CNN’s POLITICAL GUT CHECK | for May 28, 2014 | 5 p.m.
— n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
MOUNTING PRESSURE FOR SHINSEKI TO RESIGN AFTER NEW REVELATIONS ... Congressional support for embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki dwindled further Wednesday in the wake of a new report documenting multiple unofficial wait lists of veterans seeking care at a Phoenix facility.1,700 veterans also waiting to be seen did not appear on any list.
Colorado’s Mark Udall – who is up for re-election this year – became the first Democratic senator to call for Shinseki to resign. “Secretary Shinseki must step down," Udall said in a statement. "We need new leadership who will demand accountability to fix these problems.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “it is time for General Shinseki to move on." House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, agreed with McCain’s assessment.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, urged Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a criminal investigation and argued in a statement that Shinseki needs to step down. “Sec. Shinseki has proven time and again he is not (the right) leader,” Miller’s statement read. “That’s why it’s time for him to go.”
OBAMA ‘DEEPLY TROUBLED’: In an interview on CNN’s "The Lead with Jake Tapper,"Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the President was briefed on the new report by Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and finds the revelations “deeply troubling.” Blinken would not say whether Obama still supports Shinseki.
SHINSEKI CALLS REPORT’S FINDINGS ‘REPREHENSIBLE’: I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to Veterans,” Shinseki said in a written statement. “I am directing that the Phoenix VA Health Care System (VAHCS) immediately triage each of the 1,700 Veterans identified by the (report) to bring them timely care.”
OBAMA OUTLINES FOREIGN POLICY VISION OF 'MIGHT AND RIGHT' ... President Barack Obama on Wednesday outlined a foreign policy vision of "might doing right," arguing that modern pragmatism requires both a strong military and the diplomatic tools of alliances and sanctions to exert influence and provide global leadership. He told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that after the nation's "long season of war and divisions about how to move forward," they now would represent America with the duty "not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just."
Under fire from the political right for what critics call diminishing U.S. global influence, Obama offered a robust defense of his foreign policy as the pragmatic and most effective expression of America's leadership role in the world. "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," he said, referring to a tenet of conservative ideology.– Tom Cohen, Jim Acosta and Kevin Liptak
... AS HILLARY CLINTON RELEASES “HARD CHOICES” VIDEO TEASE ON AMERICAN LEADERSHIP: In a video released to Facebook on Wednesday, Clinton says readers should expect a behind the scenes look at her relationship with President Barack Obama and his White House, as well as her argument that the United States is not in decline ... Clinton has made a similar argument before in her numerous speeches to trade associations, corporate groups and college students across the country. – Dan Merica
See excerpts below in HOT SOTS
NASTY SENATE RACE GETS DEEPER INTO MISSISSIPPI MUD ... CNN’s Dana Bash reports from Biloxi, Mississippi: A conservative blogger is in jail –arrested for allegedly breaking into a Mississippi nursing home to photograph U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's ailing wife, who is suffering from dementia. "It's the worst," says the narrator of a new Cochran campaign ad airing in the final stretch before the June 3 primary, not so subtly pointing the finger at his GOP Senate challenger, Chris McDaniel, trying to stir up voter disgust.
This race, one of the nastiest so far this election year, has gotten even deeper in the Mississippi mud than that. Cochran supporters argue the reason the blogger and tea party activist took Mrs. Cochran's picture was to feed questions about the senator and his longtime aide, Kay Webber ... "Our campaign had absolutely no connection to that whatsoever, and the evidence has shown that. What we're doing right now - we're talking about the issues," McDaniel told CNN in an interview.
THE BUZZ: LEGENDARY POET MAYA ANGELOU DIES AT AGE 86 … Maya Angelou, a renowned poet, novelist and actress, has died at age 86, her literary agent, Helen Brann, said Wednesday. She died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Brann said. Also a professor, singer and dancer, Angelou's work spans several professions. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her with the Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor … Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.– Faith Karimi
Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN)
Angelou was a longtime Clinton supporter. She wrote "On the Pulse of Morning" for Bill Clinton's '93 inaugural. http://cnn.it/1jtZtwA
See below in HOT SOTS: Clinton reflects loss of fellow Arkansan
MARKET WATCH: U.S. stocks end lower as the Dow falls 42 points and NASDAQ drops 0.3%. Shares of shoe retailer DSW tumble 27%.
