Fox News First

War fighters, not bureaucrats bear the brunt of cuts

Steve Centanni reports from Washington, D.C.


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Buzz Cut:
• War fighters, not bureaucrats bear the brunt of cuts
• Gepetto, call your office: Obama nailed again on enrollment claims
• Stovepipe Jim: Messina’s vertically integrated Democratic Party
• Dingell to retire
• If you want to send a check, you know the address

The NYT reports that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will today announce plans to slash the United States Army’s fighting force to its smallest level since before World War II as well as eliminating an entire class of attack aircraft, including the fearsome A-10. Obama officials say that the smaller fighting force reflects budget realities and an end to large-scale foreign wars. From the NYT: “Under Mr. Hagel’s proposals, the Army would drop over the coming years to between 440,000 and 450,000.” That’s down from post-9/11 high of 570,000. And that’s just the beginning. The WSJ reports that Hagel will also propose limits on pay raises for men and women in uniform as well as “higher fees for health-care benefits and less generous housing allowances to prune billions of dollars in benefits from the defense budget.” Critics are already furious, saying that the trimdown is an invitation to foes like Russia to expand their growing influence. But supposing that the time has come for deep military cuts, one wonders why it is trigger pullers who are again bearing the brunt.

[Majority now believes Obama not respected abroad - A new Gallup poll finds 53 percent of respondents believe President Obama is not respected on the world stage. “For the first time, more Americans think President Barack Obama is not respected by other world leaders than believe he is. Americans’ opinions have shifted dramatically in the past year, after being relatively stable from 2010 to 2013.”]

Whittled down - The proposed cuts to America’s fighting forces continue a trend in which the uniformed military gets less while civilian bureaucrats and contractors get more. In the past decade, the size of the Defense Department’s civilian component expanded significantly while the size of the uniformed military has actually decreased. Between 2003 and 2012, U.S. fighting forces shrank by more than 2 percent. The civilian workforce increased by 16 percent over the same period.

[Flashback - Former Navy Secretary John Lehman wrote “More Bureaucrats, Fewer Jets and Ships” in December: “Although current U.S. spending on defense adjusted for inflation has been higher than at the height of the Reagan administration, it has been producing less than half of the forces and capabilities of those years…”]

Bad timing - While many Republicans agree that budget cuts are needed in Defense as well as domestic spending, few like the idea of continuing to reduce fighting forces while continuing to support a bloated bureaucracy. President Obama has promised to champion Hagel’s work as a Pentagon ax man. But do Democrats in the middle of a rotten election year really want to have to stick up for a plan that will unpopular not just with folks who might see base closures or cancelled contracts, but those who worry that the U.S. is slipping from its superpower perch.

Rice picks friendly faces for Sunday show return - “Of course, Fox has led the way in questioning how the administration handled Benghazi. Perhaps Susan Rice didn’t want to answer the tough questions we would have asked.” – “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace on Susan Rice’s decision to duck his show for her first Sunday chat session since becoming President Obama’s national security adviser.

WaPo Fact Checker gives President Obama “Four Pinocchios” for his claim that 7 million Americans have access to health insurance because of his namesake law: “The Fact Checker has written several times about the fuzziness of the Medicaid numbers issued by the Obama administration. But it is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time we rap someone for getting it wrong, the same problem pops up someplace else.”

Hold the Mayo - Daily Caller: “The top-ranked hospital cited by President Barack Obama as a national model for health care reform accepts only one kind of insurance plan under the new Obamacare exchanges. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, a top 4-ranked U.S. hospital that performs 250 surgeries per day, only accepts Blue Cross Blue Shield silver plans under the new Obamacare exchanges. No other Obamacare exchange plans are accepted... ‘Look at what the Mayo Clinic is able to do. It’s got the best quality and the lowest cost of just about any system in the country. So what we want to do is we want to help the whole country learn from what Mayo is doing… That will save everybody money,’ Obama said in Minneapolis in September 2009.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says there is “absolutely no evidence” that ObamaCare will cause a loss of jobs. However, Sebelius personally approved cuts in government reimbursements for home health care, cuts that will reduce nearly 500,000 health care sector jobs according to independent analysts. What’s more, the people hurt most by the home health care assistance cuts are women, who make up the majority of home health care aides. –Watch Fox: Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle considers Sebelius’ comments on job loss and speaks with home health care providers about the real impacts of the cuts.

