CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 13, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
MCCAIN CONSIDERING FILIBUSTER OF HAGEL… In an effort to pressure the Obama administration to answer a lingering question related to the Benghazi attack, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is reconsidering his pledge not to filibuster the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary, according to his spokesman Brian Rogers. McCain wants to know if the president ever personally contacted anyone in the Libyan government during the Benghazi attack to seek assistance for the Americans in the compound. McCain, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, have been trying to get the answer for months, said Rogers, and they reiterated their request in a letter to the president on Monday. – Ted Barrett and Dana Bash
RAND PAUL WANTS TO HOLD BRENNAN NOMINATION… In a written press release, Sen. Rand Paul said he is prepared to put a hold on the nomination of John Brennan as the Director of the CIA. “I have asked Mr. Brennan if he believed that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and my question remains unanswered. I will not allow a vote on this nomination until Mr. Brennan openly responds to the questions and concerns my colleagues and I share,” Paul said. “These issues must be discussed openly so that the American people can understand what constraints exist on the government’s power to use lethal force against its citizens. Before confirming Mr. Brennan as the head of the CIA, it must be apparent that he understands and will honor the protections provided to every American by the Constitution.”
What reality TV show did Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appear on?
As Republican leaders and grassroots activists wrestle over the direction of the party, a new effort by a group of GOP veterans to “renew” the Republican brand is what caught our eye.
Alex Castellanos, who is leading the charge, has created a Super PAC to help fund the endeavor to “refocus the party's messaging and policy goals, in an attempt to broaden the GOP's appeal beyond its traditional demographic base.”
"The goal is simple," said Castellanos, who is a CNN contributor. "Help the GOP move forward and renew our brand."
The effort is backed by the likes of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Castellanos said the goal is for the new organization to serve as an information hub to help advance Republican policies. Full Story
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Analysis: Obama's vision to nudge country to the left
The heart of President Barack Obama's speech on Tuesday was the same focus on jobs and middle-class economic uncertainty that's driven every State of the Union of his presidency. But that was far from the only ground he covered. … Nearly every idea in his speech had a couple of things in common: Virtually all of them are core Democratic priorities presented in language that delighted the base. … And few if any of them are likely to become a reality under the current Congress. – Rebecca Sinderbrand
Leading Drudge: Burned Alive?
Charred human remains have been found in the burned cabin where police believe fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner was holed up after trading gunfire with law enforcement, authorities said. If the body is identified to be Dorner’s, the standoff would end a weeklong manhunt for the ex-LAPD officer and Navy Reserve lieutenant who is believed to be responsible for a string of revenge-fueled shootings following his firing by the Los Angeles Police Department several years ago. Four people have died, allegedly at Dorner’s hands. Los Angeles Times
Leading HuffPo: You've Been Warned
As Congress continues to debate a possible replacement to the $1.2 trillion in sequestration-related cuts set to kick in on March 1, a coalition of progressive organizations on Wednesday launched an effort urging Democratic lawmakers to reject to any deal that entails cuts to benefits from popular entitlement programs. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy For America, MoveOn, CREDO Action, Rebuild The Dream, the New York-based Working Families Party and Social Security Work are endorsing a letter to President Barack Obama, signed by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), warning against cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. The seven groups are also hoping to enlist their combined membership of over 12 million people to sign onto the effort. – Sabrina Siddiqui
Leading Politico: Marco Rubio as the anti-Mitt Romney
His desperate need for a drink of water created the immediate headline, but Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) much-anticipated speech Tuesday night had a very serious intent: It was as much an exercise in erasing Mitt Romney’s legacy on the Republican Party as it was a traditional response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. – Jonathan Martin
Leading The New York Times: Obama Pledges Push to Lift Economy for Middle Class
President Obama, seeking to put the prosperity and promise of the middle class at the heart of his second-term agenda, called on Congress on Tuesday night to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, saying that would lift millions out of poverty and energize the economy. In an assertive State of the Union address that fleshed out the populist themes of his inauguration speech, Mr. Obama declared it was “our generation’s task” to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.” – Mark Landler
The political bites of the day
- Rubio: Protecting life will never be political for me -
REPUBLICAN SEN. MARCO RUBIO OF FLORIDA IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CBN’S DAVID BRODY: “This issue of life is a fundamental issue. It’s not a political issue. For me, it’s not about denying anybody the right to do anything. I’m not in the business of going around denying people what they want to do with their bodies or with their lives. This is about protecting people, human beings who maybe can’t speak yet and haven’t been born, perhaps don’t have a name or a social security number but they’re fully human nonetheless. … This is never going to be a political issue for me. I don’t care if it (the vote) is 90-10 or 99-1, the fundamental issue of life is one that I will never change my opinion on.”
