CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 21, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
JUST IN: OBAMA CHARGES GOP IS ‘DUG IN’ ON RAISING TAXES… Seeking to rally the Democratic base, President Barack Obama said the ball is now in the GOP’s court. “Whether or not we can move Republicans at this point to do the right thing is what we are still trying to gauge,” Obama said in an interview on Al Sharpton’s radio program.
THEY TALKED: SPEAKER BOEHNER AND PRESIDENT OBAMA TALKED ON THE PHONE TODAY... No readout was given of the phone call.
"ASHAMED" OF HIS COUNTRY: RUSH LIMBAUGH ON HIS NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW… “Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country. Seriously man, here we get worked up over $44 billion. That’s the total amount of money that will not be spent that was scheduled to be spent this year. … We have the media playing along with all of this. The ruling class – both parties play along with all of this. It’s insulting. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’m in my 25th year. Nothing ever changes. We just keep spending more money. We create more dependency. We get more and more irresponsible, one crisis to the next — all of them manufactured, except for the real crisis which nobody ever addresses, which is we can’t afford any of this.”
When President Richard Nixon visited China, Secretary of State William Rogers was not invited to Nixon’s meeting with Mao Zedong. After the meeting, what did the Chinese government and the White House do to avoid embarrassing Rogers?
How does a politician, who abandoned his state, cheated on his wife and was censured by his colleagues, ask the electorate to trust him again?
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford needs voters to accept his apology if he has a chance of winning back the South Carolina congressional seat he once held.
When Sanford announced last month that he would be running for Congress, casting himself as a fiscal conservative intent on reducing government spending, it became abundantly clear his biggest hurdle would be how he dealt with the extramarital affair that turned him into a national punch line, rather than a potential contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Sanford’s first campaign ad addressed the affair head on: “I've experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes,” Sanford said straight to the camera. “But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the better for it.”
So far, it appears that Sanford’s challengers – of which there are many – will not allow him to get over his past that easily. “Governor Sanford displayed a sad dereliction of duty in abandoning the people of the entire state of South Carolina,” said Andy Patrick, a Republican candidate for the congressional seat, in an e-mail to supporters in which he labeled the Sanford campaign an “apology tour.”
We asked three South Carolina political experts how Sanford, despite his checkered past in the Palmetto State, could win his old congressional seat.
Katon Dawson, former South Carolina Republican Party chairman
On his chances: “I suspect Mark Sanford can win that primary outright. Mark Sanford is an exceptional politician. It is all he has ever done and he is very good at it. He knows how to win, he has a donor base from being governor and congressman. His integrity is going to be brought into it but with the narrative of forgiveness and God's grace, he will win it outright.”
On Sanford’s personal indiscretion: “The real, original hound dog of Southern politics was a guy named Bill Clinton, former governor of Arkansas. There are places in politics for hound dogs and Mark Sanford is a hound dog. Hound dogs have a special place in Southern politics, especially when they own up.”
On Sanford’s skill: “He was the Tiger Words of South Carolina politics before the Latin lover affair.”
Lachlan McIntosh, Democratic political consultant in South Carolina
On his chances: “I think he starts this race here with an advantage because he is the only candidate with name recognition throughout the district. I think that his problem is that his name recognition is cutting both ways. With his scandals and his problems, even some Republicans are leery of him.”
On his chances in a crowded field: “The 16-person field works in his favor because there is such little oxygen and candidates are really having a tough time getting their message out. I think it is possible, but I think what you will look out for is if someone comes out and becomes the anti-Sanford.”
Bkari Sellers, a Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
On his chances: “Mark is a formidable personality. Mark is a formidable candidate and he has a track record when it comes to fiscal conservatism that resonates with our great state. He was tea party before tea party was cool. His background is one that is definitely formidable in that primary and he starts out with a huge advantage. The difficult part will be when the barrage of the negative campaigning starts. I am thinking his response will be, ‘I am sorry. Let’s talk about politics.’”
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Big Bird flies from campaign trail to White House
Four months after becoming a flashpoint in the presidential campaign, Big Bird is back in the political spotlight. The White House announced Thursday that the longtime character from public television's "Sesame Street" teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama to film two public service announcements that encourage kids to eat healthy and get active. – Paul Steinhauser and Kevin Liptak
Leading Drudge: 'Q' Targets 30 Million
In all, about 800,000 square miles in 18 states were under some form of watch or warning Wednesday related to a major storm pouring out of California and into the Central Plains and the Midwest, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. About 30 million people live in the covered areas, he said. – Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy for CNN
Leading HuffPo: Hot and Cold
As President Obama faces a tough showdown with congressional Republicans over the looming sequestration cuts, a new poll shows the commander-in-chief with his highest approval rating in over three years. A Bloomberg National poll released Wednesday found that 55 percent of Americans approve of Obama's performance, his highest rating in the poll since September 2009. The poll also found that 49 percent of respondents believe that the president's proposals to increase government spending in key areas are more likely to spur job creation than GOP-backed efforts to cut both spending and taxes. – Mollie Reilly
Leading Politico: The GOP split on Obamacare
The next stage of Obamacare is shaping up into a fight between two camps of Republican governors sure to duke it out in the 2016 presidential primary — ideologues versus pragmatists. The ideological purists are big-name Southern governors — like Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Bob McDonnell and Rick Perry — who have all said “hell no” to major pieces of the law, even turning down free federal cash to expand Medicaid in their states. The more pragmatic governors are rising Republican stars in the rest of the country — like Chris Christie, John Kasich and Susana Martinez — who’ve embraced pieces of the law or left the door open to doing so if there seems to be a political upside in their state. – David Nather and Jason Millman
Leading The New York Times: Latest Front in the Gun Debate Is Mandatory Insurance
The two sides in the gun debate seem to agree that the insurance industry should play a bigger role in an armed society, but they differ on state proposals seeking to make liability coverage mandatory. – Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh
The political bites of the day
- Bob Dole Comes Out in Support of Hagel -
SENATOR BOB DOLE, A DECORATED WORLD WAR II VETERAN, RELEASED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT TODAY IN SUPPORT OF CHUCK HAGEL: “Chuck Hagel has spent his entire life in service to his country. He volunteered to fight in Vietnam and did so bravely, side-by-side with his brother and earning two Purple Hearts.... Hagel’s wisdom and courage make him uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Defense and lead the men and women of our armed forces. Chuck Hagel will be an exceptional leader at an important time.”
