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• Sebelius on the run
• Landrieu packs her parachute
• ObamaCare crash: Real people, real stories
• Netanyahu goes nuclear over Iran deal
• ‘Women Drivers, Rain, Obama Care’
SEBELIUS ON THE RUN - Talk about damning with faint praise! President Obama in his interview with NBC News couldn’t quite summon an endorsement of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has presided over the epic failure of the ObamaCare launch. When asked if he still had “full confidence” in his health law pointwoman, Obama ducked: “I think Kathleen Sebelius, under tremendously difficult circumstances over the last four and a half years has done a great job in setting up the insurance markets so that there is a good product out there for people to get.”
[No help desk -“You know, Kathleen Sebelius doesn't write code. She wasn't our I.T. person.” – President Obama talking to NBC News.]
POTUS takes it personally - Even worse for Sebelius, Obama is apparently taking the tech bungle personally. Obama slipped in the interview when he talked about the way forward in the wake of the crash. “Given that I've been burned already with a Web site,” he said of Sebelius’ project before catching himself and adopting a more compassionate tone to say “well, more importantly, the American people have been burned by a Web site.” That does not bode well for Sebelius’ future employment.
[State exchanges illegally skirted security check - Daily Caller: “A recently discovered document … highlights the extent to which the Obama Administration skirted federal standards in order to launch the exchanges by October 1.”]
Not so peachy - With demands for her resignation piling up and Democrats desperate to show they are not tolerating the embarrassing crash, Sebelius is hitting the road. She is in Atlanta today announcing another batch of insurance regulations and encouraging Georgians to sign up (if they can) for the new entitlement program. She will be joined by former first lady Rosalynn Carter for the regulation announcement, NYT reports.
Meet the press - Sebelius is also scheduled to take questions from reporters while she is on campaign trail. With the president seeming to set her up for a fall, local and national reporters hounding the embattled secretary will have plenty to ask about. Tea leaf readers take note: Her tone today will say a lot about the time frame of her departure from the administration. Defiant? That likely means a quicker exit (and maybe a sour grapes book). Contrite? That could mean she is on board with whatever timetable being considered for her ouster, perhaps after the re-launch of the crash-laden Web site.
LANDRIEU PACKS HER PARACHUTE - President Obama is heading to New Orleans today for a campaign event on behalf of his stalled economic agenda. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has proposed a bill that would enforce Obama’s “if you like it” pledge will be traveling with the president today but will not be attending his speech in New Orleans, due to an unspecified “long-standing engagement in Lake Charles.” With her re-election fortunes flagging and the president’s approval numbers sinking in the Pelican State, Landrieu’s contorted travel plans have become something of a political embarrassment for her and her flying partner. Landrieu’s likely challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., will no doubt be howling.
[Ed. note: The senator’s office says she is flying with the president but also part of the bipartisan welcoming party, including Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, at the airport. Question: How does one greet someone with whom they have travelled?]
SORRY IS THE HARDEST WORD TO SAY - President Obama did offer an apology of sorts to Americans who have lost their health insurance due to regulations under his signature law. Obama told NBC News, “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.” Obama did not, however, apologize for misleading voters in 2012 or for the underlying decision that led to what are now more than 4 million cancelled policies. While Obama promised to look at ways to help those afflicted by the law, he brushed off questions about specific proposals to repair or delay key ObamaCare provisions.
[President Obama will head to Miami this evening to take part in three party fundraisers.]
Delay debuts - Sens. Joe Manchin., D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are teaming up on legislation that delays the penalty for uninsured Americans who don’t enroll in ObamaCare. Manchin said, “So far, the federal healthcare exchanges have failed, and we must deliver a better product.” The House is set to vote on a bill allowing Americans who like their health care plans to keep them by authorizing insurance companies to continue to offer plans already canceled by ObamaCare regulations. Congressional Correspondent Mike Emmanuel looks at proposals from both sides of the aisle.