- Portman saw olive branches in SOTU, especially on immigration -
REPUBLICAN SEN. ROB PORTMAN OF OHIO IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CNN: “The president did extend an olive branch. I think it's interesting when the president talked about immigration reform, and when he said we need to do something to ensure we have high-tech workers here to grow middle class jobs, everybody stood up, I think that was an example where again his own job council talked about that. If the president wants to find common ground, he can.”
- Palin blasts ‘venal politicians,’ says America is ‘bloated, corrupt’ -
SARAH PALIN IN A POST ON HER FACEBOOK PAGE: “What is the true state of our union? Though this may sound harsh, I’ll speak the truth here. We are a country going bankrupt to fund a bloated, distant, and often corrupt federal government led by venal politicians more concerned with paying off their campaign cronies and consolidating their own power than in preserving the constitutional republic that so many have fought and died for (including our brave men and women in uniform who were barely mentioned last night).” LINK
- Lew responds to questions about investment in the Caymans -
JACK LEW, OBAMA’S NOMINEE FOR TREASURY SECRETARY, AT HIS CONFIRMATION HEARING…
Sen. Max Baucus: If you could just briefly comment on something that has been in the press and that is your investment in the Cayman Islands. What was it? How’d that happen? Why did you choose that investment and what benefits did you receive?
Lew: Senator, while I was an employee at Citigroup I had the opportunity to make an investment in a venture capital fund, a private equity fund, that was designed to invest in emerging economies around the world. It was an opportunity that looked to me a bit riskier than other investments I had made in the past. I have had a very conservative investment philosophy, and I thought it was an appropriate risk to take given the possibility of a higher return. I invested in the fund as an employee and I divested from the fund when I was confirmed for a position and the Office of Government Ethics recommended or directed a divestment. My benefit was really very small in the sense that I took a loss when I sold the investment. I always reported all income. I always paid any taxes that were due.
Baucus: Why was the investment in the Cayman Islands?
Lew: Senator, I actually don’t know why it was organized. I was not involved in setting up the fund.
Baucus: Did you know at the time it was Cayman?
Lew: You know, at the time I invested I was aware that it was an international fund investing in emerging markets. I knew that much of the personnel for the fund was based in London. I actually didn’t know at the time what the address of the partnership wars.
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
CNN challenged viewers to sum up the State of the Union in one tweet for our #tweetoftheunion assignment. Here are some of the responses:
Invest strategically. Vote, even amidst disagreement. Foster equality. Fight gun violence. Improve Americans' livelihood.#tweetoftheunion
Erin Cotter (@ErinElizaCotter)
Most important game changer for U.S. begin bringing manufacturing back home, decrease fuel dependency & increase education #tweetoftheunion
William Richards (@WilliamRich2012)
#tweetoftheunion I really do not believe I will see a resurgence of the middle class in my lifetime. Check my local obits to verify.
Joe Dubin (@BIGJOEONTHEGO)
@cnnireport #TweetOfTheUnion Some loved it, some hated it, some clapped, some frowned, basically the same as ever
Dylan Wittenstrom (@dwittenstrom)
@cnnireport blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and blah.#tweetoftheunion
Will Frizzell (@frizzellwill)
@cnnireport #tweetoftheunion Pres. talked, Republicans rolled there eyes, and both parties clapped at times to save face.
Brian Gunter (@BWGun)
Science good, sequester bad. Being poor sucks, raise min wage, guns are bad, immigrants good, citizens even better. Go us!#tweetoftheunion
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
When Bravo’s Top Chef came to Washington, D.C., the show made a point of including many of the capital’s top government officials in the different episodes.
In one, titled “Cover Cuisine,” then CIA chief Leon Panetta was a guest judge, meaning teams of competing chefs were cooking for the spy chief. Their task: cook a dish that is disguised as something else.
Panetta showed an adept palette when he correctly identified a dish as beef wellington. “Poor disguise,” Panetta quipped. “They would have captured this individual and hung him!”
After sampling the food, Panetta was given a small piece of paper and then announces that he had to go. The clip inferred that the life of the CIA chief never stopped; duty called and he had to go.
Panetta, who would go on to become Secretary of Defense for President Barack Obama, is stepping down from the post. Panetta is expected to return to his home in California this week. His last day in office is expected to be Thursday.
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