POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 2/21
The BBC has a useful map to quickly follow the latest developments in the Middle East as unrest spreads throughout the region.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said in unprepared remarks on the House floor that she had an abortion almost 20 years ago after she miscarried and doctors told her the baby wouldn’t survive. Speier made the remarks after Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) described the procedure of an abortion on the House floor, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Said Speier: “I was thinking to myself, ‘Not one of you has endured this procedure.’ It was pretty tense in the chamber anyway. The language being used, the nature of the comments, it got so incendiary.”
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CNN that if the U.S. knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, it probably wouldn’t have decided to invade.
“Rumsfeld noted there were multiple reasons for attacking Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein from power. However, intelligence reports — now shown to have been false — that Iraq possessed so-called WMDs was the main reason for going in, Rumsfeld said.”
“We are saying, ‘Negotiate,’ and they’re saying, ‘Do it my way’ before any negotiations even begin.”
— Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in an interview with CNN, accusing Republicans of playing politics on the federal budget.
Dave Weigel takes stock of an interesting subplot around the Wisconsin union protests: Why aren’t unions up in arms about the pension reforms proposed by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)?
“Well, they sort of are… But in the state with the most union members, and the state with the highest proportion of unionized workers, the unions are mostly holding their power. And that’s because unlike Scott Walker, the Democratic governors are limiting their reforms to pensions and other items relevant to the budget. Walker is doing that and 1) going after collective bargaining rights and 2) asking for mandatory annual elections to determine union membership. And those measures are patently designed to weaken labor for all time, long after the crisis is over.”
The Fix notes that while DNC Chairman Tim Kaine (D) may be Democrats’ strongest prospect for holding Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) open seat in 2012, that’s not the only reason why getting Kaine into the race is important.
“Landing Kaine — a top-tier recruit who has wavered on the idea of running — would be the sort of foundational building block that Senate Democrats could build around. Recruiting in politics is a lot like recruiting in sports. Get one star and use that star as leverage — he’s doing it, so should you — to bring in other stars.”
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) “has yet another matter to add to his growing list of re-election problems. In addition to a Senate ethics probe and lagging poll numbers, a once-reliable base of support — D.C. lobbyists — has quietly started pushing party leaders to get the Senator to exit the race altogether,” Roll Call reports.
“A deepening standoff between national Republicans and top party leaders in Florida has the potential to blow up the 2012 presidential primary calendar — and do lasting damage to the GOP in the nation’s largest swing state,” Politico reports.
“At issue is the early date of Florida’s presidential primary election, currently set for Jan. 31, 2012. As of right now, it’s the first primary scheduled. That’s in blatant violation of Republican and Democratic National Committee rules, which say only four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — can hold primary elections before the beginning of March.”
Ben Smith: “An early, expensive primary is probably good for Romney, the one candidate with enough of an organization in place that he may quietly be trying to affect the outcome. The other candidate who might have the influence to play in the calendar is Haley Barbour, though he chose the wrong side in the Florida primary, diminishing his influence there.”
The New Republic looks into the “mini-empire of conservative consulting companies, online ventures, and public policy groups” created by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“What motivates Gingrich’s ceaseless empire-building? Part of it may be psychological: the consummate ‘ideas man’ has admitted that self-doubt played a role in his life, telling Vanity Fair in 1995, ‘I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to.’ From 1995 to 1998, that cause, it seems, was the Republican agenda in the House. Now, the many satellites of Newt’s world serve the same purpose, no doubt with political motivations. After all, if you’re thinking about running for president, covering as many different bases as possible within your party seems like a savvy idea.”
“One of Sarah Palin’s trusted advisers is planning a tell-all memoir, drawing upon thousands of personal e-mails during his time with the former Alaska governor to paint what his agent calls an expose of the inner workings of her operation,” the APreports.
“Frank Bailey rose from a campaign volunteer to administration official and figure in the ‘Troopergate’ scandal that fixated the public’s attention during Palin’s vice presidential bid in 2008. A preliminary draft of the unpublished book, tentatively called Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years, wasleaked to reporters, with excerpts making the rounds on the Internet.”
Among the revelations: Wu sent female staffers emails purportedly from his teenage children, as well as a picture of himself dressed as a tiger. In response, his staff considered checking him into a psychiatric ward on October 30th, less than a week before he won his seventh term.
Montana State Rep. Joe Read (R) has sponsored a law defining global warming as a natural occurrence “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana,” theWashington Post reports.
“Reaction by scientists and environmentalists to House Bill 549 has been harsh. University of Montana climate change professor Steve Running calls it an indefensible attempt to repeal the laws of physics.”
The Obama Administration has begun “direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders,” according to a must-read New Yorker piece.
“The discussion are continuing; they are of an exploratory nature and do not yet amount to a peace negotiation. That may take some time.”
“The recent American talks are intended to prime more successful and durable negotiations led by Karzai. The United States would play a supporting role in these negotiations … For the United States, the overarching goal of such negotiations would be to persuade at least some important Taliban leaders to break with Al Qaeda, leave the battlefield, and participate in Afghan electoral politics, without touching off violence by anti-Taliban groups or gutting the rights enjoyed by minorities and women.”
A high-ranking aide to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told Democratic chiefs of staff that a government shutdown “is more likely than not,” Politico reports.
Walter Shapiro heard Sarah Palin answer questions in New York yesterday and heard “sighs of reluctance” — helping him conclude she’s unlikely to run for president in 2012.
“Maybe I am over-interpreting fragments. But it sounded to me as if Palin cannot figure out how she can win a Republican nomination with her poll numbers (she boasts 16.5 percent support for the GOP nomination in the rolling averages compiled by Real Clear Politics), the continuing scorn of the press pack, and her reluctance to spend most of the next year in Holiday Inns.”
Erin McPike notes Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has been preparing for an intra-party challenge in 2012 and now questions “have popped up about his residency and commitment to Indiana.”
A new We Ask America poll shows that a small majority of Wisconsin residents disagree with Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to strip public sector unions of much of their power.
However, the poll also finds that a stronger majority of respondents think that Democratic state senators, who fled to Illinois avoid taking a vote on the Walker’s legislation, should return.
First Read: “The situation in Wisconsin is also another reminder that Newton’s third law of motion — for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction — applies to American politics. When George W. Bush, after winning re-election, tried to partially privatize Social Security in early 2005, he woke up a despondent Democratic base. When Barack Obama, at the height of his popularity, decided to take on health care, the Tea Party and an energized GOP rose to combat it. And now the physics of politics is playing out in Wisconsin, where Democrats and organized labor are resisting new Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) effort to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights.”
Politico reports that the House of Representatives has voted 240 to 185 to cut funding to Planned Parenthood in an amendment to the continuing resolution that is necessary to avoid a government shutdown on March 4.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the sponsor of the amendment, “touched off a vicious back-and-forth Thursday night in which Republicans insisted the organization is too aggressive about performing abortions and several Democrats charged that the GOP was waging a ‘war on women.’ Pence said the amendment captures a rough public consensus that they accept legal abortions, but don’t want to pay for them.”
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) “is expected to announce his retirement today, according to a source close to the decision, a move that further complicates his party’s efforts to hold their Senate majority in 2012,” the Fix reports.
On the Democratic side, possible candidates include Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, as well as 2010 gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish. Two Republican former congressmen, Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, may also be considering the race.
With the news, the Cook Political Report moves the race to “toss up.”