Peter Beinhart: “No Republican will enjoy credibility as a deficit hawk unless he or she acknowledges that George W. Bush squandered the budget surplus he inherited. No Republican will be able to promise foreign-policy competence unless he or she acknowledges the Bush administration’s disastrous mismanagement in Afghanistan and Iraq. It won’t be enough for a candidate merely to keep his or her distance from W. John McCain and Mitt Romney tried that, and they failed because the Obama campaign hung Bush around their neck every chance it got. To seriously compete, the next Republican candidate for president will have to preempt that Democratic line of attack by repudiating key aspects of Bush’s legacy. Jeb Bush would find that excruciatingly hard even if he wanted to. And as his interviews Sunday make clear, he doesn’t even want to try.”
Donald Trump told Fox News that he would be happy to pay for public tours of the White House since they’ve been paused because of the sequester.
Said Trump: “It’s always been open, it’s not a lot of money.”
Former Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) “may face an uphill battle trying to convince a federal judge that he properly used campaign funds to pay for his legal defense after being arrested for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom,” Roll Call reports.
A judge “likened it to using official re-election funds to pay for being arrested for robbing an airport kiosk or propositioning a prostitute.”
“Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in July 2007 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after allegedly soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. Craig tapped his foot inside his stall to indicate to other restroom patrons that he was seeking sex… Craig pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct the next month.”
First Read: “On Tuesday, Obama heads to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats; on Wednesday, he visits House Republicans; and on Thursday, the meetings are with Senate Republicans and House Democrats. Also this week, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are expected to unveil their budgets. One of the big reasons for Obama’s meetings with Democrats and Republicans is to keep the budget momentum going — to see if Washington can reach some kind of larger budget agreement (to eliminate or soften the sequester cuts) without disrupting the other parts of Obama’s agenda (like on immigration and guns).”
“The more positive momentum there appears to be for now, the less likely it is there’s a disruption before the fall on, say, government funding or debt ceiling. If there’s the sense of stalled momentum on budget, then the acrimony could bleed into other areas, like immigration, and stall everything. That’s what the White House is trying to avoid. But let’s also realize the other motivation for the Obama outreach: The president wasn’t gaining points by being in standoff mode (if anything, he was losing them in the polls). The White House wants that high ground back.”
Meanwhile, Roll Call notes the Senate will debate a budget resolution for the first time in 4 years this week.
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) was convicted of corruption charges, “ensuring a return to prison for a man once among the nation’s youngest big-city leaders,” theWashington Post reports.
“Jurors convicted Kilpatrick of a raft of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years behind bars. He was portrayed during a five-month trial as an unscrupulous politician who took bribes, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means while in office until fall 2008.”
Detroit News: “Kilpatrick will learn shortly whether he is headed directly to prison today after being found guilty on 24 counts in his corruption trial earlier Monday morning.”
Former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist admitted to CBS Miami he’s considering running for his old job as a Democrat this time.
Said Crist: “Well I’m thinking about it, there’s no question about that.”
He added: “I haven’t reached any conclusion, I’m just taking the opportunity to listen to my fellow Floridians and give it serious thought.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will run for another term in 2014, according to Lynn Sweet, “and is ramping up for a campaign with five fund-raisers here in the next two weeks.”
“Durbin is in absolutely no rush to make any official announcement and his core supporters have understood for some time that he will seek re-election, I’m told.”
Out of power and unable to control the agenda in the lower legislative chamber, a new Smart Politics report finds that House Democrats are utilizing the press release in greater numbers than Republicans to get their message out to the public.
Key findings: Of the more than 6,200 press releases issued during the first two months of the 113th Congress finds that Democratic lawmakers have issued statements at a 31.5% higher rate per member than Republicans, and hold 11 of the Top 15 spots.
Veteran Republican operatives tell The Fix that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “is already a national leader within the party and will be a major factor if (but really when) he runs for president in 2016.”
“Paul demonstrated two very important political traits during the filibuster: 1. He is a person of principle, taking a stand on an issue (drones) that almost no one cares about. 2. Paul has a showman’s sense of the moment, a rare and underrated ability in politics.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee “is moving to reboot its polling operation after a messy 2012 cycle, the first concrete remedy taken by the Republican side since candidates and outside groups were left stunned on Election Day by results that their internal data never came close to predicting,” Politico reports.
The NRCC “is the first GOP entity to take specific steps to try to rectify the party’s widely acknowledged polling debacle. Republican strategists confirmed after the end of the 2012 race that a huge slice of their survey data was based on flawed assumptions, and failed to anticipate the diversity and scale of turnout on the Democratic side.”
With reports that Ashley Judd is telling advisers she’ll announce a U.S. Senate bid from Kentucky this spring, Ruby Cramer talks with staffers who ran campaigns for Clint Eastwood, Sonny Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Franken who say the actress “can win if she gets in early, stays local, and works like hell.”
The Wall Street Journal estimates the unemployment rate would be just 7.1% without government job cuts over the last three years.
“Federal, state and local governments have shed nearly 750,000 jobs since June 2009… No other sector comes close to those job losses over the same period. Construction is in second worst place, but its 225,000 cuts are less than a third of the government reductions. To be sure, construction and other sectors performed worse during the depths of the recession, but no area has had a worse recovery.”
Staffers for Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) “have been bullying other senators’ aides to protect the Nevada Republican’s space in the Russell Senate Office Building,” Roll Call reports.
“As part of the biennial Senate office lottery, junior members are obligated to show their office suites to more senior members, who then have 24 hours to decide whether to claim that space as their own. Heller’s office suite — which he inherited after the scandal-fueled resignation of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) — may be particularly attractive to other senators because its floor plan includes a larger-than-average member office.”
“Though special courtesies are usually extended to aides and members visiting offices, Heller staffers repeatedly tried to keep them from seeing the spacious member office, sources reported, saying meetings were ongoing and could not be interrupted.”
“At a time when $46 billion in mandatory budget cuts are causing anxiety at the Pentagon, administration officials see one potential benefit: there may be an opening to argue for deep reductions in programs long in President Obama’s sights, and long resisted by Congress,” the New York Times reports.
“On the list are not only base closings but also an additional reduction in deployed nuclear weapons and stockpiles and a restructuring of the military medical insurance program that costs more than America spends on all of its diplomacy and foreign aid around the world. Also being considered is yet another scaling back in next-generation warplanes, starting with the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in United States history.”
“America’s fraught ties with Afghanistan suffered a jarring blow Sunday, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai said during a visit by the new U.S. defense secretary that the Taliban were killing Afghan civilians ‘in service to America,'” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Washington Post: “The remarks painted an embarrassing picture of discord that marred a visit by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, his first foreign trip as Pentagon chief, and plunged the tenuous allies into crisis mode at a time when the United States is struggling to wind down the unpopular war.”