Is Obama Acting Like a Lame Duck?

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: The curse of the SOTU aisle seat … Undocumented immigrant to attend SOTU … Why popes matter to presidents … Hagel vote set for Tuesday … Giffords appears in gun-control ad … Lincoln screenwriter responds to upset lawmaker.

THE TAKE

Is Obama Acting Like a Lame Duck?

For a president who won reelection decisively and made ambitious promises in his inaugural, Obama is acting more like a lame duck ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union.

The Washington Postreported Sunday that Obama will be relying on executive actions to implement policies on housing, climate change and gun control, all but giving up on persuading Congress. On Monday, The Hillreported he’ll be announcing an executive order on cybersecurity. He’s focused on dividing the Republican party with the address, according to Politico, without much of a paean to bipartisanship.

That’s hardly a ticket for second-term accomplishments.

Yet the biggest issue on most Americans’ minds is the economy, which is now receiving renewed focus in the State of the Union. And that economy will likely determine his legacy. He’d be well-served to not just talk about it, but to tackle tax reform, entitlement reform, and smarter spending cuts to help promote long-term growth.

—Josh Kraushaar
jkraushaar@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER TO ATTEND SOTU AS FLOTUS GUEST. A former staff sergeant who was awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday afternoon will attend the State of the Union address as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama, CNN reports. Clint Romesha will be only the fourth living service member from the war in Afghanistan to be awarded the distinction, given for his actions in 2009 in which he led 52 comrades in fighting about 400 Taliban attackers. Read more 

  • National Journal’s Brian Resnick explores the history of the “Skutnik” – the unofficial name given to guests invited by the president to the State of the Union.

THE CURSE OF THE SOTU AISLE SEAT. It was supposed to be one of the best seats in the House. But getting herself an aisle spot at least year’s State of the Union may have cost Jean Schmidt her job. Schmidt, a former Republican House member from Ohio, was taking part in a State of the Union tradition made for the age of television: staking out a perfect seat so the world can see you shaking the president’s hand. Or, in the case of Schmidt, giving him a kiss on the cheek. But kissing Obama did not play well in her primary last year, as National Journal’s Ben Terris reports. Read more

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT TO ATTEND SOTU. Rep. Marc Veasey, R-Texas, has invited an undocumented immigrant to Tuesday’s State of the Union, The Dallas Morning News reports, in order to help promote passage of the Dream Act. Julieta Garibay, 32, moved from Mexico to Austin, Texas, when she was 12. The newspaper reports that Garibay, who will be sitting with Veasey, “could be the first known undocumented immigrant to attend a State of the Union speech.” Said Garibay: “This is a big step for Dreamers and indicative of how far this movement has come. Congressman Veasey recognizes that and has always supported the cause.” Read more

  • Rocker Ted Nugent, who last year was questioned by the Secret Service for making comments about President Obama, will be attending the State of the Union as a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas

WHY POPES MATTER TO PRESIDENTS. With this morning’s surprising news that Pope Benedict XVI would resign Feb. 28, National Journal’s Matthew Cooper explains how the pope helped presidents like Ronald Reagan but may not matter much to President Obama. Indeed, no American president met with a pope until Woodrow Wilson did so in 1919, and after that there was no meeting for another 40 years, until Dwight Eisenhower met with John XXIII toward the end of his presidency. Read more

  • The Washington Post rounds up the bizarre stories of four other popes who resigned, the last coming in 1415, when Gregory XII stepped down to help end a church schism. In 1045, Benedict IX resigned to get married and sold the papacy to his godfather, Gregory VI.

HAGEL VOTE SET FOR TUESDAY. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a vote on Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, despite demands from Republicans that Hagel provide more information on his post-Senate career, the Associated Press reported. Hagel is expected to gain approval in the Democratic-controlled committee and the White House is confident in his prospects before the full chamber. Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has threatened to hold up Hagel’s nomination—among others—until he gets more information on Obama’s actions during the terrorist attack in Benghazi. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., vowed Monday to "postpone" the nomination when it reaches the Senate floor. Read more

  • The Washington Postexplains how Graham’s actions may have everything to do with 2014.

