An All-Obama Week on the Economy

IN THE NEWS: Hagel visits Afghanistan … Positive jobs numbers … Sequester is felt locally … Brennan sworn in … Rubio’s stands against ‘Obamacare’ … This week’s totally under-the-radar confirmation hearing … How to propose on Twitter (and get a senator to help)


An All-Obama Week on the Economy

Considering that it stumbled off to a start with the sequester, this was a big bust-out week for President Obama on the economy.

On Wall Street, the Dow reached new levels, shooting past the closing records set in October 2007, just before the crash. The Federal Reserve reported that Americans have recovered the staggering $16 trillion lost in wealth since the recession. And on Friday, a new jobs report gave Obama what he’s wanted for four years: an unemployment rate that, at 7.7 percent, finally fell below where it was when he started as president (7.8 percent).

But plenty of danger lies ahead. If the $85 billion in sequester cuts go through as planned, gross domestic product will slow 0.5 percent and about 750,000 jobs could be lost by the end of the year. And the economy is far less equal than when Obama began, with most of the new wealth accruing to the rich.

All of which raises the stakes for a fair tax-reform and deficit package in coming weeks. Read more

Michael Hirsh 


HAGEL MAKES SURPRISE VISIT TO AFGHANISTAN. Just days after winning confirmation after a bruising fight, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel landed in Afghanistan on Friday for a surprise visit, The Washington Post reports. Hagel will get a first-hand look at the winding-down war zone, speak to commanders and reacquaint himself with Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai. “We have a lot of big issues and challenges ahead as we prepare for a responsible transition,” Hagel told reporters. “That transition has to be done right.” Read more

POSITIVE JOBS NUMBERS COME WITH A CAVEAT. The good news? Employers in February added jobs at a faster-than-expected pace, a further sign that the labor market is gaining vigor after years of weakness in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The bad news? Those who have been out of work the longest are still struggling, and the plight of the long-term unemployed has become one of the more intractable problems of the economic recovery. The economy added 236,000 jobs and unemployment fell to 7.7 percent last month, down from 7.9 percent in January, according to the Labor Department’s latest monthly jobs report. But the percentage of Americans who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more has remained near record highs. Read more

  • The unemployment rate is now at its lowest since 2008, but when the Fed meets later this month, don’t count on big changes to its easy-money policy, The Wall Street Journalreports.

SEQUESTER A MUCH BIGGER DEAL AT THE LOCAL LEVEL. Many in Washington, including some media and pundits, have said the sequester cuts are not that big a deal. But as this gallery of local newspaper front-pages, compiled by BuzzFeed, makes clear, both potential and actual cuts — from Head Start to airports to the agriculture industry — are impacting communities nationwide. Read more

BRENNAN SWORN IN BY BIDEN. Following a tough confirmation fight, incoming CIA Director John Brennan, was sworn in Friday by Vice President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution, dating from 1787, which has George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it,” according to the White House. See a photo of the ceremony here.

  • Read the story behind Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour sequester.

RUBIO WON’T SUPPORT A CR THAT DOESN’T DEFUND ‘OBAMACARE.’ Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he won’t vote for legislation to continue funding the federal government unless it defunds President Obama’s health care reform law, CNN reports. A vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, Rubio added his support to a CR amendment offered by tea-party-backed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would strip funding for ‘Obamacare.’ Read more

GIFFORDS TO RECEIVE JFK PROFILE IN COURAGE AWARD. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., won this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, the Associated Press reports. The JFK Museum and Library said Giffords, who was severely wounded in a shooting at a constituent meeting in January 2011, will be honored for the “political, personal, and physical courage she has demonstrated in her fearless public advocacy for policy reforms aimed at reducing gun violence.” Past recipients of the award include the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; former Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and former President Ford. Read more

BIN LADEN SPOKESMAN PLEADS NOT GUILTY. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a senior al-Qaida official and the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, pleaded not guilty to plotting against Americans in a federal court in New York Friday, the Associated Press reports. Ghaith, a top spokesman for the terror network, entered the plea through a lawyer and did not request bail. The judge in the case said he would set a trial date next month. Prosecutors said the trial would last about three weeks. Read more

#WHATISHAPPENING?! HOW TO PROPOSE ON TWITTER USING A SENATOR. Brett Wanamaker might be Twitter’s most efficient user. In two tweets yesterday (his only two ever), Wanamaker got Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s attention and got engaged to his girlfriend, Beth Adelson, Warner’s press secretary. Predicting where Adelson’s attention would be, Wanamaker tweeted at the senator, “Senator: your PressSecy pays more attn to this feed than her own - can I borrow this space for a minute?” Warner happily obliged, and Wanamaker quickly proposed. Adelson’s lovestruck, tweeted response? “what is happening.” But subsequent twitpics from the senator’s account showed that Adelson did, indeed, say yes when Wanamaker showed up with flowers and a ring. Read more


“It’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.” -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quoted by the Huffington Post, referring to “Rand Paul, Cruz, Amash, whoever.”


THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES STORY OF HOW DISNEY BOUGHT ‘STAR WARS.’ The AARP-eligible Han, Luke, and Leia just may be back in theaters in 2015, when Disney releases the next iteration of the Star Wars franchise. That’s just one of several revealing tidbits dropped in a Bloomberg Businessweek story by Devin Leonard that goes inside the story of Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm. The deal, which came as a surprise to the sci-fi world, actually percolated over several years as Star Wars creator George Lucas got closer to Disney CEO Robert Iger. Read more


THE UNDER-HYPED CONFIRMATION HEARING OF SALLY JEWELL. Obama’s nominee for secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, was severely overshadowed by the drama over CIA Director John Brennan’s confirmation. But Jewell on Thursday was answering questions before a Senate panel about climate change, endangered species, public-land use, and her time on the board of a national-parks advocacy group, while demurring on a question about carbon taxes. At one point, Sen. Lamar Alexander asked about her resume, which included construction work on the Alaska oil pipeline, a stint as a petroleum engineer, nearly 20 years as a commercial banker, and a chief executive of a billion-dollar firm, R.E.I. “How’d you get appointed by this administration?” Alexander wondered. “You sound more like a nominee of a Republican administration.” Responded Jewell: “I thought you were going to ask, ‘Why can’t you hold a job?’ ” Read more


JEB BUSH MAKES THE ROUNDS. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and his nearly 13-hour filibuster are sure to be a hot topic on the Sunday shows this weekend, though Paul himself does not currently appear in the lineup for any of the programs. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, fresh off the release of a new book and a “I was for it before I was against it before I was for it” moment on immigration, will make the rounds on six (including Univision's Al Punto) Sunday shows. Read more

NBC’s Meet the Presshosts Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

CBS’s Face the Nationhosts New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Bush; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

ABC’s This Week hosts Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; and Bush.

Fox News Sunday hosts Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Bush.

CNN’s State of the Union hosts House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Bush; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

CNBC’s Capitol Gainshosts Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Sen. David Vitter, R-La.; former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and USAID administrator Rajiv Shah.

CSPAN’s Newsmakersfeatures Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.

Bloomberg’s Political Capitalfeatures Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif. (Fri., 9 p.m.)

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