Which American pop culture icon did Maya Angelou mentor and consider a daughter?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: First on CNN: First major TV ad on VA scandal
The Veterans Affairs scandal's been a major issue on the campaign trail the past couple of weeks. Now it's front and center in the campaign ad wars. Crossroads GPS, the non-profit sister organization to American Crossroads, a leading pro-GOP outside group which was co-founded and steered by Karl Rove, says that starting Wednesday it will start running a television commercial in Alaska that's critical of Sen. Mark Begich over his reaction to the growing controversy, which was first reported by CNN six months ago. – Paul Steinhauser
Leading CNNMoney: 2 died in GM crash – but only 1 is counted
Natasha Weigel, 18, and her friend Amy Rademaker, 15, died from car crash injuries in October 2006, after their Chevy Cobalt hit a tree in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Amy was sitting in the passenger seat in the front. Natasha was in the back. However, General Motors counts only Amy's death among the 13 caused by ignition switch failures, which are at the center of a massive recall and have led to Congressional hearings and multiple investigations into the auto company. – Jennifer Liberto
Leading Drudge: Angelou Dead At 86
Maya Angelou was gratified, but not surprised by her extraordinary fortune. "I'm not modest," she told The Associated Press in 2013. "I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out." – AP’s Hillel Italie
Leading HuffPo: GOP Seizes Upon Veterans Affairs Scandal In New Attacks Against Democrats
Republicans are seizing upon the growing scandal enveloping the Department of Veterans Affairs to attack President Barack Obama and vulnerable Democratic candidates ahead of the November elections. The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday it was launching robocalls and a "Twitter campaign" urging Americans to call their representatives and demand an independent investigation into allegations that patients died while waiting for care. – Igor Bobic
Leading Politico: Anchor with attitude
Jorge Ramos, the most popular Hispanic news anchor in America, arrived in Washington recently on an unusual journalistic mission: He wanted to challenge Speaker John Boehner about why he’s “blocking” immigration reform. “Republicans don’t get it. They’re going to lose the 2016 election if they don’t move on immigration reform, and they’re going to lose again in 2020,” Ramos said in an interview. “They have a very short memory. They forgot in 2012. They’ll remember after 2016.”- Dylan Byers
Leading New York Times: Senate Democrats Turn Focus to Local Issues for Midterms
If Republicans are trying to nationalize the 2014 midterms, tying Democrats to President Obama and his signature health care law, Democrats considered vulnerable are countering by going local, doubling down on state-specific issues that are more typically the province of Republicans. Facing a hostile national climate — with Mr. Obama’s approval rating stalled below 50 percent, and that of Congress barely in double digits — Democrats say they believe their path to victory hinges on a series of individual contests rather than a referendum on the president and his policies. – Ashley Parker
The political bites of the day
- Clinton: America is not in decline -
HILLARY CLINTON IN A VIDEO BOOK TEASE ON HER FACEBOOK PAGE: “I think Americans will find in this book – of course inside, behind the scenes insight – particularly with my relationship with Barack Obama and with the White House - but also my views about what we needed to do to restore American leadership. At the time I became Secretary there was a fairly strong current of thinking that United States was in decline. Now, I have lived long enough to know that that periodically surfaces - and academics and commentators and others start talking about the United States declining. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now.”
- Brown: 2016 Democratic nomination is Clinton’s ‘if she wants’ it -
CALIFORNIA GOV. JERRY BROWN IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE WASHINGTON POST: “I really believe that Hillary Clinton has the presence, the experience and the support of the vast majority of Democrats in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime ... She has this if she wants.”
- Brown: “Silly” to rule out 2016 if no Democratic nominee -
BROWN IN THE INTERVIEW: “If no one runs and [everyone] says we’ll have an absent Democratic nominee, would I rule that out? ... I mean, that would be a little silly, wouldn’t it?”