- Fifteen Republican senators call on Obama to withdraw Hagel’s nomination -
THE LETTER FROM THE REPUBLICAN SENATORS: “While we respect Senator Hagel’s honorable military service, in the interest of national security, we respectfully request that you withdraw his nomination. It would be unprecedented for a secretary of defense to take office without a broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position. … The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial nor divisive.”
Gut Check Full Service: The fifteen Republican senators who signed the letter are… James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, David Vitter of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio of Florida, Dan Coats of Indiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Risch of Idaho, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Gut Check Full Service – Part 2: Nebraska Watchdog: Fischer will vote to end debate but won’t vote for Hagel… Although U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer insists Chuck Hagel is not qualified to be secretary of defense, she said today she will vote to end the debate over Hagel’s nomination. The end of the debate will apparently pave the way for Hagel’s confirmation vote, where it appears Hagel has enough votes to get the Pentagon’s top job. In an interview with KFAB radio in Omaha, Fischer said when it comes time to vote up or down on Hagel’s confirmation, “I will be voting no on the floor.”
- Ad spotlights Republican support for gay marriage -
THE RESPECT FOR MARRIAGE COALITION IN “LEADERSHIP,” A NEW AD RELEASED WEDNESDAY…
Narrator: None of us would want to be told we can’t marry the person we love. That’s why a growing majority of Americans believe it’s time to allow marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Former First Lady Laura Bush: When couples are committed to each other and love each other then they ought to have the same sort of rights that everyone has.
Former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell: Allowing them to live together with the protection of law, it seems to me is the way we should be moving in this country
Former Vice President Dick Cheney: Freedom means freedom for everyone
President Barack Obama: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.
Narrator: It’s time for marriage.
Gut Check Full Service: Bush asks to be taken out, Powell says they were never consulted on the ad…
Peggy Cifrino, Colin Powell spokeswoman: “We were never contacted by the organization asking permission to use the clip from General Powell's interview. That said, his remarks are in the public domain and we have not asked them to remove it.”
Anne MacDonald, spokeswoman for former first lady Laura Bush: “Mrs. Bush did not approve of her inclusion in this advertisement nor is she associated in any way with the group that made the ad. When she became aware of the advertisement Tuesday night, we requested that the group remove her from it.”
Gut Check Full Service – Part 2: A spokesperson for the Respect for Marriage Coalition tells CNN… “We used public comments for this ad from American leaders who have expressed support for civil marriage. We appreciate Mrs. Bush’s previous comments but are sorry she didn’t want to be included in an ad. The ad launched a public education campaign that will now move to new and different voices that reflect the depth and breadth of our support.”
- Biden: No law-abiding citizen is afraid of their rights being infringed upon -
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AT A GUN VIOLENCE CONFERENCE IN CONNECTICUT: “They say, ‘All you are going to do, you and the president, you are going to deny law abiding citizens their rights under the second amendment.’ Not true. They say, ‘Assault weapons like the AR-15 are needed for self-protection and recreation.’ They are not. There is plenty of ways you can protect yourself and recreate without an AR-15. They say, ‘It isn't about guns.’ They are wrong. It is about guns! And let me say at the outset to all the press – no law abiding citizen in the United States of America has any fear that their constitutional rights will be infringed in any way. None! Zero!”
- Unlimited breadsticks are better than wafers -
DAVID LETTERMAN ON HIS LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW: “Well, the world of Catholics still don't know what they're doing. They're scratching their heads. A couple of weeks ago Pope Benedict was fired. I'm telling you something - they're going to miss this guy. They better know what they're doing because he's very underrated. This is the guy who wanted to replace communion waivers with unlimited bread sticks.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
In an effort to normalize relations with China, President Richard Nixon visited the communist country, arriving on this day in 1972.
During the week long trip, he visited Shanghai, the Great Wall and other Chinese landmarks, but the most important part of the trip was a meeting with China's leader, Chairman Mao Zedong. The meeting was an exclusive event, not even Secretary of State William Rogers was invited to attend.
According to historical photos, the meeting's attendees were China's Premier Zhou, an interpreter, Mao, Nixon, and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. But according to the National Security Archives at George Washington University, those photos are purposely misleading.
"The Chinese cropped from the photo the presence of Winston Lord, Kissinger's personal assistant–who had been sitting to Kissinger's left–in order to ease the annoyance of Secretary of State William Rogers, whom Kissinger had excluded from the meeting," the archive writes.
Nixon himself dubbed his visit to China, "the week that changed the world."
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