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• White House shakeup: Panic play?
• Obama makes nice with Castro
• ObamaCare pill pain
• Baier Tracks: Red lines for the blue team
• What would Lloyd Braun do?
WHITE HOUSE SHAKEUP: PANIC PLAY? - As President Obama looks to reverse a second-term tailspin, he’s bringing back the man who helped launch his first term. John Podesta, founder of the influential left-wing group the Center for American Progress, served as White House chief of staff to Bill Clinton. Podesta helped Clinton regain his footing following his impeachment for lying about an affair with a White House intern. Podesta, though, was faulted for allowing lax practices at the end of the Clinton presidency, when scandals, including the alleged sale of presidential pardons, erupted. Podesta, who led Obama’s transition team in 2008 and 2009, is coming aboard as an adviser but not with a specific title. NYT first reported Podesta’s new role, pointing out that the Democratic fixer and brother to Washington mega-lobbyist Tony, has been unofficially advising Obama for years.
[Ed Henry wants to know - “Is bringing John Podesta in just some window dressing or is it the start of a genuine effort to go outside the circle of the team that botched the rollout of his signature initiative?” – Ed Henry]
For real? - Obama last week brought back his former legislative liaison to Congress, Phil Schiliro, as part of what now seems to be a slow-moving shakeup. Certainly there are plenty of problems with the way Team Obama has been executing details, particularly in the press shop and in dealing with Congress. But will Clintonite Podesta have the power and access to make changes? The last Clinton insider who tried to turn around the Obama White House, Bill Daley, left in 2012 after a one-year stint as chief of staff. Reports said that he found little traction in the insular world of Obama’s inner circle.
OBAMA MAKES NICE WITH CASTRO - In a Kodak moment that’s making a splash, President Obama shook hands with Cuban ruler Raul Castro during a memorial service in Johannesburg for Nelson Mandela. The grip and grin is only the second time since the Castro family took power 50 years ago that a U.S. president has shaken hands with a leader of the communist nation’s regime. Bill Clinton was the first, clasping hands with the previous ruler, regime-founder Fidel Castro in 2000. The move drew immediate outrage on the right as conservatives bashed Obama’s willingness to elevate the leader of an oppressive regime famed for its human-rights abuses. Obama brought domestic politics into his eulogy for Mandela as well with a dig at conservatives who celebrate Mandela’s cause of freedom but oppose redistributive economic policies. “There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, the president said, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.” Fox News has more.
[Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]
ELIAN GONZALEZ GETS CELEB TREATMENT FROM CASTROS - Elian Gonzalez is back in the public eye as Cuba’s communist regime makes a publicity push in connection with his 20th birthday and first trip abroad. Gonzalez became an international figure at age six when the U.S. government took him away at gunpoint from his mother’s relatives in Miami (she had died fleeing to America) to be sent to Cuba where his father and the government demanded his return. The Castro regime is highlighting Gonzalez’s visit to a conclave for young socialists in Ecuador and a birthday interview with state media. The young man certainly sounds like a believer, speaking lovingly of former ruler Fidel Castro, via AP: “He always came for my birthday. I always looked forward to that moment,” Gonzalez said. “I'm a person of few words (and) I clammed up when he was there, but it was enough to see him and give him that hug. I always remember what he told me: That I was already somebody, that the whole world knew who I was, and now what I had to do was be good at something, that's what he asked of me,” Gonzalez added. “He never cared which path I took ... the intention was that I be good at whatever I did.”
OBAMACARE PAIN PILL - Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former senior policy adviser to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Megyn Kelly that many prescriptions may not be covered under ObamaCare. “The list of drugs that the plans cover, in many cases, aren’t very long. And if the drugs aren’t covered you’re on your own, you basically have to pay for it entirely out of pocket, and the money that you spend on those drugs doesn’t count against your out of pocket limit or against your deductible,” Gottlieb said. “This could cost patients who need special drugs a lot of money, literally tens of thousands of dollars a year.” Watch the full interview from “The Kelly File.”
[WaPo: AIDS advocates say drug coverage in some marketplace plans is inadequate]
OBAMACARE POLL: THEY’VE TRIED IT AND THEY DON’T LIKE IT - Fifty percent of voters disapprove of ObamaCare, 43 percent strongly so, according to a poll out from the budget hawk group Public Notice. The survey, conducted by Tarrance Group, found that while 40 percent of respondents approved of the health law, a majority of key groups disapprove including women ages 18 to 44 (51 percent), employees of small businesses (57 percent), adults in households with children (56 percent) and voters who’ve tried to shop on ObamaCare Web sites (52 percent). The poll also showed that Members of Congress who voted for the president’s law are getting a negative reaction from voters, with 43 percent saying they less likely to re-elect those who voted for the health law versus 38 percent who are more likely to vote for their member if he or she voted for ObamaCare.