- Kerry: U.S. troop withdrawal is ‘empowering’ Afghans -
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY ON CNN’S “NEW DAY”: “If you left it open-ended, if you said to the Afghans, we'll be here as long as it takes, you can justly bet your bottom dollar, and it probably would be the bottom dollar of the U.S., that they'll take just as long as they want to. So what the president is doing is appropriately empowering the Afghans, giving them the opportunity to take control of their future. And that's the best way for them to step up and do so.”
- McCain: Kerry’s comments insulting to Afghans –
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN TO CNN’S WOLF BLITZER: “Secretary Kerry must be ignoring the chaos that has now ensued in Iraq as we set (a) time for complete withdraw ... I think it's rather insulting to the Afghans to think that they would not want to be able to defend themselves. That's not the Afghans that I know.”
- Snowden: I was trained 'as a spy' -
EDWARD SNOWDEN IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NBC’S BRIAN WILLIAMS: “It's no secret that the U.S. tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than they do out of people ... I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas – pretending to work in a job that I'm not – and even being assigned a name that was not mine."
- Bill Clinton: America has lost a treasure with Angelou’s passing -
PRESIDENT CLINTON IN A STATEMENT: “With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace. I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of “On the Pulse of Morning” at my first inaugural, and even more for all the years of friendship that followed.”
- Obama: Angelou inspired my mother to name my sister Maya -
PRESIDENT OBAMA IN A STATEMENT: “Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer.But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews)
POTUS during '09 West Point surge speech: "Must promote our values by living them at home, which is why I...will close...Guantanamo Bay."
Katty Kay (@KattyKayBBC)
This speech reflects the confusion of a country that is fed up of intervention but still likes the idea of being the world leader.
Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein)
Hillary Clinton riffs on hard choices in life, including "whether to stay married." https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=593910717383706 …
Zach C. Cohen (@Zachary_Cohen)
Cantor mailer attacks "amnesty" for"illegal aliens" http://bigstory.ap.org/article/primary-nears-cantor-mailer-attacks-amnesty… via @AP's @ericawerner Doesn't bode well for immigration reform
Michelle Diggles (@MichelleDiggles)
Cantor's "amnesty" mailer seemed tone-deaf to me. Looks like I wasn't the only one surprised, eh @ron_fournier http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/what-both-parties-don-t-get-about-hispanics-20140528 … #CIR
Chuck Todd (@chucktodd)
Before Dems get too excited about TX going blue soon, they ought to realize just how weak TX Dem party really is http://blog.chron.com/texaspolitics/2014/05/analysis-runoff-closes-embarassing-chapter-for-texas-dems /…
Megan H. Chan (@meganhchan)
Why Ralph Hall became the first incumbent to fall in #election2014 via @jdelreal @politico http://politi.co/1pwudlD #txpol #TX04
CNN's Gut Check (@GutCheckCNN)
Gut Check Flash Back: Rep. Ralph Hall recalls selling cigarettes to Bonnie and Clyde when he was 12 http://cnn.it/1pyWjev
Richard Galant (@richny)
#MayaAngelou, in 2008, on @BarackObama candidacy: US "is finally able to see through complexion and see community" http://cnn.it/1nuteFV
Nick Valencia (@CNNValencia)
One of my favorite stories about @DrMayaAngelou. The time she made Tupac cry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Os6Sl6SORqk&app=desktop
TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer
Maya Angelou was a mentor and friend to Oprah Winfrey. In an interview with Winfrey in 2013, Angelou said that she considered Oprah to be her daughter.
Angelou and Winfrey first met when Winfrey approached Angelou for an interview in her early 20’s. Winfrey says in that moment she allowed herself “to be vulnerable enough to take the risk of being turned down.” Angelou told Winfrey she granted her the interview because of Winfrey’s persistence.
In a statement released Wednesday, Winfrey said she was blessed to have Angelou as her “mentor, mother/sister, and friend.” Angelou, Winfrey concluded, “will always be the rainbow” in her clouds.
GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
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Congrats to Sateria Denise (@sateriade) and Jessica Niestzche @jneetch for correctly answering today’s Gut Check trivia question.
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