May 22nd, 2014
04:39 PM ET
3 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for May 22, 2014

CNN’s POLITICAL GUT CHECK | for May 22, 2014 | 5 p.m.
—  n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

DOWN TO THE FINAL FOUR … VEGAS AND CINCINNATI OUT OF RNC SWEEPSTAKES: The Republican National Committee announced Thursday that Las Vegas and Cincinnati are no longer in the running as potential hosts for the 2016 GOP convention. Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, and Kansas City are still in contention to host the convention where Republicans will officially choose their presidential nominee. Site Selection Committee Chairwoman Enid Mickelsen said that Cincinnati and Las Vegas withdrew their bids.- Mark Preston and Ashley Killough


“TIP OF THE ICEBERG” … HILL VA CHAIR SAYS MORE TO COME: The chairman of the congressional committee charged with investigating allegations of cooked books, a secret wait list and cover-ups in the Veterans Affairs health care system says the findings are "just the tip of the iceberg."

"I know there's more to come," Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee said on CNN's "New Day" on Thursday. "We've received some information and some tips that will make what has already come look like kindergarten stuff."

His comments come as the committee received word late Wednesday that the three senior VA officials called to testify at a meeting on Thursday would likely not show. The officials said "we didn't give them enough time to be able to get there," Miller said, calling the excuse "disingenuous."

VA RESPONSE TO MISSING MEETING: “VA is committed to working with the Committee to provide relevant information expeditiously in response to the May 8 subpoena,” a VA spokesman told CNN. “On May 15, 2014, VA staff proactively contacted Committee staff to inform them that VA will produce documents for the committee on Monday, May 19, and continue providing information on a rolling basis. This is customary practice followed by executive branch agencies when responding to a subpoena, and consistent with the subpoena itself. On Monday, May 19, VA began production of documents to the Committee. As of May 22, VA has produced over 3,000 pages of documents to the Committee.”

MEANWHILE, HILL REPUBLICANS ARE LOSING PATIENCE:
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER TO CNN’S DANA BASH:
BASH: “Mr. Speaker … You haven’t called for Secretary Shinseki to step down. Do you still think he should be at the helm?”
BOEHNER: “Listen, I have not called for General Shinseki to resign although I have to admit I am getting a little closer. But here is the point - this isn’t about one person. This isn’t about the secretary. It is about the entire system underneath him. The general can leave and we can wait around for months to go through a nomination process, and we get a new person but the disaster continues. And so I don’t want people to get confused about what the shiny ball is here. The shiny ball is a systemic failure of this agency.”

BASH: “So, if that’s the case why are you getting closer?”
BOEHNER: “The reports that continue to come are appalling. And these are men and women who served our country and we have not just let them down, we have let them die! This is awful stuff and somebody ought to be held accountable for it.”

GENDER POLITICS: WOMEN CANDIDATES COULD FLIP SENATE … CNN’s Dana Bash reports from Kentucky: In the big drama this election year - whether Republicans will take control of the Senate - the answer may rest in the hands of women candidates. Especially after Tuesday's primaries.

Women contenders grabbed headlines from a primary victory in Kentucky, where Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes emphatically told supporters: "I am not an empty dress," to Oregon, where Republican hopeful and pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby touted her own qualifications for Senate: "I am a doctor, a mom." And in Georgia, the retirement of a Republican senator drew an unexpectedly popular would-be Democratic replacement in Michelle Nunn, who boasted that "Washington is going to learn a thing or two from our campaign."

Add these candidates to the list of vulnerable female senators in Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire and it's clear the balance of power in the Senate could depend on how women candidates in both parties fare.

THE BUZZ: 'I MADE OBAMA'S BLACKBERRY' … Erika Fink reports for CNNMoney: In response to Obama's request, the NSA set up a lab where dozens of experts performed surgery for several months on a high-profile patient: the soon-to-be presidential BlackBerry. The course of treatment was to manipulate the device's innards to weed out potential threats to secure communication … What functionality the president's phone actually possesses is secret - and the NSA won't even confirm that he can use it to send a text or write an email (but it's a pretty safe bet it isn't used for Oval Office selfies).

KICKER: OBAMA GOES FOR A WALK, SHOCKS TOURISTS

MARKET WATCH: Stocks edge higher with Dow rising 11 points. Retailers advance on earnings. Best Buy and Sears gain 4%.