MEDICAID DUMP - More reports are emerging on how ObamaCare is incorrectly pushing Americans into Medicaid, a welfare program, when they are not eligible. The technical problem essentially places customers in an insurance limbo, with little chance to get subsidized insurance ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline. USA Today has the story.
Security scare for state exchanges - Several state exchanges are vulnerable to a security flaw that allows a WiFi attack in which hackers can achieve access to usernames and passwords. KTSP shares the results of its investigation.
ObamaCare rebels - South Carolina’s legislature is poised to pass a bill that would render ObamaCare inoperable in the state. Daily Caller has the details.
BAIER TRACKS: RED LINES FOR THE BLUE TEAM - “As much as ObamaCare is giving the president a headache on the domestic front, a new bipartisan push for Iran sanctions this week could reach migraine level for the administration on the foreign policy. President Obama is trying to make strides on a nuclear deal with Iran, and has signed onto a plan for reduced sanctions while Iran is supposed to be making disclosures about its secret nuclear program over the next six months. The deal is still hanging in the balance, though, as U.S., allied and Iranian negotiators haggle over the technical details. Meanwhile, Democrats, including Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others, have signaled a willingness to sign onto a bill that would impose harsh new sanctions on Iran at the end of the six months if Iran doesn't comply. Well, Iran's foreign minister says if that happened it would kill the whole deal. Would the president veto a bill passed by majority Democrats in the Senate and risk Democrats’ positions on Iran come 2014? Good question and one that is no doubt on the minds of the vote counters in the White House.” – Bret Baier
[Watch Fox: Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen will have the latest details.]
IRS SCANDAL REWRITE? - President Obama’s pick to lead the embattled IRS, John Koskinen, will have his confirmation hearing today, as the White House tries to rehabilitate the troubled tax collection agency ahead of its new role in enforcing ObamaCare. In a recent MSNBC interview, Obama, who had previously apologized for the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, waved away notions of intentional wrongdoing.
DEAL ON DEFENSE BILL - House and Senate negotiators hammered out a final agreement on a Pentagon policy bill Monday. Under the agreement, commanding officers will be prevented from overturning sexual assault verdicts, a special victims counsel program for the survivors of sexual assault throughout the military would be expanded and retaliation for reporting assault would become a crime. Commanders would still be in control of the court martial process. Despite the administrations calls for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the measure would keep it open. NYT has the details.
Where does the money go? - Former Navy Secretary John Lehman looks at how Americans are spending more but getting less when it comes to national defense. From WSJ: “While the fighting forces have steadily shrunk by more than half since the early 1990s, the civilian and uniformed bureaucracy has more than doubled. According to the latest figures, there are currently more than 1,500,000 full-time civilian employees in the Defense Department -- 800,000 civil servants and 700,000 contract employees. Today, more than half of our active-duty servicemen and women serve in offices on staffs.”
FEE FOR THEE? - Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are finalizing a budget deal that would lift the spending caps from the 2011 debt-limit deal, known as “sequestration,” with $65 billion in new income for the federal government. Washington Examiner points out that the new money would largely come from government fees. The airline industry has voiced its opposition to the proposed deal as it would double the security tax charged to passengers. Fees would also increase on banks to pay for federal mortgage subsidies, resulting in hundreds of dollars in new costs for consumers.
EPA POWER GRAB HITS HIGH COURT - The Supreme Court will hold a rare, 90-minute extended argument today on constitutional challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming regulations. Attorneys general from 24 states are calling the regulations burdensome and “oppressive.” WaPo has the details. Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream follows how far the EPA’s powers extend and has the latest developments from the High Court.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Which kind of worker will you be? David Brooks details the various kinds of workers the next era will require in Thinking for the Future. “We’re living in an era of mechanized intelligence, an age in which you’re probably going to find yourself in a workplace with diagnostic systems, different algorithms and computer-driven data analysis. If you want to thrive in this era, you probably want to be good at working with intelligent machines…our challenge for the day is to think of exactly which mental abilities complement mechanized intelligence.”
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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 41.3 percent//Disapprove – 54.2 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 25.8 percent//Wrong Track – 66.2 percent
WILD RODEO SET FOR TEXAS SENATE PRIMARY - Outspoken Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, pulled a stunner late Monday when he filed his candidacy papers to challenge Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Stockman told World Net Daily, that Cornyn broke Ronald Reagan’s “eleventh commandment” by publicly attacking fellow Lone Star State Sen. Ted Cruz's efforts to defund ObamaCare. Cornyn is the number two Republican in the Senate and enjoys the support of Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas. Stockman was elected to Congress in 2012 after previously serving from 1995 to 1997. AP has more.
DEMS LOSE TOP HOUSE RECRUIT - Omaha’s City Councilor Pete Festersen threw a curveball to Democrats hoping he could unseat Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. Festersen was urged by Vice President Joe Biden to run and saw an opening when Republicans took a hit over the partial government shut down. Following ObamaCare’s launch, however, Festersen has decided to focus on his role on city council and family. The Omaha World-Herald has more.
