CNN's GUT CHECK | for March 10, 2014 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
DEVELOPING: QUESTIONS ARISE OVER STOLEN PASSPORTS ON MISSING MALAYSIAN FLIGHT… It is perplexing enough that a jetliner seemed to have vanished without a trace. Adding to the mystery is the news that at least two people on board were traveling on passports stolen from an Austrian and an Italian. According to Thai police officials, an Iranian man by the name of Kazem Ali purchased the tickets for two friends who he said wanted to return home to Europe. While Ali made the initial booking by telephone, either Ali or someone acting on his behalf paid for the tickets in cash, according to police. – Saeed Ahmed
Round 1: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas highlighted his foreign policy disagreement with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in an interview with ABC on Sunday. “I don't agree with him on foreign policy. I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world. And I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad," Cruz said. The Texas Republican went on to invoke Reagan's declaration of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and heralded the former president’s foreign policy views.
Round 2: Paul, who is known for his libertarian views, penned an op-ed on Monday that faulted Republicans for distorting Reagan's views on foreign policy. While the piece didn’t mention Cruz by name, it was a fairly obvious swipe. “I will remind anyone who thinks we will win elections by trashing previous Republican nominees or holding oneself out as some paragon in the mold of (Ronald) Reagan, that splintering the party is not the route to victory," the Kentucky Republican wrote in an opinion piece for Breitbart.com. – Ashley Killough
IF HE COULD, SNOWDEN WOULD DO IT AGAIN: In a rare public talk streamed at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience Monday to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens. In response to a question, Snowden said he had no regrets about his decision to leak the NSA documents. “Would I do it again? Absolutely. Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to,” he said. “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale.” The event marked the first time the former National Security Agency contractor has directly addressed people in the United States since he fled the country with thousands of secret documents last June. – Brandon Griggs, Josh Rubin and Doug Gross
AMERICANS ARE HOT AND COLD ON OBAMA’S UKRAINE RESPONSE: Poll: Americans back sanctions on Russia… Nearly six in 10 of those questioned in a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday say they support economic sanctions against Moscow by the U.S. and its allies in an attempt to force Russia to remove its forces from Ukraine's autonomous Crimean peninsula.
… but only tepid support exists for Obama’s handling of Ukraine: Slightly more Americans approve than disapprove of how President Barack Obama has so far handled the crisis in Ukraine, but that has not affected the President's overall job approval rating, according to a new national poll. Forty-eight percent of people questioned in the poll say they approve of how the President has so far handled the Ukraine crisis, with 43% giving Obama a thumbs down and 9% unsure. That is higher than Obama’s overall approval number.
GOOD NEWS ABOUT OBAMACARE… Survey finds number of uninsured has dropped… The percentage of Americans without healthcare insurance fell at the end of last year, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In the fourth and final quarter of 2014, 15.9% of Americans were without healthcare. That number is down from the same time in 2013, when 17.1% of Americans were uninsured.
… But the law remains unpopular: … 44% of Americans said they were hopeful about the law, compared to 51% who said they were fearful at the prospect of higher costs and losing their coverage.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Hillary Clinton to appear at star-studded women’s summit… At the fifth annual Women in the World Summit next month in New York City, Clinton will sit down for a conversation with Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund. Also participating at the event: Actresses Meryl Streep, Mia Farrow, and Rashida Jones, former First Lady Barbara Bush, former President Jimmy Carter, designer Diane von Furstenberg and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. – Dan Merica
THE BUZZ: Swimmer Michael Phelps proved his athleticism can transcend the swimming pool. Watch him sink an over 53-yard putt.
MARKET WATCH: U.S. stocks end lower on international economic concerns. Dow slips 33 points. S&P and Nasdaq finish down slightly.
What president took the most official trips to Ukraine?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: National parties test their pitches in Florida's 13th District special election
It's for just one congressional seat for about eight months, but Tuesday's special election in Florida has taken on huge political significance. National Republicans are framing Tuesday's special election as a referendum on Obamacare. But their message - plus a flood of outside spending by Democrats focused on the issue of Social Security - is drowning out other issues in the race, Republican candidate David Jolly says. His Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, isn't shying away from the health care debate, touting the law's benefits and saying she's open to improvements. – Deirdre Walsh
Leading Drudge: Without A Trace!
Teams trying to locate the Boeing Co. (BA) 777 that vanished over the sea three days ago will scour data for radar signatures while seeking to detect pinging from black boxes as the search for visible wreckage proves elusive. – Alan Levin and Andrea Rothman for Bloomberg News
Leading HuffPo: Big Drop
With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama's health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down. – Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar for the Associated Press
Leading Politico: Big business takes on tea party, gently
Big Business swore this would be the year it would wrestle back the soul of the Republican Party from the grip of the tea party. No more Todd Akins. No more government shutdowns. And no more third-party groups running roughshod over the Washington agenda. But with primary season looming, the big threats from Big Business appear to be just that. – Anna Palmer
Leading The New York Times: Any Thoughts, Mrs. Clinton, on the Year After Next?
