CNN's GUT CHECK | for May 7, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
NOT A CAREER CHOICE: The weight loss surgery Gov. Chris Christie underwent in February was not a precursor to seeking higher office, the New Jersey Republican asserted Tuesday. Christie, speaking in public for the first time since his surgery was revealed, said the decision instead was based on his commitment to his family. “It's not a career issue for me. It is a long term health issue for me. And that is the basis upon which I made my decision,” Christie said, saying that “the steps I've taken are for me, and Mary Pat, and the kids.” – Kevin Liptak
TONIGHT: Voters in coastal South Carolina will decide tonight who will fill the vacant U.S. House seat in the state's 1st Congressional District. The two leading candidates on the ballot are former two-term Gov. Mark Sanford, who's seeking political redemption as he runs for the seat that he once held for six years, and Elizabeth Colbert Busch. – Jim Acosta, Matt Hoye and Paul Steinhauser
NO TOLERANCE: President Barack Obama said Tuesday he has “no tolerance” for sexual assault in the military and said that anyone who is carrying it out is betraying the military uniform. The president’s remarks came in response to a question about new Pentagon statistics suggesting a sharp uptick in the numbers of active duty service women who may have experienced unwanted sexual contact, and the arrest on sexual battery charges of an Air Force officer whose job it was to prevent sexual assault. – Barbara Starr, Greg Seaby and Ashley Fantz
OUT: Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady resigned Tuesday, citing a handful of reasons including an ongoing struggle with several members of the state GOP over his support for same-sex marriage. – Mark Preston
MARKET WATCH: Dow adds 86 points to end above 15,000 for the first time ever. S&P gains 0.5% for another record close.
Who was the target of the first presidential assassination?
Secretary of State John Kerry is still relatively new to his job – it was only 96 days ago that the longtime senator was confirmed by his former colleagues in the Senate.
But a recent bit of analysis by CNN’s Elise Labott finds that even though Kerry is still likely getting his bearings in Foggy Bottom, where the State Department is located, he is jumping head first into diplomatic deal making and using his experience from the Senate to lead at the State Department.
Here is an excerpt from Labott’s must-read piece, titled “Kerry ready to dirty hands in diplomatic deal-making”:
Having coveted the secretary of state job for his whole career, Kerry is like a kid in a candy store. In the three months since taking office, Kerry has traveled just short of 70,000 miles and visited 20 countries in 37 days. He has breathed new life into the Middle East peace process, worked with President Barack Obama to broker a rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, traveled to press China for more support reining in North Korea and pushed for the first nonlethal direct aid to Syrian rebels, while helping to unite the fractious political opposition and working with Turkey, Jordan and Israel on contingencies should the United States get more involved in the crisis.
Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, was a prolific traveler as well, having logged just short of 1 million miles as the nation's top diplomat. Clinton's engagement around the world was largely credited with improving the battered image of the United States after eight years of war under the Bush administration.
On name recognition alone, Kerry is not Clinton. He is well-respected around the world, but he can't just show up.
And unlike Clinton, who was believed to have approached the job through the lens of a possible presidential run in 2016, Kerry has nothing to lose. He is not running for anything. It's his swan song.
Clinton's tenure was animated by "smart power" in which the United States worked to expand liberty and economic opportunity to make the world more peaceful and prosperous. Under Clinton, issues such as human rights, women's rights, food security and Internet freedom were brought to the forefront of U.S. foreign policy for the first time.
For Kerry, it's back to the basics. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 29 years, four years as its chairman, Kerry has a long history with the issues and relationships with many of the world's leaders. And as an unofficial envoy for the Obama administration, Kerry already had experience in diplomatic troubleshooting. Now he is eager to get his hands dirty with classic diplomatic deal-making.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Christie reveals weight loss surgery
A few months after turning 50, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent lap-band surgery in February for the sake of his wife and kids, a source close to the governor confirmed to CNN. “I've struggled with this issue for 20 years,” he told the New York Post. “For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them.”
