1. Will he stay or will he go now?
Nothing could be more binary: either Hosni Mubarak will try to hold onto power through the fall or he will figure out a way to save face and leave now. So far, the protesters have been able to maintain their momentum and keep the pressure on. If Mubarak makes it through this week, he may be able to exit with some dignity intact after the September elections.
2. Is Egypt ready for democracy?
I’m with the semi-cautious optimists, such as Tom Friedman and David Brooks, who see enough existing strong institutions and modern aspirations in Egypt to believe that a new, less repressive regime can take root and lead to a regional representative government success story. The talks this week between opposition leaders and members of the reconstituted Mubarak administration will offer clues to the future.
3. Will the Obama budget make bipartisan deficit reduction more or less likely?
OMB chief Jack Lew’s Sunday New York Times op-ed piece contains signals about how the administration will frame its coming budget – and the deficit battles to follow. Lew said there would be cuts in discretionary spending even in programs the president supports, but said nothing about cuts in Medicare and Medicaid – or about tax increases. Will congressional Republicans pick a fight with Lew this week or wait for the release of the formal budget?
4. Will Republicans follow Sarah Palin’s lead and make Egypt a political issue?
Palin’s weekend blast at the president’s handling of the Middle East crisis put her at rhetorical odds with congressional Republican leaders who have been remarkably supportive of Obama’s performance so far. Will Palin’s comments and the agitation of some conservative activists cause Hill GOPers to reverse course this week? And will the administration maintain the heavy briefing schedule for members of Congress that thus far has kept things amicable and politics-free?
5. Can Obama drive an economic message (finally)?
With Monday’s speech to the Chamber of Commerce and more travel to sell his competitiveness agenda, the president is trying to keep his State of the Union message going in the face of both the Egypt crisis and strong skepticism from the business community. This is the first true test of the Bill Daley era.
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