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds considers how Americans are pushing back against perceived encroachments on their liberties in a USA Today OpEd. From Americans rising up against government: “America’s ruling class has been experiencing more pushback than usual lately. It just might be a harbinger of things to come… the Department of Homeland Security canceled plans to build a nationwide license plate database… the Federal Communications Commission withdrew a plan to ‘monitor’ news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications that the FCC has no authority to regulate… a massive new gun-registration scheme is also facing civil disobedience…Though people have taken to the streets from Egypt, to Ukraine, to Venezuela to Thailand, many have wondered whether Americans would ever resist the increasing encroachments on their freedom. I think they’ve begun.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve –  44.2 percent//Disapprove – 51.8 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.3 percent//Wrong Track – 63.4 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.6 percent// Republicans 42.4 percent

A big Politico piece on Jim Messina, the reigning political operative in Obamaland, gives plenty of attention to the awkward situation of having a man who runs the first-ever political action committee for a sitting president gobbling up fat paychecks from not-so-savory interests and pressure groups. With Messina and corporate clout connector John Podesta in such high perches in President Obama’s influence tree, populist Democrats certainly have reason to worry. But the major concern for the party in the future is whether the unprecedented degree of influence that Messina seems to have over blue team activities is a good thing. More centralization may mean more efficiency, but what if he’s wrong? Plus, what happens when the House of Clinton, no slouch at the elimination of political rivals and no stranger to the consolidation of power, moves in? Obama’s team may be sitting pretty with email lists and corporate donors eager to court a president who plans to regulate his way through a second term. But what happens when the balance of power shifts to Bubba and Hillary? Politico concludes that it will all probably be ducky because Messina has “earned the admiration of” the former president. With Planet Hillary promising to be a $2 billion enterprise and the real risks of another failure looming large in their minds, will the Clintons and their many, many hangers on really let Messina hold the levers? Nah.

You might think that a big WaPo piece previewing former President Bill Clinton’s Tuesday campaign trip to Kentucky to campaign for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes might include something on the recent comments from Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul about Clinton being a “sexual predator.” Nope. What if it was headlined, “In Kentucky Senate race, Bill Clinton plays a starring role?” Wouldn’t the ongoing controversy involving comments from a sitting U.S. senator who is a potential 2016 foe for Clinton’s wife merit a mention? Nosiree. Writer Philip Rucker has to go about five furlongs out of his way to even avoid mentioning that for which Clinton was impeached. He quotes a local expert saying that Clinton and Grimes’ father, tossed from the state legislature for crony contracts for his catering business, are both “believers in redemption.” Redemption from what, prithee? The kicker, literally, is that Rucker offers a fawning Clinton quote from University of Louisville basketball Coach Rick Pitino to close the piece. Pitino played a starring role in a sex scandal himself.

“Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., is leaving the door open to a potential run for the White House in 2016, The Boston Globe reports. “Asked in an interview with Politico whether he could envision himself running for national office, Patrick, who has ruled out vying for the 2016 nomination, replied, ‘Maybe. Maybe.’ ‘That’s a decision I have to make along with my wife of 30 years and she’s a tough one to convince,’ Patrick told the publication… The nod toward his political future comes during a troubled time in Patrick’s tenure, as the administration grapples with an embattled Department of Children and Families and a bungled health insurance website. Patrick and state executives are in Washington for the National Governors Association winter meeting. But Patrick and his wife have been accorded Beltway courtesies not extended to other governors, as repeat guests of President Obama on private social occasions at the White House. Patrick also delivered one of the better-received speeches at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, an energetic exhortation to Democrats to defend the president’s record more aggressively. But Patrick has crossed Democratic royalty, too, endorsing Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign despite having worked in the Justice Department under President Clinton.”

[Ed. note: Patrick is also a former client of Obama consigliore David Axelrod, and every president wants to be succeeded by an acolyte. It seems doubtful that Obama would allow Patrick to directly confront Hillary unless she crashes during takeoff. But if she doesn’t run…]

Depends on who’s running -
“The honest answer is I don’t know.” — Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., to CBS Sunday

How very veepish of you - “Well, I'm looking at that... what the other candidates may or may not do is their choice.”—Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., to CBS Sunday

Maybe a split second? - “I haven’t spent one second thinking about any job other than the one I was hired to do.” —Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to CNN Sunday

You betcha - “I don't shy away from telling people that running for president is an option for me in the future...”—Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas to NBC Friday.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker declined again Sunday to answer whether he knew of the existence of a secret email system in his Milwaukee County executive office. Instead, during the appearance on ‘Fox News Sunday’ Walker called the controversy over the release of thousands of emails ‘old news’ and said Democrats were trying to switch the subject from his budget successes. ‘If you look at the facts out there, this is old news,’ Walker said. ‘This is about a case that was closed last March. A Democratic district attorney in Milwaukee County spent multiple years looking at all this information. The 27,000-plus pages of documents that were just released this week have been looked at by a team led by a Democrat from Milwaukee County, and last March he announced the end of that case, plain and simple. It’s old news’… ‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace pressed Walker on whether he knew there was a private email account. Walker responded, ‘Again, it’s one of those where I point out the district attorney looked into every single one of those issues.’ Wallace interjected: ‘But sir, you’re not answering my question.’ Walker said, ‘No, because I’m not going to get into 27,000 different pieces of information.’ The governor continued, ‘The bottom line is a Democrat who led the district attorney’s office looked at all this, decided not to charge anything other than the individuals you mentioned, who were people who had worked for the county in the past but don't work for me today.’”

