CNN's GUT CHECK | for November 30, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
NOT DEVELOPING: OBAMA WARNS OF “SCROOGE” CHRISTMAS WITHOUT TAX-CUT EXTENSION… Stumping for a deal to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts that will otherwise hit at year's end, President Barack Obama on Friday toured a Pennsylvania toy factory that's churning out would-be holiday gifts, warning of a "Scrooge" Christmas if Congress does not pass legislation extending tax cuts for 98% of Americans.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER ON THE STATE OF THE NEGOTIATIONS: STALEMATE... “There's a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves. I'm not trying to make this more difficult, but you've watched me over the last three weeks. I've been very guarded in what I had to say because I don't want to make it harder for me or the president or members of both parties to be able to find common ground.”
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PLAN... “I think that the proposal that was delivered here by Secretary Geithner to the speaker and me was not a serious proposal.”
MORE TO COME: JUSTICES TAKE NO ACTION YET ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE APPEAL… The Supreme Court took no action Friday on a pending series of appeals over the divisive issue of same-sex marriage. The justices had scheduled a closed-door conference to consider whether to accept for review several challenges to federal and state laws restricting the ability of gay and lesbian couples to legally wed. – Bill Mears
President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill – a law that mandated background checks for handgun purchases – on this day in 1993. When was the bill first introduced in the House?
Compelling, smart story-telling is an art form, especially in the news business as we strive each day to take readers and viewers right to the scene so that they can feel it, smell it and taste it. In political journalism, it might be the Iowa State Fair, a small gathering in a New Hampshire living room, a town hall meeting in Florida or straight into the halls of Congress.
Some of the greatest story-tellers are no longer with us or have hung up their hats, but a new book by a trio of journalists including CNN’s John Avlon highlights some of the best stories, most gripping writings and the journalists and columnists who the authors admiringly call “Deadline Artists.” We asked Avlon to give us some insight into these characters and the columns that are highlighted in “Deadline Artists - Scandals, Tragedies and Triumphs”.
GUT CHECK: What are the biggest differences you see between classic newspaper columnists such as Jimmy Breslin, Murray Kempton and Mike Royko and columnists in the current era?
AVLON: They were story-tellers as well as reporters. There was an obligation to make a scene come alive in the mind of a reader through vivid descriptive writing; not simply type up an opinion backed by facts and stats. And the tradition of the classic reported column is now in danger of being lost. With the metabolism of journalism today, there is a temptation to simply stay behind a desk and be the first to respond to the latest news-cycle. But reported columns really require pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, telling people’s stories in a way that can resonate on a street corner even more than an office suite.
GUT CHECK: What can political junkies learn from these legendary newspaper columns?
AVLON: First, predictable partisan polemics are the enemy. With the rise of partisan media we’ve seen a stream of pundits who just preach to the choir. There’s no story-telling in these columns, just venting of spleen. And because it’s predictable it’s often boring. The best political columnists were unpredictable – they were writing morality plays, no matter how murky, punching left and right as the case and characters called for. And they never lost a sense of humor in telling the story, which sharpens the eye and makes a story more enjoyable for a reader. Politics is a great human drama; it is history in the present tense. And the best columnists give us perspective and insight into the fight as it’s unfolding, making their work still worthwhile to read decades later.
GUT CHECK: What are your favorite political newspaper columns?
AVLON: After editing two volumes of Deadline Artists with my friends Errol Louis and Jesse Angelo, I personally believe that a few columnists stand out from the historic pack – Jimmy Breslin, Murray Kempton and Mike Royko. Semi-forgotten figures like Westbrook Pegler and Heywood Broun and Damon Runyon also age well – their writing remains crisp and sharp. Kempton probably exemplifies what I admire most – a sense of fairness and kindness even when confronting something ugly. In this book, a Kempton column called “The Southern Gentlemen” stands out, because he interviews this vicious racist in the 1950s but he does explicitly not pass judgment – he keeps the man’s humanity intact and lets him speak for himself, which allows him to hang himself. In another Kempton column, he writes with unexpected sympathy about the loss of the last Tammany Hall leader, Carmine DeSapio. He was never afraid to zig when others zagged.
GUT CHECK: Why did you choose to focus on “Scandals, Tragedies and Triumphs” in this volume?
AVLON: Because Scandals, Tragedies and Triumphs have always been the stuff of breaking news – and classic columns often combine a great writer with a major event, whether it’s Mary McGrory chronicling Watergate or Ernie Pyle writing as the allied armies in World War II liberated Paris from the Nazis. There is a thrill in reading the first draft of history written by great characters. As we say in the opening line of the intro: “This is a book of short stories that really happened.”
Did you miss it?
Leading CNN Politics: Boehner appoints woman to chair a committee
House Speaker John Boehner named Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan as the chairman of the House Administration Committee on Friday, three days after the Republican conference took heat for electing only males as committee heads. – Deirdre Walsh and Ashley Killough
Leading Drudge: End of the Dollar Bill?
