CNN's GUT CHECK | for May 14, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
TABLES TURNED: JUSTICE TO EXAMINE IRS ACTIONS… Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday he has ordered an investigation into the IRS targeting conservative groups. While the IRS has admitted that members of its Cincinnati office engaged in political targeting of some conservative groups, documents suggest at least three other offices did the same.
NIXONIAN? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the comparison Tuesday that the Obama White House operates in similar fashion to the Nixon administration. “I can tell you that people who make those comparisons need to check their history because what we have here with one issue Benghazi is so clearly, as we are learning more and more a political sideshow, a deliberate effort to politicize a tragedy,” Carney said.
COLD: Russia orders expulsion of U.S. diplomat accused of being a CIA agent… Wigs, dark glasses, a compass and a large bundle of foreign cash - it's the stuff of any Cold War-era spy novel. That's the "spy arsenal" Russia's counterintelligence agency says it found with a U.S. diplomat when he was caught allegedly trying to recruit a Russian special services staff member. – Alla Eshchenko. Laura Smith-Spark and Nick Paton Walsh
MARKET WATCH: Dow and S&P keep climbing, adding 0.8% and 1% to end at record highs. NASDAQ closes at highest level since 2000.
The state of Israel was established on this day in 1948. How many sitting presidents have visited Israel?
Noun – A thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.
At the White House press briefing today, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked whether a trio of controversies – Benghazi, the DOJ subpoenaing phone records from the Association Press and the IRS targeting certain conservative groups – was having a negative effect on President Barack Obama's "ability to pursue his agenda?"
Carney sidestepped the question.
“The president is focused on what he believes the American people expect from him and from their leaders in Washington and you have seen that and you will continue to see that in the days and weeks and months ahead,” Carney said, before launching into a list of policy positions Obama has advocated. “There is a lot of work to be done and he is focused on that work.”
But as history shows us, a president has much more legislative success in the first, not the second term, due in large part to scandals, and controversies.
“Since the two-term limit was established by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1951, five presidents have won their bids for re-election, but none of them enjoyed notable greater success in their second four-year term than their first,” John P. Burke, professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont, wrote in a report for the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
A president's second term “is likely to be an uphill road,” Burke writes, and one “not particularly well marked for historical success.”
The issue for Obama, as is the case with most second term presidents, is the timing of such controversies. As Burke told Gut Check, Obama's power only wanes from this point on.
“The window is right now,” Burke told Gut Check about Obama pushing Congress to pass his legislation. “Maybe a little bit into next year, but then everything focuses on the midterms and that makes it even more difficult to put together a winning collation.”
Burke continued: “I think that years six through eight are the low ebb of any eight-year presidency. In any post 22nd Amendment second-term presidency, not very much gets done domestically in the final two years.”
With the number of legislative priorities that Obama has on Capitol Hill right now – namely guns and immigration – a distraction is the last thing that White House needs right now.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Deputy AG defends AP subpoenas
The Justice Department on Tuesday defended its decision to subpoena phone records from Associated Press bureaus and reporters, saying the requests were limited and necessary to investigate a leak of classified information. “The subpoenas were limited to a reasonable period of time and did not seek the content of any calls,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote. – Matt Smith and Michael Pearson
Leading Drudge: When It Rains...
Scandal politics are sweeping Capitol Hill. Just days after news broke that the IRS targeted conservative nonprofits, Speaker John Boehner’s House committees will morph into mock courtrooms where the White House will be the defendant in what amounts to a number of high-stakes political trials. – Jake Sherman and Lauren French for Politico
Leading HuffPo: On The Hunt
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) raised the stakes of her quest to find out why a single Wall Street bank has not been prosecuted in the aftermath of the financial crisis Tuesday, sending a letter to the heads of three federal agencies. – Luke Johnson
Leading Politico: Inside the AP: Fear, determination
Reporters across The Associated Press are outraged over the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of staff phone records – and they say such an intrusion could chill their relationships with confidential sources. – Dylan Byers and Katie Glueck
Leading The New York Times: For Republicans, Incentives to Strike a Budget Deal With Obama
Ask around the White House and the Capitol, and you will quickly find reasons to doubt that Republicans will compromise with President Obama on a budget deal that includes more tax increases and spending cuts in entitlement programs. So why does Mr. Obama keep talking to them about a deal? Because Republicans still have powerful incentives to strike one. – John Harwood
The political bites of the day
- Reid says Justice targeting AP is ‘inexcusable’ -
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: “I have trouble defending what the Justice Department did going after, looking at the AP. You know, I really believe in the First Amendment, I think it's one of the great things we have as a country. And I don't know who did it, or why it was done, but it's inexcusable, and there's no way to justify this.”
- McConnell fingers Democrats in IRS scandal -
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL IN A SPEECH ON THE SENATE FLOOR: “We learned last week that these abuses were even more widespread than we thought. So it is good to see even some of my Democratic colleagues now criticizing the IRS for such blatant and thuggish abuse of power. It is preferable to the silence, or worse encouragement that they have demonstrated in the past. … But our Democratic friends should also acknowledge their role in inculcating this culture of intimidation due to repeated calls for increased, increased IRS scrutiny of groups like the very ones that ended up being targeted.”
- First congressional hearing on IRS: Friday -
DEMOCRATIC REP. SANDER LEVIN OF MICHIGAN IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CNN: “The president said what was happening was outrageous and I made it clear that the singling out in 2010 Tea Party Patriots was outrageous, as the president said. Should never have happened. So we have been very clear about that. … They (The IRS) made serious mistakes. They should have let us know what was going on. We should not have heard about this at an ABA meeting when Lois Lerner said she had something to say.”
- Gohmert cites Boston in opposition to immigration reform -
REPUBLICAN REP. LOUIE GOHMERT OF TEXAS AT A CAPITOL HILL PRESS CONFERENCE: “You had people in Boston who had overstayed visas and yet they were not being checked, and if the FBI does not have the resources to check one individual – who Russia's given us a heads up on, is radicalized and wanting to harm America – then do you think the system will be better if we add 11 million more people all of a sudden, instantaneously for the FBI to check out and make sure they are not going to be a threat? There will be threats involved in that just as we saw in Boston.”
- Sestak announces exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate -
FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REP. JOE SESTAK IN AN EMAIL TO SUPPORTERS: “Today too few leaders are willing to be accountable for advancing our dream. When I left the Navy and entered Congress, I saw how this lack of accountability by our leaders was losing the trust of the American people. If you want to regain that trust, restore respect across the political divide to advance America, we need leaders who are both honest and accountable to the people for the American dream.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
“We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel,” said Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948. Standing in the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Ben-Gurion’s announcement was met with cheers and tears from the assembled crowd.
Since that time, five sitting presidents have visited the Jewish state.
The first was President Richard Nixon in 1974. His visit came during the height of the Watergate scandal, leading many to believe his visit was more of a respite for the beleaguered president than a standard state trip.
Carter, like Nixon, visited Israel one time. Reagan, on the other hand, did not visit in his eight-year presidency.
The president that spent the most time in Israel: Bill Clinton. In his four visits, Clinton attended the 1995 funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and spoke to the Knesset, the country's legislative body.
President George W. Bush visited Israel twice and, just recently, President Barack Obama visited the Middle East nation.
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