Hillary Rodham Clinton is accustomed to hearing The Question. So if you have a chance to ask it, make it count. … As speculation grows about whether Mrs. Clinton will run for president again, in 2016, so too has a political parlor game of coming up with creative variations on the same question. The standard will-you-run inquiry no longer suffices. They come up at almost all of Mrs. Clinton’s many paid talks to trade groups, events related to her charitable work and at galas and awards ceremonies.- Amy Chozick
The political bites of the day
– Why the Ukrainian PM is coming to the White House on Wednesday –
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY AT THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING: “We are making it clear to the new government of Ukraine that we support them; that we support the responsible way that Ukrainian officials, parliament and the new government have handled this crisis. And we are working to provide direct assistance to Ukraine in this difficult time so they can stabilize their economy and return to economic growth. That's the message we are sending. The president looks forward to the meeting.”
– Senators plan all night speech on climate change –
Democratic Sen. Bryan Schatz of Hawaii in a statement: “Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable. Congress must act. Tonight we’re going to show the growing number of Senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change.”
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said: “So many Senators coming together for an all-night session shows our commitment to wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change. All you have to do is look at China to see what happens to your country when you throw the environment under the bus.”
Gut Check Extra: No member of the Republican caucus in the Senate will be part of the all-nighter, according to the organizing senators.
– Shorter Paul: I’m different than my father –
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in a Time Magazine opinion editorial: “Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community. His continuing occupation of Ukraine is completely unacceptable and Russia’s President should be isolated for his actions. … Putin must be punished for violating the Budapest Memorandum, and Russia must learn that the U.S. will isolate it if it insists on acting like a rogue nation.”
– ‘Terribly Surprising’ –
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “Are you surprised that three days now have passed and they haven't been able to find any wreckage at all in the waters over there in the pacific?”
Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General: “Yes, that is terribly surprising. And the debris field, if it was an in-flight, mid-air explosion, the debris would be scattered wide and far. And so much on the plane will float, the seat cushions, the life vests, the life rafts, the service carts and containers, parts of the wing, parts of the tail, all that will float and there is nothing. It is very, very surprising.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
John Dickerson (@jdickerson)
Don't be so mean to the Iowa straw poll. It has a pretty good record picking the person who will never be president. http://lat.ms/1cOPaRH
Chris Stearns (@stearnsseattle)
Des Moines Register poll shows Iowa Dems really want Hillary for President & Iowa GOP likes Ryan, Huckabee in 2016. http://dmreg.co/1fjorRR
Jason Seher (@jhseher)
In his first TV spot of the campaign, @senatorbegich targets the Koch brothers. | http://cnn.it/1i0kv8l (via @psteinhauserCNN) #2014
John McCormack (@McCormackJohn)
Spokesmen for @Sen_JoeManchin won't say where he stands on the federal version of the late-term abortion bill http://tws.io/1kbccY7
Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis)
Jeffrey E. Thompson is charged with felony conspiracy to break campaign finance laws. With @amarimow: http://wapo.st/1kbbM43
Tom Sherwood (@tomsherwood)
Mayor Gray tells NBC4 just now he did nothing wrong in 2014 campaign. his staff points to many campaigns in Thompson court documents.
Tasha Diakides (@TashaCNN)
ICYM: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on why you should stop using the word "bossy." #banbossy http://on.wsj.com/NQWV3J
Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa)
Demoing a new Microsoft dance game. #sxsw pic.twitter.com/8CSUPwP55h
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
During his eight years in the White House, former President Bill Clinton visited Ukraine three times, making him the commander-in-chief with the most official visits to the Eastern European nation.
Because Ukraine was controlled by the USSR for decades, Clinton became the first president to visit the country when he met with President Leonid Kravchuk in January 1994. A priority of Clinton’s trip was to secure nuclear weapons stored in Ukraine after the breakup of the USSR. At the time, Ukraine was the world’s three-largest nuclear power but gave up that arsenal in late 1994.
The next year, in 1995, Clinton was welcomed back to Kiev with a state visit. And the former president’s final trip came in 2000, when he met with then-President Leonid Kuchma.
Former President George W. Bush visited Ukraine once – for a meeting with then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and then-President Viktor Yushchenko in 2008.
President Barack Obama has never visited the country.
Possibly the most famous presidential trip to an area that would become Ukraine came in 1945, when then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin in Yalta to discuss World War II and post-war Europe.
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