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: PROMISES BROKEN - ObamaCare is socialized medicine and few members of Congress actually read the bill before voting on it. That view, expressed by Charles Krauthammer found strong agreement from all parties and men and women during Monday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier All-Star Panel. As measured by Bing Pulse, viewers across the political spectrum also agreed when Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes said the promises the administration made before ObamaCare passed, are simply not true.
Discussion of ObamaCare’s sticker shock drew an increase from our audience-panelists as viewers across the political landscape agreed with the Hill’s A.B. Stoddard when she said the promise of affordable care under the president’s health law was broken. Stoddard also saw a surge in viewer voting intensity, to 24,000 viewer votes per minute, when she said she expected health care costs to rise even if the administration increased enrollment. Bing Pulse tracked 212,000 viewer votes during the discussion, take a deeper data dive and see the full results here. Let your voice be heard, and take a seat on the panel.
ROMNEY/PALIN THE TICKET FOR SMALL SCREEN - Fox News Contributor and Former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, will join former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., as he makes his small screen debut. Palin returns to television to launch a new show on the Sportsman Channel called “Amazing America with Sarah Palin.” A documentary, “Mitt,” which chronicles the aspirations and presidential bid of Romney will debut on Netflix this January. Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” has the details.
KELLY ALL GRACE IN HOLLYWOOD - Megyn Kelly was Jay Leno’s guest on the “Tonight Show” Monday. Kelly discussed her career, Congress, and the minimum wage. The Fox News host was joined by “X Factor” judge Simon Cowell, expressed her angst for not being able to cover Anthony Weiner’s meltdowns while she was on maternity leave. When asked about how she deals with perceptions of bias Kelly said, “If people think I am this Conservative operative, ask Karl Rove if that’s true.” Watch the full interview via the Daily Caller.
NEWSEUM BOWS TO DOJ PRESSURE ON DISABILITY REGS - D.C.’s Newseum, a steel and glass bastion of political correctness, has nonetheless come under the thumb of the federal government. The museum’s foundation has agreed to pay a $15,000 fine and make significant changes to its exhibits to comply more fully with the Americans with Disability Act. Some of the lapses cited by the Justice Department: placing coffee lids 6 inches too high, bathroom signs that do not have an “eggshell” finish and for a replica of a guard tower employed by snipers along the Berlin Wall for having a doorway that is only 6 feet, 5-and-a-half inches tall. From The Washington Free Beacon: “The Justice Department instructs the Newseum to ‘modify procedures to train staff to warn patrons with visual disabilities that the entry portal of the Berlin Wall Death Tower lacks the required vertical clearance (which is 80 inches or 6 feet, 8 inches) and to assist them to enter the Death Tower without walking into the bottom edge of the roof structure of the Death Tower entry portal.’”
GRAYSON SWINDLED - Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., lost $18 million in an investment scam that involved over a 100 victims, the congressman’s office confirmed Monday. William Dean Chapman was sentenced Friday in federal court to 12 years in prison for the racket. Prosecutors say Chapman used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle including a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and a $3 million home. Court papers indicate no wrongdoing on Grayson’s part. AP has more.
VINTAGE FRAUD - Rudy Kurniawan is on trial for mail and wire fraud after he allegedly bilked millions from wealthy wine connoisseurs including Bill Koch, brother to conservative activists Charles and David. NY Daily News has the story: “The imprisoned Indonesian-born wine nut turned his suburban California home into a ‘counterfeit wine laboratory’ where he used a laser printer to create phony labels for cheap wine that he would pass off as vintage French vin, a prosecutor said.”
[Would you like to see what it looks like when 80,000 Australian bats are frightened into urgent flight by horns, gun blasts and fireworks? Then lucky for you The Telegraph has the video.
WHAT WOULD LLOYD BRAUN DO? - A Florida atheist incensed by state officials allowing a Christian group to install a Nativity scene at the state capitol is airing his grievances as only a hipster would. Liberal blogger Chaz Stevens was allowed to erect a Festivus Pole made of empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Festivus comes from the sitcom “Seinfeld,” in which Frank Costanza celebrated the holiday that includes a large meal, “feats of strength” and “the airing of the grievances” at the Festivus Pole. The Sun-Sentinel has the story.
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES - “I think what is happening here is not just a matter of what’s affordable, it is a matter of a vast deception. The idea that you can keep your doctor, you keep your plan, was meant to say to the 80 percent of Americans -- who at the time the bill was debated had told pollsters they liked what they had -- it was a way of saying you will be unmolested, the bill is only a narrow attempt to help the unfortunate who aren't getting help…So the deception was that you will be left alone. It was never in the bill. It was always an attempt to revolutionize everything and what's happening now is exactly what was written.” Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier”
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.