CNN's GUT CHECK for February 6, 2013
February 7th, 2013
05:02 PM ET
9 years ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for February 6, 2013

CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 6, 2013 | 5 p.m.
n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

DRONES, PROTESTORS AND WATER BOARDING: John Brennan, the Obama administration’s nominee to lead the CIA, faced a tough hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday. Here is a taste:
On Water Boarding: “I had expressed my personal objections and views to some agency colleagues about certain of those EITs such as water boarding, nudity and others where I professed my personal objections to it. But I did not try to stop it because it was something that was being done in a different part of the agency under the authority of others.”
On Drones: “I think there is a misimpression on the part of some American people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there is no other alternative to taking actions that is going to mitigate that threat.”

DEVELOPING: LEVIN TO PRESS FORWARD WITH COMMITTEE VOTE ON HAGEL, DESPITE OPPOSITION Democratic Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin is making clear he is fed up with Republicans dragging their feet on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Defense Secretary, and now says he will schedule a vote soon, even over Republican opposition. “We can’t not vote because there is dissatisfaction on the part of people because that could be endless,” said Levin, D-Michigan. “We’re going to schedule a vote as soon as we’re ready to have a vote.” Levin, who had hoped to vote as early as Thursday, put it off after more than two dozen Republicans pressed Hagel to provide additional financial information about corporations and other organizations he’s been associated with since leaving Congress. – Ted Barrett

(Answer below)
Who was the only president to be an ordained clergyman?

MARK (@PrestonCNN) & MICHELLE (@MJaconiCNN)
What caught our eye today in politics

At this time of hyper partisanship, we watched as Democrats and Republicans broke bread today at the National Prayer Breakfast, one of the few times each year where politics is shelved - at least for a few hours.

President Barack Obama and members of Congress, diplomats and clergy – 3,000 people from over 140 countries – came together to attend this ecumenical prayer event, reports CNN Belief Blog Editor Eric Marrapodi.

Obama’s reference to the political divide in Washington and the inability of prayer breakfast participants to use the goodwill generated at the event to help build bridges of compromise is what specifically caught our eye from this annual event.

“I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we've been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten - on the same day of the prayer breakfast,” said Obama, who was speaking for the fifth time at the breakfast since taking office.

“I mean, you'd like to think that the shelf life wasn't so short. But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable news networks and it's like we didn’t pray.

“Sometimes I search Scripture to determine how best to balance life as a president and as a husband and as a father. I often search for Scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better president.”

Prayer as the uniter? Prayer as the wrecking ball to break down the walls of political partisanship? It is an interesting concept.

And as CNN’s Dan Merica writes presidents turning to prayer is not a new idea. Employing faith, whether calling for nationwide prayer or healing the nation by quoting scripture, is a presidential tradition as old as the office itself.

the LEDE
Did you miss it?

Leading CNNPolitics: Protesters disrupt Senate hearing; CIA nominee faces scrutiny over drones
A hearing on President Barack Obama's nominee to head the CIA was temporarily halted on Thursday after protesters repeatedly prevented John Brennan from speaking. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, ordered the room cleared of spectators after a fifth person began shouting as Brennan began his opening statement. “We've done this five times now, and five times is enough,” Feinstein said, telling security officers to prevent the re-entry of protesters from Code Pink, which describes itself as a women-initiated group for peace and social justice. – Barbara Starr. Pam Benson and Tom Cohen

Leading Drudge: Iran: We Poached Your Drone!
Iran has long claimed it managed to reverse-engineer the RQ-170 Sentinel, seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern border with Afghanistan, and that it's capable of launching its own production line for the unmanned aircraft. After initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the Sentinel had been monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

Leading HuffPo: Party Foul: Bitter Battle Brewing Among Conservatives
As you may have heard, establishment conservative kingpin Karl Rove has launched his latest effort in electoral king-making: the Conservative Victory Project. But this is no mere project for conservative victories. As The New York Times described it, Rove's intentions are "to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles." In short, Rove wants to avoid future, Todd Akin fiasco-type incidents - or at least that's one way of looking at it. Of course, the more popular interpretation of Rove's new mission is that he's taking on the Tea Party, whose members might recall the zero times their movement was mentioned at the Republican National Convention during prime time. – Jason Linkins

Leading Politico: The GOP, Fox political purge
Republicans and Fox News are moving to purge the controversial political creatures they created. Both were damaged badly in 2012 by loud, partisan voices that stoked the base — but that scared the hell out of many voters. Now, the GOP, with its dismal image, and Fox News, with its depressed ratings in January, are scrambling to dim those voices. – Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen

Leading The New York Times: Congress to See Memo Backing Drone Attacks on Americans
The White House on Wednesday directed the Justice Department to release to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees classified documents discussing the legal justification for killing, by drone strikes and other means, American citizens abroad who are considered terrorists. The White House announcement appears to refer to a long, detailed 2010 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had joined Al Qaeda in Yemen. He was killed in a C.I.A. drone strike in September 2011. Members of Congress have long demanded access to the legal memorandum. – Michael D. Shear and Scott Shane

Gut Check DVR: Jake Tapper is an anchor and chief Washington correspondent for CNN. He is author of the best-selling book about Afghanistan, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor." Watch Tapper's CNN special about Clinton Romesha tonight, February 7, at 10 p.m. ET.