JURISDICTION ISSUE HOLDS UP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT. The Senate is poised to pass a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, but a question of jurisdiction on Native American tribal lands is holding up the bill in the House, The New York Times reports. Read more

GIFFORDS CALLS FOR GUN CONTROL IN NEW AD. "Congress must act. Let's get this done," implores former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in a new ad calling for action on gun control that features images from mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and Tucson, Ariz., where Giffords was seriously wounded by a gunman. The ad is paid for by the new PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions, cofounded by Giffords and her husband. Read more

WHY CONSERVATIVES SHOULD LOVE ‘THE AMERICANS.’ The FX anti-Soviet drama is sexy, intriguing, and pro-Reagan, writes National Journal's Matthew Cooper. Read more

‘LINCOLN’ SCREENWRITER RESPONDS TO UPSET LAWMAKER. Tony Kushner, the screenwriter for the movie Lincoln, took a few jabs at Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., in his response to the lawmaker, who alleged that the film got Connecticut’s House votes on slavery in 1865 wrong. Read more

TOMORROW

STATE OF THE UNION. The State of the Union will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST. The Republican response, by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, will follow immediately thereafter. The official White House site will post the speech, complete with an “online only” enhanced version that includes graphics and charts. Afterward, a panel of experts and Obama advisers will answer questions from citizens. Read more

HAGEL VOTE IN COMMITTEE. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a vote Tuesday afternoon on Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, despite demands from Republicans that Hagel provide more information on his post-Senate career, the Associated Press reported. Read more

A BIPARTISAN ENERGY AGENDA. In the Senate, Energy Committee chairman, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and the ranking Republican, Lisa Murkowski, continue to look for pieces of an energy agenda that can get bipartisan support. The committee holds its first hearing under Wyden on Tuesday, looking at the opportunities and challenges of the nation’s abundant new natural-gas supply. Read more

BEDTIME READING

SEAL WHO SHOT BIN LADEN HAS NO HEALTH INSURANCE. The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has found himself without health benefits and struggling to keep his head above water since leaving the military, according to an Esquire profile that does not name the veteran. "The shooter," as author Phil Bronstein refers to him, recounts the historic mission—and the frustration of leaving the service only to find himself turned down for a video game consulting gig, paying out of pocket for combat-related treatment, and seeing others cash in on the mission in which he played the starring role. Read more

QUOTABLE

"I see it as an extra response. I don't see it as necessarily divisive.... I won't say anything on there that necessarily is like, 'Marco Rubio is wrong.' " —Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on delivering a tea party response to the State of the Union (CNN).

HYPED

McCAIN ROARED AT HAGEL, THEN STOPPED. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was one of the most vocal critics of Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, particularly over the U.S. troop surge in the Iraq war, and his grilling of the former Nebraska senator (“Yes or no!”) made many in Washington wonder whether Hagel’s nomination was in real trouble. But flash forward a few weeks, and McCain has said he wouldn't support a filibuster of the nomination, and would not be part of a group of Republican senators who  considered—but have apparently since rejected—walking out of Tuesday’s committee vote, calling such an action “disrespectful.” McCain offered a written statement saying that he has examined the information Hagel provided to the committee, “and I believe that he has fulfilled the rigorous requirements that the committee demands of every Presidential nominee to be Secretary of Defense.”

TOP TWEETS

  • @chucktodd: Shouldn't we lock Congress up in the Capitol and not let them out until they send smoke signals to us that budget crisis is averted?
  • @daveweigel: Pope Benedict, who says he’s too old for his job, is three years younger than Sen. Lautenberg.
  • @BDayspring: So the Pope is resigning. Is it something we did? #catholicguilt
  • @PiersMorgan: The Queen's a year older than The Pope. Can't see her ever resigning because she's tired. #indefatigability1infallibility0
  • @mikememoli: @JoeBiden says notion WH going after guns is "malarkey," and proudly notes the word is now in the dictionary
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