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Dancing with the Pols: Big week for Obama, Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell and the old Nevada guy

November 16, 2010 |  5:44 am

Air Force One refuels in Alaska 11-14-10

Wait! Don't start packing for the Thanksgiving trip and airport security grope just yet. Big week ahead in politics and Washington. Here's the scene and outlook:

After the longest foreign trip of his 22-month presidency, a fairly unsuccessful 10-day tour of Asia, President Obama took Monday off from public events to recover from a 13-hour time change and having two Sundays both in the air and not on the golf course. Yes, he did make time Monday to issue his special message to Muslims about the ongoing Hajj.

Knowing he was going to be off-air as the newly elected members of Congress arrived for ...

... training Monday, Obama did wander back in Air Force One just before landing Sunday to say that much must be done during the lame-duck session and he's sure Republicans won't be obstructionists again, in case anyone might have forgotten that they always are.

Without ever appearing on "Dancing With the Stars," Obama and aides like David Axelrod are doing some fast footwork in recent days over extending the Bush tax cuts, which expire at year's end. They will be extended; the pressure to not do something more damaging to a ...

Marine One with two decoys ferry President Obama past the Capitol toward the White House 11-14-10

.... lagging economy, like increasing taxes, is so great. Obama has long resisted the extension because of the lost revenues. He's now trying to save face with a false argument over not making the extensions "permanent."

Here's the breaking news: The Bush tax cuts never were permanent. None of them. Ever. That's why they're set to expire in seven weeks. Nothing is permanent in Washington, except political pomposity.

Here's what else to watch and listen for this week:

Today's White House event and presidential photo op: Obama awards the Medal of Honor to 25-year-old Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for 2007 gallantry in Afghanistan; Giunta is the first living recipient of the nation's highest military honor since the Vietnam War. His complete story now posted here.

Today's non-transparent political meeting: Congressional Republicans meet behind closed doors and vote -- almost certainly in the affirmative -- to ban legislative earmarks for two years. The legislative gimmicks are a symbol of Washington sneakiness and very unpopular with voters back home -- unless, of course, they get employed because of such steered spending.

But in a significant concession to the "tea party" newcomers on Capitol Hill, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, long an earmark proponent, became an earmark opponent  Monday. So much for the D.C. Republican establishment fighting ferociously with the fiscally conservative newbies.

On Wednesday House Democrats, about to become a distinct minority, will vote on their caucus leadership. Nancy Pelosi thinks she's done a job worthy of reelection. North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler has decided to fulfill a campaign pledge and challenge her; he will have as much success at that as he did quarterbacking the Washington Redskins late last century.Shortly after Marine One delivers Obama to the White House lawn 11-14-10

On Thursday comes the big politics summit delayed because the president couldn't postpone his Indonesian trip a third time.

Obama will meet with congressional leaders of both parties, namely McConnell, about-to-be-House Speaker John Boehner, about-to-be-ex-House-Speaker Pelosi and Nevada's happy, five-term Sen. Harry Reid, who'll turn 71 in two weeks but doesn't look a day over 80.

(UPDATE: Tuesday 3 p.m. The White House has announced that at the request of GOP leaders, the Thursday session has been pushed back to Nov. 30, still at the White House.)

Little-noted midterm election outcome: The person next in presidential succession after the vice president is the speaker. Starting in January, for the first time since 2007 that will be a Republican, Boehner again.

By causing a major member turnover and awarding Congress a disapproval rating right around 4 out of 5, American voters sent a message this month of dissatisfaction with Washington and its workings -- or non-workings. Ohio's Boehner, for one, talks like he got the message and turned down the speaker's government jet that Pelosi so often used.

Listen for Thursday's public summit talk to be about working together; no one wants to be obviously to blame for political gridlock come 2012. And fact is, Obama has suffered damage among many Democrats and needs GOP help on such things as START and trade treaties and spending on the war in Afghanistan.

Speaking of that mess, Thursday overnight Obama boards Air Force One again for a NATO meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, where discussion will focus on a slow transition of security duties to Afghans.

You may have noticed that before the Nov. 2 election the administration's talk was firmly on starting the troop pullout next July 1, by golly. Since then -- did you hear? -- Defense's Robert Gates and State's Hillary Clinton are talking more like 2014 for the realistic transition to become complete. No change, you understand, just looking farther ahead now.

One other Tuesday morning notation that's ominous for the faux kumbaya working-together theme during coming months: In that same pre-landing chat with reporters on Air Force One, Obama said he'd had some more time to think about the lesson of his Nov. 2 election shellacking. He said he realized now that his ultraliberal social legislative spending agenda was totally out of sync with what job-seeking Americans really wanted, that he thoughtlessly crammed too much down the nation's throat after running as a centrist and he vowed to pay closer attention to voter priorities.


What the Democrat really said was Americans hadn't understood what he was doing because he hadn't spent enough time shaping public opinion, communicating his goals. So, 59 healthcare town halls were inadequate, maybe 64 would have done the trick? Obama's quote:

In that obsessive focus on policy, I neglected some things that matter a lot to people, and rightly so:  maintaining a bipartisan tone in Washington; dealing with practices like earmarks that are wasteful at a time of -- where everybody else is tightening their belts; making sure that the policy decisions that I made were fully debated with the American people and that I was getting out of Washington and spending more time shaping public opinion and being in a conversation with the American people about why I was making the choices I was making.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Michael Dinneen / Associated Press (Air Force One carrying Obama refuels in Alaska early Sunday); Thomas Cheng / AFP / Getty Images (Marine One and two decoys pass the Capitol ferrying Obama to the White House Sunday afternoon); Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images (shortly after, Obama steps on the green, green grass of home).