Washington Extra – Early valentine

February 11, 2011

Even on television from thousands of miles away, the Egyptian revolution was breathtaking. A moment to mark in history.

President Hosni Mubarak gave the protesters an early valentine by stepping down. What had been expected yesterday was surprising today.

President Barack Obama framed the event as one of the monumental examples of peaceful resistance that the world has seen, even though he was talking about the ouster of a strong ally of the United States for the last 30 years. OBAMA/

“And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history — echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice,” Obama said.

David Alexander and Phil Stewart have an interesting look at how U.S. officials see the head of Egypt’s military council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — committed to avoiding another war with Israel but resistant to political and economic reform.

Obama said a public goodbye to his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, in the White House press room by returning the tie he borrowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention, and with some warm words and a few quips: “Obviously Gibbs’ departure is not the biggest one today.”

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

For U.S., Egypt’s Tantawi is resistant to change

Officials see the head of Egypt‘s military council as an ally committed to avoiding another war with Israel but have criticized him privately as being resistant to reform. Pentagon officials have been tight-lipped about talks between Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — the head of the Higher Military Council that took control of Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was swept from power — and Gates. On Tuesday, Gates said Egypt’s military had “made a contribution to the evolution of democracy.” But in private, U.S. officials have characterized Tantawi as someone “reluctant to change” and uncomfortable with the focus on fighting terrorism, according to a 2008 State Department cable released by the WikiLeaks website.

For more of this story by David Alexander and Phil Stewart, read here.

Obama urges move to “genuine democracy” in Egypt

President Obama said the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reflected the will of the Egyptian people and called on the country’s powerful military to ensure a transition to “genuine democracy.” Obama spoke after Mubarak handed over power to the Egyptian army after an 18-day popular uprising, with Washington now facing deep uncertainty and huge challenges in a potentially volatile power shift. “The people of Egypt have spoken,” Obama told reporters. “Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.”

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

For a timeline of the changing U.S. reaction to Egypt’s crisis, click here.

Long road ahead for Obama housing overhaul plan

The Obama administration nailed a ‘condemned’ sign on the wrecked housing finance system but did not offer a clear blueprint for a rebuilding project that promises to take years. The White House presented three long-term options that would reduce the government’s market footprint and unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The most drastic would privatize housing finance almost entirely, with government insurance and guarantees limited to FHA and other programs for low- and middle-income borrowers.

For more of this story by Corbett B. Daly and David Lawder, read here.

For a factbox on short-term plans to reduce government’s role in housing, click here.

White House backs standard for mortgage servicers

The Obama administration favors creating a national standard for mortgage servicers such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase that have been accused of botching home foreclosure procedures. In unveiling its plan to overhaul the housing finance system, the White House said it supports reforms to correct problems in the mortgage servicing and foreclosure process. These include adopting national standards for mortgage servicing and requiring that mortgage documents disclose the presence of second liens, such as a second mortgage or a home equity loan.

For more of this story by Dave Clarke and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

Republicans race to finish their US spending plan

Republicans in the House of Representatives raced to complete a revised spending-cut plan as Democrats warned that time is running out to reach an agreement that would keep the government running. The House Appropriations Committee aimed to complete its new plan later in the day to immediately slash $60 billion from the budget, which would satisfy Tea Party-aligned conservatives and enable Republican leaders to bring it up for a vote next week. But the Senate is certain to reject the plan, and leaders warned that there will be little time to reach a compromise before current government funding expires on March 4.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.

Tea Party makes a quick mark in U.S. Congress

Tea Party conservatives — budget-cutting, anti-establishment activists who shook up the Republican Party last year — have a message: We weren’t kidding. The Tea Party won its first big victory in Congress on Thursday, forcing House Republican leaders to make deeper spending cuts than they planned and setting up a showdown with the White House and Senate. “The real fight here is between Republicans and Republicans, not Republicans and Democrats,” said budget expert Stan Collender, a former congressional staffer.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

Romney takes on Obama on handling of U.S. economy

Republican Mitt Romney accused President Obama of presiding over “the greatest job loss in modern American history” in a speech to conservatives that strongly hinted at a run for president. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran for the Republican nomination in 2008 and lost to John McCain, wasted little time in attacking the Democratic incumbent in remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Let me make this very clear. If I decide to run for president, it won’t take me two years to wake up to the job crisis threatening America,” Romney said.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

U.S. lawmakers fret about Islamist rise in Egypt

No sooner had Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down than the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee warned against letting the Muslim Brotherhood emerge as a powerful force. The comments by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen reflect anxiety in Congress that Islamist extremists might turn a key U.S. ally into an opponent that would harbor militant groups bent on harming America and tearing up Cairo’s peace deal with Israel.

For more of this story by Susan Cornwell, read here.

US takes disputes to WTO, China trade gap up

The United States said it had asked the World Trade Organization to rule on two disputes with China — one on restrictions Beijing has imposed on U.S. specialty steel exports and the other on access to its vast credit and debit card payments market. “We are troubled by the procedures and decision-making employed by China in its trade remedy investigations, which have now led to serious restrictions on exports of American steel,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

For more of this story by Doug Palmer, read here.

What we are blogging…

Will the real Sarah Palin please stand up

There can be no denying that Sarah Palin is a rock star among conservatives. Even a fake version managed to gain some attention at a conservative conference that heard from some potential presidential wannabes. A woman who resembled the former Alaska governor — similar hairstyle, glasses, red outfit — got a warm welcome as she wandered around greeting people during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, click here.

Valentine’s Day with the GOP

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by sending your special someone a pink e-card, covered in hearts, with a message from the president: “Hope you like this Valentine’s card, your grandchildren are paying for it.” In the GOP version of My Funny Valentine and a way to raise some sweet cash, the RNC is poking some fun at the White House and its Democratic cohorts with GOPvalentine.com.

For Emily Stephenson’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Roaches are forever as novel Valentine’s gift

In what is described as the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, New York’s Bronx Zoo is offering the chance to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after that special someone in your life. “Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever,” the zoo said on its website about the name a roach gift, which was also billed as a limited Valentine’s Day offer.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Robert Gibbs gives final press briefing at White House)

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