left the relationship more strained than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union. The two sides agreed to resume military contacts suspended after the Georgia war and sealed a deal allowing the United States to send thousands of flights of troops and weapons to Afghanistan through Russian airspace each year,” Clifford J. Levy and Peter Baker report in The New York Times. “They remained at loggerheads over American plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which Washington describes as a hedge against an Iranian nuclear breakthrough and which Russia vehemently opposes as a threat in its backyard.”
“The biggest achievement touted from the summit -- and the only document the two men signed -- was a nonbinding ‘joint understanding’ setting target ranges for a new round of nuclear arms reductions,” Politico’s Gosh Gerstein reports. “But a look at the fine print shows the deal is less than meets the eye, experts said. The two presidents punted on how to count total weapons or total warheads -- a crucial detail in the mathematics of arms reductions. And they committed in writing only to finish the deal ‘at the earliest possible date.’ ”
Back in Washington, Senator-elect Al Franken, D-Minn., gets sworn in Tuesday -- and reporters commence efforts to try to make him crack a joke.
“One of the things Mr. Franken, who will be sworn in Tuesday as Minnesota’s new Democratic senator, is working hardest at -- both for his constituents and everyone else -- is proving that he is no longer a comedian,” Mark Leibovich writes in The New York Times.
Dana Milbank, in The Washington Post: “The author of ‘Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot’ did his best to deliver this pleasant surprise. He wore a serious navy pinstriped suit and a serious navy striped tie. He unfolded a wrinkled piece of loose-leaf paper and placed it on the lectern. His brief speech was so boring it was laughable.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee welcomes senator No. 60 to the Democratic caucus. “It’s finally here,” says the new Web ad from the NRSC. “ With 60 senators, the Democrats have total control. . . . No checks. No balances. . . . They own everything . . . and have no one to blame now. . . . In 2010, you can hold them accountable. Vote Republican. 2010.”
The Democratic Governors Association has some numbers to be proud of: $11.6 million raised over the first six months of the year. The old record, $11.2 million, came in the first half of last year.
(One of their targets, gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, R-Va., is the guest on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” Tuesday -- at the funeral-friendly special time of 10:45 am ET.)
Censure for Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., from the South Carolina Republican Party: “Whereas, Governor Sanford’s conduct, in addition to falling below the standards expected of Republican elected officials, has breached the public’s trust and confidence in his ability to effectively perform the duties of his office; and Whereas, a formal admonishment by the South Carolina Republican Party is appropriate and necessary and, barring further revelations, will be the Party’s last word on the matter;Therefore, be it resolved, that the South Carolina Republican Party does, with great regret, censure Governor Mark Sanford for his recent conduct.”
The censure “makes it likely the GOP governor will be able to weather the storm surrounding his extramarital affair and remain in office,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Andy Barr report. “Though Monday’s vote does not have had any binding effect on the governor, it serves as a sign that even many of Sanford’s enemies among the state party establishment may no longer have the will to continue calling for his resignation, barring any unforeseen or additional disclosures about the governor’s personal life.”
Trouble for an Obama ally, in Massachusetts: “State Treasurer Tim Cahill this week will change his political party designation from Democrat to unenrolled, the first step in mounting an independent challenge to Democratic governor Deval Patrick in the 2010 general election, two advisers said today,” Andrea Estes writes in The Boston Globe. “Cahill, a lifelong Democrat who has served as treasurer since 2003, would not comment on his plans, but campaign advisers said he will make the switch at Quincy City Hall sometime this week.”
Banks get organized, against a key Obama plan: “As part of their efforts to roll back the Obama proposal for a consumer financial products regulator, several lobbying organizations representing banks are developing a ‘Harry and Louise’-style ad campaign,” per The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber. “The ads will emphasize the intrusiveness of the proposal -- of the government ‘telling you what you can and can't buy,’ according to the source. The hope is to run them sometime in July, when House Financial Services chairman Barney Frank plans to move the measure through his committee.”
Labor gets organized, against an old enemy: “Labor unions and other progressive organizations are taking aim at the nation’s premier business lobby: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Politico’s Jeanne Cummings reports. “One effort is being led by the Service Employees International Union, which is attacking the Chamber’s history of opposing legislation aimed at helping the working class. Its campaign has two goals: to counter the Chamber’s messages and its motives.”
On the Hill Tuesday: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will release a report on the causes of the financial crisis: “The Role of Government Affordable Housing Policy in Creating the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.”
Per an aide, “The report chronicles how Fannie/Freddie’s unique relationship with the federal government created an environment in which the market viewed them as an extension of the U.S. government and therefore ‘too big too fail.’ The fact that they directly answered to the federal government and its elected officials created an environment of ‘crony capitalism’ similar to that of Russia or China. The politicization of Fannie/Freddie paved the way for today’s financial crisis.”
“Hmm . . . I don’t really remember. But he’s a funny guy, as you’d expect.” -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked what he laughed about during his private meeting with senator-elect Al Franken, D-Minn.
Today on the “Top Line” political Webcast, at a special time of 10:45 am ET: Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, R-Va.; GOP strategist Carl Forti.
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