American consumers have shown about as much appetite for the $1 coin as kids do their spinach. They may not know what's best for them either. Congressional auditors say doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.
Leading HuffPo: 'Utter Bullsh*T' – Walker Lie Ripped
Wisconsin poll workers are speaking out against Gov. Scott Walker's (R) proposal to eliminate same-day voting registration in the state, despite his argument that it would lighten the burden on these overworked officials on Election Day. In a speech on Nov. 16 in the wake of President Barack Obama's win in Wisconsin, Walker called for the repeal of Wisconsin's same-day registration law. – Amanda Terkel
Leading Politico: Immigration unity hits Hill reality
About that GOP epiphany on immigration after the election, there’s one small problem that could scuttle a deal: Republicans in Congress can’t even agree on what to do. Some want piecemeal reform, picking off the most popular planks and leaving the tough stuff — like whether to give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship — for later. Others side with Democrats in saying only a comprehensive deal will get at the problem. – Seung Min Kim
Leading The New York Times: For Secretary of State, G.O.P. Pushes Old Hand
As President Obama’s potential nominee for secretary of state, Susan E. Rice, comes under increasing fire, Congressional Republicans appear to be coalescing around a familiar name as an alternative candidate: their current colleague and former presidential foe, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Gone are the criticisms of Mr. Kerry as a waffler who tried to have it both ways on the Iraq war and the caricature of him as a windsurfing symbol of privileged East Coast liberalism. Instead, Mr. Kerry, a Democrat, is depicted as a deeply knowledgeable statesman who would breeze through confirmation on his way to Foggy Bottom. – Jennifer Steinhauer
The political bites of the day
– Pelosi looks to cash in election capital –
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI IN A CAPITOL HILL NEWS CONFERENCE: “We would hope that today the speaker would say that we are scheduling a middle income tax cut next week. … Elections have consequences and in the president’s campaign he made it very clear, he made it very clear, that he was supporting tax cuts for the middle class, that he wanted the expiration of the tax cuts for the high end and the American people know that debate. They voted for him. If you look at the polls on the subject, there is an overwhelming support for repeal of the high end tax cuts.”
– For optimistic Huntsman, GOP should emphasize ‘strong libertarian roots’ –
FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN HUNTSMAN IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CNN’S “STARTING POINT”: “I think we have some structural issues. Again, I think the deliberation about the Republican Party we're having is a very healthy thing. If we don't wind up at the end of the exercise with a mission statement that is one sentence long, then we're toast. And that one statement ought to be: Balance the budgets and get out of people's lives. And you ought to build the party around that because we have strong libertarian roots that go way back to the early days of the Republican Party.”
– Erick Erickson declines to run for Senate in Georgia –
CNN CONTRIBUTOR ERICK ERICKSON IN A COLUMN ON RED STATE: “Were I to run for the Senate, it would be a terribly nasty campaign. It’d actually be really awesome, but it’d be really nasty. I have a seven- year-old, a soon to be four year old, and a wife who does not like being anywhere near a stage. I’m not putting my family through that when the best outcome would mean a sizable pay cut and being away from my kids and wife all the time huddled in a pit of vipers often surrounded by too many who viewed me as a useful instrument to their own advancement.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Joe Lowry (@PreparednessJoe)
The freshman room lottery just got wild. Rep-elect Julia Brownley (CA26) draws the number 1 and presumably, gets the nicest remaining office
Eric Cantor (@GOPLeader)
GOP reforms to the House Calendar have brought increased predictability and efficiency to the committees and floor. http://1.usa.gov/U6OmfW
McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins)
Oh man. Here are Harry Reid's many 2005 press releases against reforming the filibuster. http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/harry-reids-many-2005-press-releases-against-refo … via @buzzfeedandrew
Erica Anderson (@EricaAmerica)
"America's oldest continuously published newspaper", @hartfordcourant, embeds journalist Tweets on its homepage: http://www.courant.com
Los Angeles Times (@latimes)
U.S. birthrate falls to lowest level ever recorded http://lat.ms/VaVlpw
Molly Ball (@mollyesque)
FAMOUS LAST WORDS: "I think the worry that we're going to have reptiles on our doorsteps in DC is a little overblown." http://www.orlandosentinel.com/fl-snake-ban-congressional-hearing-20121129,0,281748.story
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
When John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Press Secretary James S. Brady was severely injured by the attack when a bullet hit him in the head. After being rushed to the hospital, Brady was momentarily pronounced dead, but pulled through the ordeal and went on to make an impressive recovery.
After the assassination attempt, Brady became an ardent gun control supporter. His bill, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, was successfully introduced in Congress on February 4, 1987, and President Bill Clinton signed the piece of legislation on this day in 1993.
The over six-year span between introduction and signage was largely spent managing the National Rifle Association's opposition to the bill.
Brady, 72, continues to influence gun policy with his organization, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
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Congratulations to Steve Liguori (@SteveL3877) for correctly answering Gut Check Trivia. It took two tries, but he was the first to get it right. Happy Friday all.
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