TRAIL TRIVIA
(Answer Below)
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially outlined his goals for the “Great Society” in a commencement address. At which university did he deliver his remarks?

the LEDE
Did you miss it?

Leading CNNPolitics: Green billionaire prepares to attack 'anti-science' Republicans 
An environmental advocacy group backed by hedge fund tycoon Tom Steyer is set to unleash a seven-state, $100 million offensive against Republican "science deniers" this year, a no-holds-barred campaign-style push from the green billionaire that could help decide which party controls the Senate and key statehouses come November. The Steyer-backed outside group, NextGen Climate, has billed itself as a progressive, pro-environment counterbalance to the wealthy oil and gas industry - as well as the primary foil to the pro-business Koch brothers and their well-funded conservative donor network. – Peter Hamby

Leading CNNMoney: GM to lawmakers: We're working on it
General Motors CEO Mary Barra returned to Capitol Hill this week to brief lawmakers about the company's investigation into accidents caused by faulty ignition switches. GM's Barra told lawmakers that the company will share its findings by early July, according to multiple congressional aides. The company faces a June 30 deadline to turn the findings over to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. – Jennifer Liberto and Lisa Desjardins

Leading Lexington Herald-Leader: Mitch McConnell challenges Alison Lundergan Grimes to three debates
In a letter signed by McConnell, which the Herald-Leader obtained Wednesday morning and the McConnell campaign confirmed would be sent to Grimes, Kentucky's senior senator congratulated his Democratic opponent on winning her party's nomination and challenged her to a series of debates — with several conditions. "In order to present our views fairly and without interpretation by traditional media filters, I believe we should participate in three traditional Lincoln-Douglas style debates moderated only by a single timekeeper/moderator," McConnell wrote. "By conducting these debates without an audience, without props and without notes, it will allow for an unvarnished exchange of views for Kentuckians to evaluate." At a campaign stop Wednesday, Grimes said she would welcome the debates with McConnell. – Sam Youngman

Leading HuffPo: Not Once But Twice Grimes Dodges Questions On Obamacare
Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes on Wednesday twice refused to say whether she would have voted for President Barack Obama's signature health care law. Asked two times whether she'd have voted for the 2010 overhaul, the Kentucky Democrat who is challenging Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told The Associated Press: "I, when we are in the United States Senate, will work to fix the Affordable Care Act." – AP’s Adam Beam

Leading Drudge: Obama Seeks Sports For Political Refuge 
Facing angry veterans, an uphill climb for his party in this year’s elections and a possible sanctions war with Russia, President Barack Obama is turning to a time-tested safe harbor for U.S. presidents: sports. Obama is making a week of it, celebrating games large and small. A day after feting the National Football League champion Seattle Seahawks at the White House, Obama is going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, today to promote tourism and economic development. – Margaret Talev

Leading Politico: Anatomy of a Veterans Affairs scandal
CNN’s path-breaking coverage of veterans’ issues — dying while they waited for care, allegations of secret waiting lists for tests and treatment, and charges of a coverup — gives the cable network a point of pride after brutal criticism for its plane coverage. Its report shoved the issue onto the national news agenda on Wednesday when President Barack Obama, seen by many as late to the problem, called a White House press conference to address the issue. Obama mocked CNN three weeks ago at a Washington dinner; weeks later, he was dealing with their hard-core reporting. – Hadas Gold

Leading New York Times: House Votes to Limit N.S.A.’s Collection of Phone Data
The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to rein in the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of telephone records, approving scaled-back legislation that sharply divided the technology sector and civil libertarians but united the White House, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. The 303-to-121 vote sent an unambiguous signal that both parties are no longer comfortable with giving the N.S.A. unfettered power to collect bulk surveillance data. A year ago, a divided House nearly voted to strip all money from the N.S.A. for such surveillance, over the protests of the Republican leadership. – Jonathan Weisman

Leading Sun Herald: 2 more arrests in Cochran photo probe in Miss.
Two additional suspects, including a tea party official, have been arrested over photos taken of the ailing wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi authorities said Thursday. Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said Mark Mayfield, a member of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, and a second suspect were arrested. He did not identify the second suspect or specify the charges. A conservative Mississippi blogger was arrested last week on allegations that he took the photos of Rose Cochran without her permission at the nursing home where she has lived for 13 years. – AP's Emily Wagster Pettus

HOT SOTS
The political bites of the day

– After accepting new Medicaid funds, Pence insists Obamacare should be repealed –
INDIANA GOV. MIKE PENCE IN A STATEMENT: “Government-directed programs like Obamacare should be repealed and instead states should be provided the freedom and flexibility to innovate and provide state-based solutions for their people. That’s what we are doing with the plan I am proposing. Indiana has chosen consumer-driven health care, and I am working to make this plan a reality for Hoosiers.”