Republicans need to win six more seats to take control of the Senate. Which six Democrat-held seats are the most vulnerable? The current consensus among Fox News First readers is: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and Alaska. Reader Jim Hartman adds, “While Iowa may not be among the six ‘most likely’ Senate races to switch to the GOP in November,  keep an eye on Iowa for a possible GOP pick-up.”

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

Detroit Free Press: “U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn [Michigan] Democrat who replaced his father in the House some 58 years ago and became one of the most powerful members of Congress ever, will step down after this year… Dingell, 87, told the Free Press that he’d reached the decision to retire at the end of his current term — his 29th full one — rather than run for re-election because it was time, given a list of achievements that any other member of Congress would envy, and his continued frustration over partisan gridlock.”

Helena Independent Record: “As much as 60 percent of  [Democrat] Sen. John Walsh’s initial campaign funds have come from two sources largely outside Montana, an analysis of his first finance report shows: Out-of-state individuals and funds set up by fellow Democratic U.S. senators. Walsh, who was appointed U.S. senator two weeks ago but who’s been running for the office since last October, had plenty of Montana donors on his report covering the first three months of his campaign through Dec. 31… Yet he also raised funds from people in at least 16 other states and the District of Columbia and reported receiving $194,500 from special-interest political action committees, or PACs. Of that PAC money, $140,000 came from so-called “leadership PACs,” controlled by Democratic senators. PACs tied to Montana Sen. Jon Tester and former Sen. Max Baucus, both Democrats, each chipped in $10,000 to the Walsh campaign. But he also got money from PACs controlled by 24 other Democratic U.S. senators.”

[The Missoulian: “Democrat Dirk Adams, a Wilsall rancher and attorney… is challenging U.S. Sen. John Walsh in the Democratic primary in June, for a spot on the general election ballot for the seat formerly held by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.”]

GRUESOME ONLING POSTINGS PLAGR-Ark., discusses ObamaCare in the 9 a.m. ET hour]

The Republican Governor’s Association is hitting Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark. The ad ties Ross to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, higher spending and debt along with the stimulus saying, “Mike Ross, his Washington record doesn’t sound very good, because it isn’t.” The six-figure buy is the RGA’s second attack on Ross.

Six cases are bundled together for a single one-hour argument before the Supreme Court today over regulations the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regarding carbon emissions. The challengers say the EPA, lacking sufficient scientific support, has unilaterally created a carbon dioxide regulation that amounts to re-writing the law that Congress originally passed. –Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream hast the latest on this constitutional showdown.

Howard Kurtz
examines the effort by global warming activists to silence Charles Krauthammer. “Charles Krauthammer says it right up front in his Washington Post column: ‘I’m not a global warming believer. I’m not a global warming denier.’ He does, however, challenge the notion that the science on climate change is settled and says those who insist otherwise are engaged in ‘a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate.’ How ironic, then, that some environmental activists launched a petition urging the Post not to publish Krauthammer’s column on Friday. Their response to opinions they disagree with is to suppress the speech.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “Patrick Coulton’s lawyers ripped him off to the tune of $275,000 and left him to rot in prison. But Coulton is getting payback: He now lives in his former lawyer’s home — a three-bedroom house in Miramar [Fla.] that he will eventually own as part of a court-ordered punishment of the two misbehaving attorneys… The way Coulton and two federal judges tell it, this is the story of two very bad lawyers — Emmanuel Roy and Peter Mayas — and one very good one, Paul Petruzzi… The bizarre legal soap opera began in March 2008 when Coulton was arrested on federal drug and money-laundering charges for smuggling cocaine and marijuana… Coulton admitted responsibility, cooperated and pleaded guilty within two months of his arrest. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison with the understanding that prosecutors would later recommend his punishment would be reduced as part of his plea agreement. He never heard from Roy and Mayas again and when prosecutors tried to give him the promised break, they couldn’t get the lawyers to respond either, court records show… U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff held numerous investigative court hearings over a couple of years to figure out what happened. He eventually issued two scorching rulings. Roy’s and Mayas’ conduct was ‘disgusting, abhorrent’ and the ‘most outrageous’ he’d seen in 25 years on the bench, the judge wrote. He said they lied in court, hid their assets and wasted everybody’s time.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30 a.m. ET, click here.

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 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.