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Strategy Memo: Green Day

Top o' the morning to ya. On this St. Patrick's Day in Washington, President Obama will continue the custom of welcoming leaders from Ireland to the White House. The Irish prime minister -- or "Taoiseach" -- will present shamrocks, but also talk issues. But first, Obama will meet this morning with the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees. Tonight, the White House will host a social event in honor of the holiday.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate continues consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 146, the new vehicle for the omnibus lands bill. The House will vote on a series of suspension bills, and Energy Sec. Stephen Chu will testify before the Science and Technology Committee. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also host the traditional St. Patrick's Day Lunch, which Obama will attend.

And bringing a taste of Chicago to DC, the fountain on the South Lawn has been dyed green. It's not the Chicago River, but it'll do.

**President Obama
*Gallup finds that Obama's mid-March approval rating (61%) is higher than Clinton's (53%) or Bush43's (58%) at this point in their first terms.

*AP on the AIG fallout: "The White House says it's trying to put strict limits on the next $30 billion installment in taxpayers' money for American International Group amid questions about whether the Obama administration responded fiercely enough to revelations of executive bonus payments." Sen. Richard Shelby, ranking member of the Banking Committee, said Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner "either knew or should have known what was going on. We need to know, what are the details of this? When were the bonuses signed up? Who's getting it?"

*Here's the first Obama judicial nomination. NY Times: "President Obama is expected to name his first candidate to an appeals court seat this week, officials said, choosing David F. Hamilton, a highly regarded federal trial court judge from Indiana, for the appeals court in Chicago. ... The administration official said part of the reason for making the Hamilton nomination the administration's first public entry into the often contentious field of judicial selection was to serve 'as a kind of signal' about the kind of nominees Mr. Obama will select. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination had not been officially made. The White House is planning to announce a handful of other candidates over the next few weeks to fill some of the 17 vacancies on the appeals courts."

*Yesterday we noted Joe Biden's early start on the political circuit. Today Politico reports that George W. Bush didn't head for a fundraiser until late April '01, and Bill Clinton waited until May '93. "That Obama and Biden are revving up the Democratic fundraising machine so soon, and in the midst of grave economic challenges, is not going unnoticed among Republicans, who are already pouncing on the administration's top two members for hitting the campaign trail barely eight weeks after Inauguration Day."

*Bloomberg reports that U.S. corporations are pushing back against some of the administration's budget plans that are "not aimed squarely at reviving the economy. They say Obama is trying to do too much, taking the focus off fixing credit markets and proposing ideas that may hurt rather than help."

*At a fundraiser for the DNC last night, Joe Biden said that Obama's job is harder than FDR's. "Let me explain what I mean by that," he added. "It was clear the problem Roosevelt inherited. This is a more complicated economic [problem]. We've never, ever been here before - here or in the world. Never, ever been here before."

*How ready is shovel ready? WSJ: "States are quickly assembling their construction wish lists. But it takes time to advertise for contractors, collect bids, check the numbers, pick a winner and get work underway. A typical paving project -- easy roadwork -- takes close to three months from the time the money is approved to the arrival of work boots on the ground, according to the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials."

*The LA Times previews Obama's impending visit, including what is said to be the first appearance by a sitting president on a late night talk show. "President Bush did a taped cameo appearance last year on the game show 'Deal or No Deal,' to support a contestant who had served in Iraq. But he did not discuss any issues."

*According to Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian at Ancestry.com, both Obama's and Biden's Irish relatives were shoemakers by trade, and arrived in the United States within six months of one another in the mid-19th century.

**Congress
*Here is the showstopper of a quote from Sen. Chuck Grassley about AIG, if you haven't seen it. "I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed. But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide."

*An Earmark That Bugs People: The $1 million earmark secured by Utah's "junior senator to kill the insects is hardly wasteful pork" to the 80 some people living with crickets that "devoured crops, frightened children and threatened families' livelihoods in the tranquil high desert," WaPo reports.

*Obama's earmark proposal would not have stopped the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' The Hill reports.

*Democrats on AIG: "Tim Geithner is moving against AIG pretty quickly, but 79 House Dems, led by second term Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Ct.) are telling him (and the folks back home) they hate AIG just as much as he does," Politico reports.

*The Employee Free Choice Act, or "Card Check," is favored by 53% of Americans, with 39% opposing it, Gallup finds.

**Campaign Stuff
*OH Gov: Incumbent Ted Strickland (D) leads two potential GOP challengers by double digits, but his approval rating is dropping as voters now disapprove of his handling of the economy.

*In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie is making an issue of Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) proposed budget. From the Newark Star-Ledger: "We will not have tax increases like this in a Christie administration," Christie said on a conference call with reporters. "You don't raise taxes during a recession. The way to fix the budget is to bring jobs back to New Jersey by lowering taxes."

*10 members of the New York Congressional delegation sent a letter to the state Democratic Party chair last week urging her not to expend party resources on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's re-election. NY Observer: "Their epistle served as a vivid reminder to Ms. Gillibrand (in case she needed one) that her January appointment to the Senate may not shield her from a serious challenge from within her own party next year."

*WSJ looks at the unenviable position Chris Dodd is in as the financial crisis dominates the Washington agenda. "As Senate Banking Committee chairman, the Connecticut Democrat will be able to claim credit for new financial regulations the public wants. But he also is a longtime friend of Wall Street, making him a convenient scapegoat if voters sour on the government's handling of the economic crisis."

**Scandal Alert
*Bush aide embezzled $579k: National Journal reports that "Felipe E. Sixto, 29, who was an associate director at the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs ... used money he stole from a government-funded nonprofit to pay student loans and credit card debt and to purchase a car, a truck, a piano and artwork, according to documents filed this month at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia."

*The Washington Post explores ties between Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) and a research center in Pennsylvania that has received $250 million in federal funding. "The center then channeled a significant portion of the funding to companies that were among Murtha's campaign supporters."

**RIP, P-I: Here's the final front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

-- Mike O'Memoli and Kyle McTrygstad