Obama's Hardball Tactics Could Backfire

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: Obama: NSA pick Rice 'fearless, tough' … Lautenberg regretted February retirement announcement … Report: Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers privy to classified info …Rep. Dingell's historic career… An unleashed Issa is what GOP wants

THE TAKE

Obama's Hardball Tactics Could Backfire

A hallmark of the Obama administration is its imperviousness to conventional Washington wisdom, a brash confidence that their way is the best way—critics be damned. That type of independent thinking can often be refreshing and liberating. But there's a thin line between confidence and cockiness—and the White House is treading awfully close to the latter.

By picking two loyal allies as national security adviser (Susan Rice) and ambassador to the United Nations (Samantha Power), Obama is taunting Republican critics who slammed Rice for her role in the Benghazi spin, derailing her prospects to become secretary of State. At the same time, Obama is pressuring Republicans to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and a former adviser is trash-talking Republicans on Twitter. You might think the president has weathered the worst of the scandal storm.

But there are fresh signs from two new, well-respected polls, that while Obama has faced down the scrutiny for now, the White House would be wise to anticipate headwinds—and prepare accordingly. Read more

Josh Kraushaar
jkraushaar@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

OBAMA NAMES RICE TO NATIONAL SECURITY POST; CALLS HER 'FEARLESS, TOUGH.' In a ceremony today naming U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice his next national security adviser, President Obama called her "the consummate public servant," adding, "She is fearless. She is tough." Rice will take over for outgoing National Security Adviser Tom Donilon. Rice's role in the Benghazi talking points ultimately derailed her chances at becoming secretary of State, for which she had previously been considered. The national security adviser need not be confirmed by the Senate. Read more

  • President Obama's pick to replace Rice as U.N. Ambassador, longtime adviser Samantha Power, is "not always diplomatic" and could face a tough confirmation hearing, Reuters reports. Read more

REPUBLICANS HOLD FIRE ON RICE, BUT CONTROVERSY LOOMS. Without any leverage to block Susan Rice from succeeding Tom Donilon as President Obama's national security adviser, Republicans appeared resigned to her appointment Wednesday, but unready to let go of doubts about the administration's leadership on national security issues. Some of Obama's staunchest attackers in Congress—who have held the handling of the Benghazi, Libya, attack as Exhibit A of a major security failure worsened by an apparent effort to protect the president's reelection campaign—did not come out swinging Wednesday, National Journal's Stacy Kaper reports. Read more

  • "Obviously I disagree w/ POTUS appointment of Susan Rice as Nat'l Security Adviser, but I'll make every effort to work w/ her on imp't issues," John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted Wednesday.

FUNERAL FOR LAUTENBERG; HONORS IN SENATE THURSDAY, BURIAL FRIDAY. Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were among the mourners at a funeral service for late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., The New York Times reports. Following the service in New York, Lautenberg's coffin will be transported to Washington by train from the Secaucus, N.J., station that bears his name, and the senator will lie in repose in the Senate chamber on Thursday. Lautenberg will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday. Read more

  • According to a vice presidential pool report, "Lautenberg's children said he had recently begun to regret announcing in February that he would retire and not seek another term, and discussed whether he could rescind it." Daughter Ellen Lautenberg said, "On days that were good, he would say, 'I never should have made that retirement speech.' "

SOLDIER PLEADS GUILTY TO KILLING 16 AFGHAN CIVILIANS. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty today to the March 2012 murders of 16 Afghan civilians; if accepted by the court, his plea would remove the death penalty from consideration, The New York Times reports. Defense attorney Emma Scanlan said that the guilty plea was to all the major charges, including premeditated murder. Asked by presiding judge Col. Jeffery Nance to explain his motivation for the killings, Bales said, "There's not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did." Read more

POLL: TRIO OF CONTROVERSIES IMPACTS ADMINISTRATION, NOT OBAMA. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that respondents have lost some confidence in the Obama administration in the wake of recent controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny; the Justice Department's monitoring of journalists' communications; and the administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks. Still, TheJournal reports, "most people don't hold the president personally responsible" for the actions of the agencies in question. Bill McInturff, who co-conducts the poll, said that the three controversies are "impacting but not restructuring" Obama's support. Read more

THE TRULY HISTORIC CAREER OF JOHN DINGELL. When Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., wakes up on Friday, he will have set a record as the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. Yet one of the many remarkable things about Dingell's 57 years in the House is that the Michigan Democrat might never have had a political career at all, National Journal's Mike Magner reports. Read more

  • Check out this timeline charting Dingell's career.

