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• Gitmo moves will test Obama’s pen powered mojo
• Pincer movement could squeeze Hillary
• Kentucky lawmaker says Rand ditching law change for double run
• Report: IRS buried targeting scandal ahead of 2012 election
• What toke was that? I mean take…
GITMO MOVES WILL TEST OBAMA’S PEN POWERED MOJO
The headlines that followed President Obama’s announcement of changes to the U.S. sanctions against the regime in Havana were ones he might have written himself. “Victory lap,” read one offered after his pre-vacation press scrum. And polls indicate that voters are broadly supportive of the move. And after a long, difficult year the president is back on offense and having adopted what is said to be a “campaign” mindset and bent on inflicting “the same kind of punishment on his newly empowered Republican enemies” that he did when he was on top. (How this is in any way a change in approach?) But if the executive action on Cuba has helped convince the president to use foreign policy to punish Republicans and forge a legacy, he may find the months ahead to be even more difficult than the ones he left behind.
[Reuters: “Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday he opposed President Barack Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, and spoke of steps lawmakers could take to try to rein in the new policy.]
Git out of town - Given all of the options the Republicans have to slow the president’s effort in Cuba, aside from a lot of reporters who will be traveling there for dispatches about classic cars and tasty cigars, the policy itself is unlikely to yield a great deal in the short term. What will get plenty of attention is also about Cuba, but not about admiring old Packards: The president’s redoubled effort to shutter the prisoner of war camp at Guantanamo Bay. News that the administration’s point man on shuttering the camp is resigning is another strong sign that Obama means to find some way to disperse the inmates, despite setbacks for the unpopular policy.
[Gross deal, indeed - Reuters: “The United States helped a Cuban spy imprisoned in California artificially inseminate his wife back in Cuba, a goodwill gesture while Washington and Havana were engaged in secret talks on restoring diplomatic ties, U.S. officials said on Monday.]
Drip, drip. drip - While Congress has since 2010 blocked the president’s ability to transfer detainees to U.S. prisons, Obama, who on his second day in office ordered the Guantanamo detention facility closed within a year, has been liberally transferring them to other countries. Estimates that almost a third of Gitmo inmates released return to the fight show the inexactitude of the assessment process. In a recent case, the State Department put out a $5 million reward for an Al-Qaeda operative released in 2006. The lame duck president’s renewed push to close Gitmo faces a tough fight with the incoming Republican Congress. Perhaps because of a seeming unsolvable problem of what to do with core Al-Qaeda detainees, Obama, who has said maintaining the Gitmo facility is contrary to our values and an inspiration to jihadists, is planning to recast the closure as a fiscal issue, saying that it’s “wildly expensive.”
[“According to a Military Times survey of almost 2,300 active-duty service members, [President Obama’s] popularity, never high to begin with, has crumbled, falling from 35 percent in 2009 to just 15 percent this year, while his disapproval ratings have increased to 55 percent from 40 percent over that time.”]
Byron York has details: “[Obama can] use his executive authority to release a prisoner here, a prisoner there, until Guantanamo is very nearly empty — all done without any meaningful debate. …[But] there is a hard core of perhaps 40 or 50 who, because of the nature of their terrorist activity and their detentions, the United States will never charge with crimes, will never put on trial, and will never release.”
[Determined - Asked in an interview broadcast Sunday if the Guantanamo facility would be shuttered by the end of next year, the president said he will be doing “everything I can to close it.” And he is. The latest in Obama’s long parade of transfers is the announcement over the weekend that four detainees have been released to Afghanistan. This brings the number down to 132 detainees, and there are widespread reports of a flurry of releases planned over the next several months.]
PINCER MOVEMENT COULD SQUEEZE HILLARY
Jacob Heilbrunn writing at the NYT, argues that given Democratic resistance to Hillary Clinton’s interventionist foreign policy, one dark-horse candidate could end up further impairing her electoral mobility: “This is why it isn’t really the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren who should worry the Clinton camp. It’s the former Virginia senator Jim Webb, a Vietnam War hero, former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, novelist and opponent of endless wars in the Middle East.”
What Warren’s office told the group trying to draft her - Buzzfeed: “She has said it newspapers and magazines. She has said it on the radio and on national television. She has said it at public events and book signings; in prepared statements to reporters and in quick exchanges with the press. She has said it four times in a single interview, twice. Since last fall, Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.] has said it a total of 49 times. “I am not running for president.”…But three weeks ago, when organizers from MoveOn.org, the largest progressive group in the country, contacted Warren’s office to let her staff know about their plan, the reply they received was neutral and dispassionate, taking some activists by surprise. “When we gave them a heads up, they said ‘thanks’ and ‘we’ve appreciated the work we’ve done together in the Senate,’” said Ben Wikler, MoveOn’s Washington director…After MoveOn announced the project, Warren reverted to her go-to line. A spokesperson reiterated Warren’s pledge to serve a full Senate term.”
