Morning Must Reads: The First Act

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White House

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

–If Mitch McConnell raised the curtain on this season of financial reform political theater yesterday, then the White House serves as backdrop for the first act today. Obama is set to meet with Speaker Pelosi, Leader Reid, Senator McConnell, Rep. Boehner and Rep. Hoyer at the White House to discuss the issue.

Ezra Klein draws a distinction between “financial regulation reform” and “Wall Street reform.” I’d say it’s a bit of both, but on the whole, the biggest pieces of the proposed legislation are more about regulatory apparatus than fundamentally altering the structure of the financial sector.

–The White House is going with the phrase “Wall Street reform.” The political merits are apparent.

–Politics are definitely at play in the surprising potency of Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives plan. Olympia Snowe likes it. Judd Gregg won’t.

–Peter Baker looks at Obama’s foreign policy chops. A taste:

If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.

–Our colleague Tony Karon explains the diplomatic challenges of achieving sanctions against Iran. One key point:

Iran doesn’t necessarily need to win others over to its own camp; simply keeping them out of the Western camp would count as a victory. And the positions of Turkey, Brazil — and even China — on the preferability of dialogue over sanctions may be a sign that the U.S. and its allies could struggle to isolate Iran.

–The friendship between China and Iran may just be skin deep.

–With the Confederate History Month flap still fresh in peoples’ minds, the Washington Post has an op-ed eviscerating Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s policy on former convict voting rights. Read the piece for the details, but here’s a line that jumps off the page: “This is Jim Crow by another name.”

–Bruce Bartlett has some interesting thoughts on Fox News and MSNBC.

–Considering the date, a few points on that whole “half of Americans don’t pay taxes” thing. It’s federal income taxes, not all taxes; those people still have payroll, state and local taxes. David Leonhardt notes that “about three-quarters of all American households pay more in payroll taxes, which go toward Medicare and Social Security, than in income taxes.” Every discussion of fiscal matter circles back to entitlement costs sooner or later.

Derek Thompson on the phenomenon’s political roots:

When moderate and conservative pols are reluctant to announce new spending programs for fear they will look like socialists, they execute these spending programs through the tax system.

–The GOP is having a hard time recruiting big names to challenge Senator Gillibrand in New York. Former Governor Pataki finally ruled out a bid, and for now the field looks like Bruce Blakeman, Joseph DioGuardi and David Malpass.

–As expected, Democrat Ted Deutch easily won last night’s special election to replace Robert Wexler in Florida’s 19th.

–Blanche Lincoln is having some fundraising trouble in Arkansas.

–AFSCME is going after her with a $500,000 buy for this spot:

–Charlie Crist gets to fend off questions about running as an indpendent, while Marco Rubio fends off questions about running for president.

–And our friends over at the Curious Capitalist get in on the morning round-up game.

What did I miss?