OBAMA TO SPEAK AT BRANDENBURG GATE ON JUNE 19. Obama will visit Berlin on June 19, following the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, and deliver a speech from the Brandenburg Gate, at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then-Sen. Obama delivered a campaign speech at the nearby Victory Column in July 2008 after Merkel resisted his effort to speak at the iconic gate. "President Obama will speak about the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Germany, the vital importance of the transatlantic alliance, and the values that bind us together," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. Read more

RNC HIRES FACEBOOK ENGINEER AS CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER. The Republican National Committee has hired Facebook engineering manager Andy Barkett, 32, to serve as its inaugural chief technology officer, The Washington Post reports. The committee's Growth and Opportunity Project report recommended the hiring of a chief technology officer by May 1. RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement, "I am confident that with Andy's experience and our continued efforts to build meaningful relationships with experts in Silicon Valley, we'll see the changes to this part of our operation that we all agree are both important and necessary to winning elections in the future." Read more

DRAFT REPORT: ZERO DARK THIRTY FILMMAKERS PRIVY TO CLASSIFIED INFO. A draft report from the Defense Department inspector general's office indicates that then-CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the commander who led the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound at an event attended by Zero Dark Thirty writer and producer Mark Boal, The Hill reports. The unreleased IG report, obtained and published by the Project on Government Oversight, said, " 'During this awards ceremony, Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.... According to the DOD Office of Security Review, the individual's name is protected from public release' under federal law." Read more

TOMORROW

HOLDER TO TESTIFY IN SENATE HEARING. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Justice Department's fiscal 2014 budget request. He will be joined by the department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz. The questions are likely to extend beyond budget talk and into recent controversies.

HOUSE OVERSIGHT DELVES INTO IRS CONFERENCE SPENDING. On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on "The IRS Spending Culture and Conference Abuses."

TRADE REPRESENTATIVE NOMINEE GETS HEARING. A Senate Finance Committee hearing will be held Thursday to consider President Obama's nomination of Mike Froman to be U.S. trade representative. Froman has come under scrutiny this week following reports that he holds nearly $500,000 in investments in the Cayman Islands.

QUOTABLE

"She's going to have her plate full if she's chosen. I will not be petty. I will put my differences on Benghazi aside and work with her." —Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the selection of Susan Rice as national security adviser. (Washington Post)

BEDTIME READING

THE GUN VIOLENCE GAP. Tyquran Horton, 17, has lost two uncles and, most recently, his mother to gun violence, Newsweek reports, in anarticle on U.S. gun deaths. More than 70 percent of those killed by a gun are black or Hispanic city dwellers, but more than 80 percent of U.S. gun owners are white. "It's in the chasm between those two gun worlds, precisely, that laws fail and people die," Christopher Dickey writes. Unlike New York City, where Horton lives, many largely rural states have strapped budgets and are scaling back police forces. A small town in Georgia requires every household to have a gun; it hasn't had a murder since the ordinance passed in 1982. Read more

PLAY OF THE DAY

GREAT MOMENTS IN DANCE-RELATED GOVERNMENT SCANDALS. With revelations that the IRS spent millions of dollars on conferences, The Tonight Show's Jay Leno welcomed the scrutiny. The Late Show's David Letterman was dismayed that the agency is working to increase public trust in the agency and called the IRS "weasels" and "goons." Stephen Colbert wondered where all the money went, considering he believes that IRS employees only work on April 15. Colbert and Letterman also found time to mock the video of IRS employees' line dancing. Colbert compared the dancers to "unevenly loaded washing machines" while Letterman found some interesting dance videos from the past. Watch it here

REALITY CHECK

ISSA UNLEASHED IS EXACTLY WHAT REPUBLICANS WANT. When Darrell Issa called Jay Carney a "paid liar" this week, his critics figured he'd finally gone too far—that his one-step-ahead-of-the-facts rhetoric would force Republicans to rein him in. They figured wrong. For all the polite Washington handwringing over that single comment, the truth is this: Issa's aggressive approach is just what the Republican House leadership wants, National Journal's Shane Goldmacher reports. Read more

TODAY'S CHART

THE EXPLOSION IN STUDENT-LOAN DEBT. While Washington continues to squabble over whether to extend low student-loan rates, Mother Jones has a series of eye-opening charts on the remarkable rise in student debt, including one that shows how debt has nearly quadrupled in the last 10 years. See it here

 

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