[Scoreboard - National Journal looks at who gained ground and who lost it among Sixteeners since January.]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
It’s not looking like a very happy 2015 for voicemail, the 1980s-era technology that once revolutionized the workplace but now rapidly becoming obsolete. Gordon Matthews, an inventor from Texas, developed the technology that allowed companies to ditch receptionists and operators in droves. The use of infuriating pre-recorded, voice-prompted menus for callers will continue to grow (“Did you say ‘hippopotamus pants?’ If that’s correct, press 1. If that’s not correct, press 2 to try again.” **Presses 2** ‘Did you say ‘Hudsucker Proxy?’ If that’s correct…” **Throws phone down well**), but voicemail and it’s menacing little red lights are on its way out. Bloomberg reports that Coca-Cola has already shut down voicemail at its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, and other major forms are following suit. Coke is instead deploying smartphone technology that can convert voicemails into texts or emails. The global beverage leader is considering eliminating landlines for its employees entirely.
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.5 percent//Disapprove – 52.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 25.9 percent//Wrong Track – 66.5 percent
KENTUCKY LAWMAKER SAYS RAND DITCHING LAW CHANGE FOR DOUBLE RUN
The [Louisville, Ky.] Courier-Journal: “It looks as if U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is giving up hope that the Kentucky General Assembly will change state law so that he can run for both re-election to the U.S. Senate and for president in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, who sponsored a bill that would have changed the law last year, said that Paul told him not to bother with sponsoring the legislation again after the Democrats held on to the Kentucky House of Representatives in last month’s election. ‘I spoke with Sen. Paul ... and he thanked me and our caucus support, but he told me that he was not going to pursue that route this session, but he is looking into other options that will not require our help,’ Thayer said in a recent interview. …Doug Stafford, an adviser to Paul, however, said that despite what Thayer said, Paul isn’t ruling anything out.”
Christie shows off foreign policy cram sessions for reporter - AP: “It’s after 9 p.m. on a Sunday night in late November and Gov. Chris Christie [R-N.J.] is deep into a conference call, talking about nuclear weapons and Iran.”
[New Jersey Star Ledger: “Only 39 percent of New Jersey voters would support Christie over Clinton…according to the Rutgers-Eagleton survey.”]
REPORT: IRS BURIED TARGETING SCANDAL AHEAD OF 2012 ELECTION
Fox News: “A top IRS official considered going public with the agency’s targeting of conservative groups at a hearing just months before the 2012 presidential election but ultimately decided against revealing the bombshell news, according to a new report from a GOP-led House committee. Then-Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller wrote in an email in June 2012, about a month before a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, that he was weighing whether to testify to ‘put a stake’ in the ‘c4’ issue -- apparently a reference to allegations about politics playing a role in the agency’s denial of tax-exempt, 501(c)(4) status to conservative-leaning groups…”
GRIMM EXPECTED TO PLEAD GUILTY TO TAX EVASION
NY Daily News: “Rep. Michael Grimm [R-N.Y] will plead guilty [today] to a felony charge of cheating on his taxes at a Manhattan restaurant he co-owned before entering Congress, the Daily News has learned…Grimm was charged in a 20-count federal indictment in April with hiding more than $1 million in sales and wages at the restaurant, and with hiring undocumented immigrants. He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and his trial was to begin in February.”
SEARCH UNDERWAY FOR NEXT CBO BOSS
David Weigel reports: “Incoming Republican leaders in Congress won’t reappoint Doug Elmendorf to another term as head of the Congressional Budget Office, according to a party aide briefed on the decision. The move comes after a campaign from conservative lawmakers who want to change the way the CBO calculates the costs of government, said the aide, who requested anonymity to discuss a personnel decision.”
WHAT TOKE WAS THAT? I MEAN TAKE…
BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville has dodged bullets in some of the world’s most treacherous regions, but as the Telegraph reports, he was no match for what was wafting through the air behind him as he taped part of a report on narcotics: “In a video posted online on Monday, entitled “Don’t Inhale”, the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent appears to be getting high on the burning drugs as he tries and repeatedly fails to deliver his lines to camera before collapsing into laughter. ‘Burning behind me is eight-and-a-half tonnes of heroin, opium, hashish and other narcotics,’ Mr. Sommervillle begins, before emitting a high-pitched giggle. ‘Burning behind me…’ he begins a second clip before again collapsing into laughter – or ‘corpsing’, as it is known by broadcasters. In a third clip he is seen imploring his cameraman ‘Quick, quick! We just need one more’ but appears incapable of saying anything further with both men descending into giggles. Mr. Sommerville posted the footage online to his 24,000 Twitter follows with the message: ‘Dear tweeps, it’s been a year of bullets & bloodshed. You’ve earned a xmas laugh, at my expense.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The irony is the two cops who were shot were minority cops. One was Hispanic. The other was Asian American. Race was imposed on this by the Al Sharptons of the world. It’s about how do you police, how do you do grand jury stuff? Are prosecutors too close with the grand jury? We can reform that. But race was injected deliberately and cynically, and that truly is deplorable.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up 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 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.