The business of America

January 21, 2011 1:38:06 PM PST
If, as Calvin Coolidge once told newspaper editors, the "chief business of the American people is business," then Pres. Obama's suddenly cozy friendship with General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt shouldn't be surprising.

Mr. Obama traveled to Schenectady this afternoon, to a G.E. plant, to name Immelt to head the President's outside panel of economic advisers. He takes the place of former Fed chairman Paul Volcker.

Immelt, whose giant energy and consumer appliance company has run NBC Universal until its recent sale to Comcast, has been a regular business companion for the President recently. He traveled with Mr. Obama and his entourage to India this past fall - and it paid off for G.E. to the tune of a $750 million steam turbine order from a big power company in India. Those turbines will be built at the plant the President visited in Schenectady.

Immelt was at the White House this week as part of the business executive group meeting with China's President Hu Jintao. He also was at the state dinner. Doing business in and with China, of course, is now the brass ring for American corporations and their balance sheets.

Of course it's fascinating that Mr. Obama is honoring G.E. today - the company that for years helped pollute (and to be fair, helped clean up its mess) the mighty Hudson River. But I digress. The bigger point is that, after two years on the job, and after trying to mop up the slop business created, the President is reaching out to American corporations like never before.

Yes, his new chief of staff is an old chum from Chicago. But William Daley brings more than friendship to his new job as the man who makes the trains run on time at the White House; he's a former Commerce Secretary and he's a former top executive at JPMorgan Chase.

The business of America is business.

I'm just sayin'.

As for Mr. Obama, his approval ratings are up, thanks to the rapid action on several pieces of legislation by the lame duck Congress last month and by the President's own speech - comforting, compassionate, Presidential - after the massacre in Tucson.

Clearly, Mr. Obama is now in re-election mode. His White House has been reorganized; some of top aides are now working outside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on his 2012 campaign.

Speaking of the campaign - Sarah Palin is heading to our area. She's set to speak next month at the Long Island Association, the largest business group in New York State.

This is not exactly Palin country, so it will be interesting to see the reaction, and the reception.

And is Rudy Giuliani going to run for President again? In a cable TV interview set to run tonight, the former New York Mayor says he might.

"I will take a look at 2012," Giuliani said. "It's really a question of, can I play a useful role? Would I have a chance of getting the nomination?"

Sounds like Palin's response to the same question, when she's asked.

Oh, one other note: Giuliani's 2008 Republican primary bid cost him $57 million. And for his efforts he got one delegate.

We'll have reaction to the President's visit to New York, and the other political news of the night, at 11. Also at 11, we're in Pittsburgh as the New York Jets prepare to take on the Steelers this Sunday for the AFC Championship. If they win - they head to the Super Bowl in Dallas. Rob Powers leads our coverage from there, accompanied by Phil Lipof, at 11.

And the fifth snow storm in the past month blew by today. The snow itself isn't crippling, but the brutal cold that's rushing in behind the system and the icy roads that will result, might have a huge effect on travel.

Meteorologist Lee Goldberg has the weekend AccuWeather forecast - and word of another storm hitting here next week.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.


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