Leading Drudge: Dow 15,000
Stocks added to their gains Tuesday, with the S&P 500 extending its recent rally to a fresh high and the Dow surpassing the 15,000 milestone, but the Nasdaq lagged as investors took profit in the large techs. – JeeYeon Park
Leading HuffPo: Damage Control
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) defended her vote against a background check amendment in an op-ed published Monday in the Seacoast Online, just before her vote came under fire in a new television ad put out by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “Out-of-state special interests are running false ads attacking me and even lying about my efforts to prevent gun-related violence,” she wrote. “I want to set the record straight: I support effective background checks and in fact voted recently to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).” – Luke Johnson
Leading Politico: Immigration's new ally: Tea partiers
Immigration reform supporters are about to get some new conservative bonafides — prominent tea party backers. Several conservative activists and tea party group leaders are meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday afternoon to discuss immigration reform, including a list of what they support – and don’t. – Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti
Leading The New York Times: South Carolina Vote Seen as a Referendum on Sanford
Tuesday’s vote in South Carolina’s First Congressional District may well be a referendum on former Gov. Mark Sanford and the politics of forgiveness. But it is also being framed as a barometer of the Republican Party’s relationship to women, the influence of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and how much voters believe that a political outsider is needed to help end Congressional gridlock. – Kim Severson
The political bites of the day
- Obama: ‘North Korea has failed again’ -
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT A JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE: “If Pyongyang thought its recent threats would drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States or somehow garner the North international respect, today is further evidence that North Korea has failed again. President Park and South Koreans have stood firm with confidence and resolve. The United States and the Republic of Korea are as united as ever and faced with new international sanctions, North Korea is more isolated than ever.”
- Conservative columnist: Liberal anger only makes Ted Cruz stronger -
RAMESH PONNURU IN AN OPINION PIECE FOR BLOOMBERG VIEW: “Rude, entitled, arrogant and off- putting: That’s how the conventionally wise in Washington are characterizing Ted Cruz, the conservative new senator from Texas. It’s a better description of the critics themselves, who are inadvertently helping Cruz build his national fan base. I’ll admit to being biased about Cruz, who has been a friend for almost half my life. But you don’t need to like Cruz or his politics to see how weightless some of the criticisms are.”
- Reid charged that Cruz is a ‘schoolyard bully’ -
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID IN A SPEECH ON THE SENATE FLOOR MONDAY NIGHT: “My friend from Texas is like a schoolyard bully. He pushes everybody around and is losing, and instead of playing the game according to the rules, he not only takes the ball home with him but changes the rules. That way no one wins except the bully who tries to indicate to people he has won. We’re asking Republicans to play by the rules and let us go to conference. … I object too, but what my friend suggests is fairly ridiculous if you want the truth - before we go to conference determine what you do and not do in the conference, that's not how we do things around here.”
- Just in case you forgot, House GOP to restate focus on debt -
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: “Our goal here is, is to get America on the solid fiscal path. It's not to default on our debt. And I believe that the debt prioritization bill that we'll have up this week kind of clarifies what - I'll say - congressional intent in terms of in what priority should the Treasury Department be paying its bills. And, so I think it's a step in the right direction. It still, we're still going to have to deal clearly with the debt limit. Remember, our goal is to put America on a sound fiscal path.”
- Ahead of vote, Sanford talks forgiveness -
MARK SANFORD IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CNN’S JIM ACOSTA: “Forgiveness is at an individual level, and some people forgive me the next day. Some people will probably never forgive me, and the continuum is where folks fall out. I think this larger journey of second chances, of getting back up and trying as best you can to swing the bat in an area that you care about, whether that's in the world of journalism or world of politics, or world of business, I think is important to every one of our lives.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
When Richard Lawrence, an unemployed painter, attempted to assassinate President Andrew Jackson on January 30, 1886, he became the first person to try and kill the United States’ commander-in-chief.
The attempt on Jackson’s life occurred as the leader was leaving a congressional funeral in the Capitol Building. As Jackson walked out of the building, Lawrence aimed two pistols at the president but both misfired.
Jackson, in response, took his cane and beat his assailant with it.
Lawrence was arrested but found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was confined to a mental institution for over 20 years until his death in 1861.
Four presidents – Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy – have been killed by assassins.
GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)
Congrats to Ryan Sloane (@RyanSloaneCNN) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check trivia question. Although the question mark at the end of your tweet means you weren’t that confident.
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