Gut Check DVR: Catch Gov. Pence on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sunday at 9 am E.T.

– McDaniel slams Cochran: ‘I will not stoop to your level’ –
GOP CHALLENGER CHRIS MCDANIEL IN AN OPEN LETTER TO SEN. THAD COCHRAN: “To date, you have refused to come home to Mississippi and debate. Until then, I will not engage either your campaign or the liberal media in their absurd witch hunt. No matter how many press releases your campaign puts out, I will simply not stoop to your level. Win or lose, I’d like to be able to wake up on June 4th and be proud of the primary campaign I ran on behalf of Mississippi. Trailing in the polls, your campaign has made it apparent they will say and do anything to win.”

– McConnell: Obama isn’t working as hard to fix VA as healthcare.gov –
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL IN A STATEMENT: “When the website for Obamacare wasn’t working, President Obama publicly and repeatedly pledged to get it working. I’m disappointed he has not pledged as loudly and as repeatedly to do the right thing for our nation’s veterans. They deserve more attention than a failed website.”

– NRSC: Democrats to blame for Veterans Affairs problems –
NRSC COMMUNICATIONS STAFF IN AN EMAIL TO SUPPORTERS: “It's yet another egregious sign of an inept and incompetent government that has been run by Democrats for the last five years. There's a huge difference between talking about change and administering change, and Democrats like Kay Hagan, Jeanne Shaheen and Mark Begich have mastered the former and failed miserably at the latter. Voters are tired of a dysfunctional and dishonest government.”

TOP TWEETS
What stopped us in 140 characters or less

Ali Weinberg (@AliABCNews)
In a statement @JohnKerry calls the situation in Thailand a "coup" following the military's own declaration. Has implication for US $ there

Eric Weisbrod ‏(@EricWeisbrod)
Shinseki now a campaign issue- Aiken: “...the president is responsible for it at the end of the day” http://cnn.it/1tocVcJ #InsidePolitics

Carrie Dann (@CarrieNBCNews)
Grimes on Shinseki: "I don't see how that breach of trust with our veterans can be repaired if the current leadership stays in place."

Nancy Cordes ‏(@nancycordes)
VA Secy Shinseki, after mtg w/Sen Durbin,tells us he did not offer POTUS his resignation ystdy.Do u think u have his full confidence?"I do."

Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn)
McConnell, lowering expectations about what GOP-controlled Sen can do: "dont assume that everything we want to do can get 60 votes"

Mike Memoli (@mikememoli)
McConnell suggests he wouldn't go nuclear: "I think the supermajority requirement in the Senate has been good for the country."

Olivier Knox (@OKnox)
Harry Reid has the Kochs. Mitch McConnell has Harry Reid? A @meredithshiner joint: news.yahoo.com/triumphant-mit…  

Steve Brusk ‏(@stevebruskCNN)
Mitt Romney is going to Iowa. He'll campaign for Senate candidate Joni Ernst next Friday in Cedar Rapids and Davenport http://cnn.it/1nv6b9B

Vaughn Sterling ‏(@vplus)
CNN: Senate Democrats pressure NFL to change Redskins’ name http://cnn.it/1k8o3YY

Jim Acosta ‏(@JimAcostaCNN)
POTUS departs WH for visit to Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown http://instagram.com/p/oTo_MiAufe/

TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer

Although President Johnson's first public reference to the Great Society took place during a speech to students on May 7, 1964, at Ohio University, he didn’t lay out his specific goals for the sweeping initiative until a few weeks later in a commencement address at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. According to the University, Johnson spoke at Michigan Stadium on May 22 to a crowd estimated to be as large as 85,000.

"Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth,” Johnson said. “For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the ‘Great Society.’”

GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(Why aren’t you in it?)

Congrats to Steve Liguori (@SteveL3877) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check trivia question.

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