POLITICS -- February 4, 2011 at 8:28 AM ET
Obama Likely to Face Questions on Egypt
People demonstrate against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House last week. Photo by Collin David Anderson via Flickr.
When President Obama takes the stage at 3:10 p.m. ET with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he will face his first series of public questions from the press about the crisis in Egypt since it has escalated over the course of the last week.
The president has made two statements to the press solely focused on Egypt. Both came following lengthy phone conversations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but he did not answer questions.
The New York Times reports Friday that the administration is seeking a path for Mubarak to step down sooner rather than later:
"The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday."
There's no doubt that the administration's current posture toward Mubarak will dominate Friday's news conference. (Remember, there are usually only two questions per side at these bilateral news conferences.) But also be on the lookout for how President Obama shares his thinking about the overall calibration on the freedom vs. stability scale.
However the president chooses to advance the ball Friday afternoon, don't look to his potential 2012 opponents to make much political hay about it. The New York Times and the Associated Press each take a look at how the field of possible Republican presidential contenders are largely holding back from major criticism of President Obama's performance during the crisis in Egypt.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
Job creation in January fell well below expectations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that 36,000 jobs were created last month. Forecasters had been predicting more than 100,000 jobs were added to the payroll in January.
The one headline-grabbing number that will give the Obama administration some hope is the unemployment rate. In January, the nation's unemployment rate fell to 9 percent, the lowest it has been since April 2009.
However, with only 36,000 jobs added last month, it's clear the economic recovery continues to be a jobless one.
The new normal is a stagnant labor market that will be no easy obstacle to navigate as President Obama gears up for his re-election campaign.
The gap between how Democrats and Republicans view the President Obama's job performance grew even wider during his second year in office.
A Gallup poll released Friday found a 68 percent split among members of the two parties, with an average of 81 percent of Democrats approving of the president, compared to just 13 percent of Republicans. That was up from a 65 percent divide during President Obama's first year and is the most polarized rating for a president's second year since polling began in 1953.
The president's rating over the past year ranks as the fourth most polarized on record, with his predecessor, George W. Bush, registering the top three years. During President Bush's fourth year in office, when he was re-elected to a second term, he had an average ratings gap of 76 percent between Republicans and Democrats.
As Gallup notes, the president has seen his overall approval rating rise in recent months -- from 44 percent in mid-November to 50 percent now -- but that "has not necessarily meant a reduction in polarization of views about him."
KELLY TO COMMAND ENDEAVOUR
When the space shuttle Endeavour embarks on its final mission in April, astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., will be at the command.
"Kelly and NASA are expected to make an announcement at a press conference Friday," reports POLITICO's Jonathan Allen.
Rep. Giffords was shot in the head last month while holding a constituent event outside a Tucson grocery store. The shooting rampage left six people dead and a dozen others wounded.
Last week Rep. Giffords was moved from Arizona to a rehabilitation center in Houston, where Kelly lives and trains.
The severe injuries suffered by Rep. Giffords had raised questions about whether Kelly would be able to participate in the shuttle flight -- his fourth -- but a source close to the decision told Allen that it was "clear all systems are go for him to lead the mission, scheduled to lift off on April 19."
Specific details of Rep. Giffords' recovery have been kept under wraps, but Kelly did take to Twitter Tuesday to provide this update: "Today was a huge day for GG. Lots of progress!"
The two-week mission to the International Space Station would reunite Kelly with his twin brother, Scott, who currently leads the six-person team aboard the orbiting complex.
Don't miss Judy Woodruff's documentary exploring the high-impact role Nancy Reagan played in her husband's administration. On the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, PBS stations across the country will air "Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime."
It's scheduled for 10 p.m. ET, but be sure to check your local listings.
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