The political bites of the day

- Obama stresses humility in the face of the daily news -
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IN A SPEECH AT THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST: “I know that all Americans, men and women of different faiths, and yes those of no faith that they can name, are nevertheless joined together in common purpose, believing in something that is bigger than ourselves and the ideals that lie at the heart of our nation's founding that as a people we are bound together. And so this morning let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith. Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings he has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour. And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble.”
OBAMA IN A SPEECH TO THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: “The fascinating thing about this job is the longer you're in it, the more humble you get and the more you recognize your own imperfections and you try to make it up with effort and hard work those gaps in your personality or your intelligence that becomes so apparent to everybody on the daily news every day.”

- Panetta grilled over Benghazi on Capitol Hill -
REPUBLICAN SEN. JOHN MCCAIN OF ARIZONA IN THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE HEARING: “I will argue that there was no outpost in all of our diplomatic core that had that sequence of events, these warnings including many warnings from our ambassador about the lack of security including even a message that was found in the rubble of the consulate by a CNN reporter weeks later. So for you to testify that our posture would not allow a rapid response, our posture was not there because we didn't take into account the treats to that consulate and that's why four Americans died. We could have placed forces there. We could have had aircraft and other capabilities as short a distance away as Souda Bay, Crete. So for you to testify before this committee that there were consistent with available threat estimates is simply false.”

- Dismissed for being gay, former Boy Scout troop leader is hopeful -
JENNIFER TYRRELL, A FORMER BOY SCOUT TROOP LEADER, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CNN: “Throughout history there are folks who do not want equality to happen. So I feel very optimistic. The first time they have not said no, truthfully. They have always said no. No, no, no, no, no. And now they brought it up. We didn't bring it up this time. They said we're thinking about it. Now we need a little more time. I'm hopeful. I just have to hold on to that belief that they're going to be on the right side of history. And if we have to wait 'til May, then we have to wait 'til May.”

- Rush says he hasn’t softened on immigration after Rubio interview -
RUSH LIMBAUGH ON HIS NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW: “It came at the end of the interview, and in the interview, obviously, we spent a lot of time talking about immigration. He explained his position along with that of the Gang of Eight. At the end of the interview I said that what he's doing was valuable, remarkable, admirable and all that. And the Drive-Bys said, "Well, Limbaugh's softened his views on amnesty. Rubio somehow got through to Limbaugh. Limbaugh now agrees with the whole notion of amnesty and told Rubio his position..." I'm being mischaracterized here in what I said.”

- Got a problem? Email the post office -
JAY LENO ON HIS LATE NIGHT SHOW: “Well, folks, it's official. The U.S. Postal Service announced today they are ending Saturday delivery of the mail. Now, if you have a problem, you want to complain to the post office you can e-mail them at”

What stopped us in 140 characters or less

Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez)
RT @reidepstein: Obama makes reference to his "press conference this week" at which he took exactly zero questions.

Carl Hulse (@hillhulse)
Pres Obama evidently equates being in room with the press to press conference. Appearance this week was remarks on sequester, no q's.

Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan)
New #MASEN William "Mo" Cowan @SenMoCowan sworn into office by VP Biden. Accompanied by Sen Warren & SecofState Kerry who he replaces

Manu Raju (@mkraju)
Cowan and Scott, the only two African American senators, had a really warm interaction and embrace on the floor just now

Marco Rubio (@marcorubio)
There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus

Security Clearance (@natlsecuritycnn)
More details from @EliseLabottCNN about White House opposing plan to arm rebels supported by CIA, State, Pentagon

daveweigel (@daveweigel)
BRUUUUUUUUCE RT @rollcall: Rep. Bruce Braley confirms he's interested in #IASEN bid

Bruce Braley (@BruceBraley)
I'm in. #braleyforiowa


When President James Garfield was elected President of the United States in 1880, he had to step down as an ordained clergyman and elder in the Church of Christ. When he resigned, he told the other church elders that “I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Garfield, whose presidency lasted only 200 days as a result of being shot by Charles J. Guiteau, is still the only president to ever be an ordained clergyman.

Though Garfield holds that distinction, religion and the presidency have long been intertwined. The nation’s first president, George Washington, was also the first to call for a National Day of Prayer, one of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” to “acknowledge the gracious interpositions of Providence.” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his famous fireside chats, promised “salvation” from the economic doldrums of the Great Depression.

President Jimmy Carter was possibly the most outwardly faithful man to occupy the Oval Office. While in office, Carter was known for quoting scripture, talking about his Baptist faith and continuing to teach a Sunday school class during his presidency.

Before he was president, Carter also used to “testify” his faith by going house to house.

“Hi! I’m Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior,” he would ask, according to the book “The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama.”

President Barack Obama, a man who describes himself as “a Christian by choice,” continued the tradition of religion and the presidency on Thursday by speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, a longstanding Washington event that has hosted every president since Dwight Eisenhower.

“This morning let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith,” Obama said. “Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings he has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour. And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble.”

(why aren’t you in it)

It was a photo finish, with Jacques Stambouli (@stambouli) and Christopher S. Brown (@chrisbrowntv) both answering the question almost instantaneously. Congrats to both.

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