Obama Wins $20 Billion Pledge for “Arab Spring”

"We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but that meeting the U.N. mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Qaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people."

-- President Obama speaking to reporters after his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Vice President Joe Biden is telling audiences that President Obama staked his presidency on the raid to kill Usama bin Laden, but it is looking increasingly like Obama’s biggest bet is on the wave of revolt sweeping through the Arab world.

In a speech to the Muslim world, an address to Parliament and now through his work at the G-8 summit in France, Obama has embraced the upheaval in the Middle East in dramatic fashion.

Obama’s plan is to provide huge financial support for the new government taking shape in the region and now, a deepening commitment to the eastern tribes in Libya’s civil war.

While killing bin Laden had risks, it also had lots and lots of political advantages, as the administration continues to crow about. The move to embrace the Arab revolts, especially while playing hardball with longstanding allies Israel and Saudi Arabia has a less obvious political benefit.

Even in the best-case scenario in the wave of revolts, the Egyptian uprising about which the president has so often rhapsodized, the new government, which is a blend of military junta and Islamism, has been causing serious anxiety.

The Egyptians have been spurring the Palestinians into a more confrontational stance with the Israelis by helping to bring terror group Hamas into their government and lifting a blockade imposed to help the Israelis keep weapons out of terrorist hands.

Obama not only called for more economic assistance for the movement during his meeting with European leaders but also expressed support for the efforts to kill Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, a far departure from the original humanitarian aims expressed by the president.

Again, the presence of Islamists casts a shadow over the would-be government there.

Obama’s decision to realign American alliances in the region at a time of such uncertainty and upheaval could be costly as 2012 approaches.

Romney Brushes Up On Smack Talk

"Great deep dish at @ginoseast. Sending the extra slices to @barackobama and his Chicago HQ team."

-- Tweet from Mitt Romney accompanying a photo of a deliveryman taking leftover pizza from a Chicago campaign event to President Obama’s campaign headquarters.

Mitt Romney is ramping up for a formal announcement of his candidacy on June 2 and looking for a share of the Trump trophy as the Republican who can take the toughest line against President Obama.

After a successful, tough-talking rollout for the candidacy of his biggest rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Romney is looking to make his candidacy official next week and to do it with some edge.

The central question among Republican base voters for those who want to take on Obama next year is “Are you tough enough?” Pawlenty won raves for his tough-talk announcement tour that had him slaughtering sacred cows in Iowa, Florida, Washington and closes today with an assault on bailouts on Wall Street.

If Romney thinks that the rhetoric is ratcheting up now, just wait.

Sarah Palin’s announcement that she will participate in a pro-American bus tour starting Sunday has Palin lovers and haters alike in ecstasies about a potential candidacy. Whether she ultimately decides to run or not, the lavish media attention paid to the tour will give Palin a chance to set a new rhetorical bar for Obama beat downs.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is edging closer to a possible run and Tea Party doyenne Michele Bachman getting ready to launch her own campaign. Those are two more experts in the anti-Obama fusillade.

Romney does not excel at political smack talk, but is trying to get hip. His rationalization for mandatory health insurance and other low-key, wonkish pronouncements from his pre-candidacy have done little to convince a skeptical GOP base. On Thursday, though, we got a glimpse of a more combative Romney, who headed to the president’s hometown to highlight the gathering economic crisis in the state and to get in Obama’s face a bit.

The first challenge for Romney will be to deal with fellow Mormon moderate businessman Jon Huntsman who is getting ready to challenge the former Massachusetts governor in his must-win states of New Hampshire and Florida. But if he survives the attack from his left, Romney will have to be a credible Obama basher is he wants to claim the GOP nomination.

Rough Run for PATRIOT Act Extension

"I think it is an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.”

-- President Obama explaining to reporters why he was having a machine attach a replica of his signature to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.

After several days of political maneuvering, a deeply divided Congress passed an unamendable, four-year extension of the PATRIOT Act over the objections of lawmakers who said that the legislation was being used for secret, objectionable purposes.

President Obama, who as a freshman senator voted against the law before switching his vote in 2006, heralded the passage of the extension – just hours before its expiration -- on a European trip.

Relying on what is apparently a previously unused 2005 decision by the Bush Justice Department, Obama opted not to have the legislation flown to France for his signature, but to have a replica of his signature affixed to the legislation by an autopen, a robotic device more commonly used to sign souvenir photos and letters to political supporters.

Moderate Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden was among the bipartisan group of lawmakers who voted against the legislation and who warned that the law was being used in secret fashion.

“When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry,” Wyden said on the Senate floor referring to classified information about the law provided to lawmakers in a confidential briefing.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul won a partial victory in his long battle against the expedited passage of the controversial law, first enacted in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Paul extracted from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had said Paul’s objections would give “terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected,” the chance to bring forward two amendments to the legislation.

Paul’s most-discussed proposed addition to the law, which would have shielded gun buyers from having federal investigators look at the records of their purchases, went down with only 10 votes after the National Rifle Association assured lawmakers that it would not seek to punish those who sided against the Paul plan, backed by the more conservative Gun Owners of America.

But conservative and liberal lawmakers who opposed the legislation said that though they were bound by secrecy requirements attached to administration briefings, that the law was being misused by the Obama White House and predicted a scandal to come.

Legislative aides also expressed frustration to Power Play that after moving quickly to seal the deal on the legislation so the bill could be jetted off to France for Obama’s signature, that a replica signature was instead used.

Ryan Sets the Bar for 2012 GOPers

"If you want to be the president of the United States, you should put up ideas on how to solve this country's massive fiscal and economic problems. The current president isn't doing that. Our nominees should do that."

-- Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., on “Special Report with Bret Baier

In his interview with FOX News colleague Bret Baier on Thursday, Republican budget boss Paul Ryan set the stakes for presidential candidates who want his blessing.

Ryan has emerged, along with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Sarah Palin, as one of the top potential kingmakers for the Republican field.

While Democrats are still salivating over the chance to bash the GOP at every level over supporting Ryan’s budget plan – a strategy former President Bill Clinton cautioned against this week – Republicans are rallying around Ryan and making support for his strategy a precondition for the party’s presidential nomination.

On Thursday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty accepted the Ryan doctrine after hedging for several days on the grounds that he would have a plan of his own. Pawlenty made clear that he would “of course” sign Ryan’s budget into law if it were passed, but said that he would still produce his own alternate plan.

Newt Gingrich may have lost his chance at the nomination for his harsh criticism of Ryan’s proposal, which the former speaker called “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.” Ryan forgave Gingrich after a call to ask his pardon, but the damage had already been done.

As Republicans rally around the Ryan plan, it seems clear that no candidate who doesn’t sign on to the plan will make the cut. While pundits are still urging Ryan himself to make the leap into the presidential pool, he seems more likely to make sure that his budget plan is part of the process.