updated 2/24/2009 1:15:29 PM ET 2009-02-24T18:15:29

Happy Monday!

Hello everybody and welcome to the Shuster "Daily Briefing" for February 23, 2009. I am writing to you from the "mothership" at NBC – aka 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, N.Y., just a few floors above one of the cooler entertainment stores in Manhattan. We had a few scheduling issues in prime time that necessitated my brief visit but I am happy to report that the "1600" staff all seem to be in good spirits. Now, if I can just get them to laugh a bit more at my silly jokes and puns.

Anyway, we are going to kick things off tonight with a look at the one-two punch President Obama delivered today in focusing on the nation's sputtering economy.  This morning, President Obama spoke to the nation's governors and highlighted the spending in their states that will begin soon, courtesy of that 797 billion dollar bailout.

Then this afternoon, the President held a "fiscal responsibility summit" with Congressional leaders. The President pledged to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term.   

To reach the President's goal, a lot of things are going to have to break Obama's way in Iraq, Afghanistan, Wall Street, the NYSE, the housing sector, banking industry, and etc. We will talk about some of the challenges with Mark Zandi, one of the "presenters" today who was also a top economic advisor to Republican Presidential nominee John McCain.

In our second block, we will talk about the remarkable two statements made over the weekend by GOP Sens. Richard Shelby and Jim Bunning. 

Sen. Shelby brought up President Obama's citizenship and whether Obama had actually been born in Hawaii.

Rumors to the contrary have been thoroughly disproved but it hasn't stopped a cottage industry of conspiracy theories, wild claims, and various assertions on the far right. Shelby's staff said the Senator doesn't really believe the far right theories and was instead just using a "throw away line."  Hmmm. We will explore why conservative audiences seem so determined to latch on to a wild claim that's been thoroughly debunked. Along those lines, we will explore Sen. Bunning's comments about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is recovering from Pancreatic cancer. 

Bunning claimed that Ginsburg would be dead in 9 months and that conservatives should be ready for a fight over the Supreme Court vacancy.  Bunning has now apologized. Tracking of all of this in their usual stellar fashion is the web site

We will also give you an update tonight on democracy advocate Roy Bennett, who has now been in jail in Zimbabwe for 11 days and counting.

Bennett's party won the election last year over President Robert Mugabe. But Mugabe refused to step down and international mediators created a "power sharing" coalition. It's been proven over and over to be a sham. Bennett was supposed to be in the Cabinet, not in a jail cell. To pressure Bennett's supporters to give blanket amnesty to Mugabe supporters who might face crimes against humanity charges when the 85 year old Mugabe dies or is thrown out of office, the jailers continue to torment Bennett. Over the weekend, we learned he was forced to share a cell for several days with a rotting human corpse. Those are the Mugabe tactics. The situation is an outrage and it's time for Western governments to get involved.

In "Hypocrisy Watch," we will identify some of the lawmakers who pledged in '08, an election year, not to take or support congressional earmarks but have now had a change of heart. To be clear, most members of Congress take earmarks. But, if you are going to publicly pledge to swear off earmarks, and then forget about the pledge after you return to D.C., that's hypocrisy.

In the back half of the show, we will talk with former Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Steve Hildebrand, Republican strategist Terry Holt, and journalist A.B. Stoddard, the Hill newspaper.  They will take us through the challenge President Obama faces in his big speech tomorrow night to a joint session of Congress. Also, get ready to hear a lot in the next several days/weeks about "bank nationalization."  Some of our nation's biggest banks are failing big time and a growing number of Democrats and Republican are declaring that the federal government may need to take over.  As it stands, the federal government has already poured more money into some of the banks than their stocks are worth in total.

In our Radar segment, we have a great story about the types of cars being driven by members of the administration who are in charge of overseeing the Big 3 automakers in Detroit.

For all of you who are following us via Twitter, thank you.  We will take your questions during the hour and throw some of them at our panelists.  

"Quote of the Day" comes from Henry Ford:

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."

And thanks to all of you in advance for watching tonight's show.  "1600" airs at 6 p.m. in Washington D.C. and Detroit; 5 p.m. in Chicago; 4 p.m. in Denver; and 3 p.m. in Costa Mesa, California.



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