Dr. K’s teaches rhetoric - Charles Krauthammer hits President Obama’s Rhetoric vs. reality: “I’m not surprised that Obama tells untruths. He’s surely not the only politician to do so. I’m just surprised that he chooses to tell such obvious ones — ones that will inevitably be found out. Who will tell Obama that lies so transparent render rhetoric not just useless but ridiculous?”
PROFITS OF DOOM FOR OBAMA’S INSURANCE PARTNERS - When insurance companies partnered with President Obama, it was way back in those halcyon days when ObamaCare was just a second milepost in what the president said was going to be an economic and cultural transformation of America. By now, Americans would probably be downloading ObamaCare apps aboard high-speed trains on their way to enroll in free higher-education classes to train for green jobs. As it turns out, the president is going to spend the overwhelming majority of his presidency in a health insurance quagmire. Read the whole Power Play here.
THE OBAMACARE CRASH: REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES - Bill Elliot is fighting cancer and lost his health coverage because of ObamaCare. In an emotional interview on “The Kelly File,” Elliot said President Obama’s apology was “more of an insult to me and other people who were cancelled than the president saying 41 times, period, you can keep your doctor, keep your insurance, period.”
Elliot has cancer of the kidney, colon and spleen. A couple of weeks ago he received a cancellation letter because his coverage didn’t include maternity care. The 52-year-old says he tore up the letter and threw it out in rage. On Dec. 31, 2013, Elliot says he will stop getting cancer treatment because he can’t afford it, can’t afford a new insurance plan and doesn’t want to go into debt.
“Whatever happens, I believe I’m doing the right thing,” an emotional Elliot told Kelly. “I thought about it and prayed about it.” Watch the interview here.
TOPTWEETS - @laurenashburn’s top tweet pick for this morning: CBS Political correspondent John Dickerson, @jdickerson: “Obama's apology was late & he backed into it. Still: presidents never really apologize out loud. Clinton on Rwanda nearest modern example?”
[Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]
IRS SHIPPED BILLIONS TO FRAUDSTERS - The Internal Revenue Service issued $4 billion in tax refunds last year to people using stolen identities, with some of the money going to addresses in Bulgaria, Lithuania and China, according to a Treasury Inspector General report. In the U.S., more fraudulent returns went to Miami than any other city. Other top destinations were Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Houston. More from AP. Correspondent Molly Henneberg has the latest on this most recent scandal hitting the agency now charged with enforcing ObamaCare.
NETANYAHU GOES NUCLEAR OVER IRAN DEAL - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blasting reports that an international agreement is in the works to ease sanctions on Iran while allowing the Islamic Regime to maintain some its nuclear capabilities. Netanyahu said the proposals, “would be a mistake of historic proportions and they should be completely rejected.” JPOST reports. Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Geneva today to help broker a deal between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and six world powers over the Islamic regime’s nuclear program, officials tell Fox News. An initial deal could come sometime today, WSJ reports.
CRUZ WANTS BOUNTY PLACED ON BEGHAZI KILLERS - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a bill to offer a $5 million reward for information on the Benghazi terror attack or information leading to the capture of a suspect. Currently, the Benghazi suspects are not included in the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program. Fox News has the story.
[“60 minutes” is reviewing its report on an eyewitness of the Benghazi raid based on “new information that undercuts the account.” Fox News has more.]
LIBERALS EYE WAGE INCREASE - President Obama is preparing to renew his push for a minimum wage hike. In his February State of the Union Address President Obama called for a federal minimum wage of $9, up from the current $7.25. Some economists argue raising the cost of labor could have disastrous consequences on the unemployment rate. Correspondent Doug McKelway looks at the proposal could mean for employment in America. Read more from Washington Examiner.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...University of Houston Professor Paul Gregory details his relationship with President Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald for NYT Magazine in Lee Harvey Oswald Was My Friend: “It’s discomfiting to think that history could have been altered by such a small player, but over the years, I’ve realized that was part of Oswald’s goal. I entered his life at just the moment that he was trying to prove, particularly to his skeptical wife, that he was truly exceptional.”
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[New Today at Fox News Opinion: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates Duty, Honor, Country, why hiring veterans is good for Starbucks' business and yours]
POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.8 percent//Disapprove – 52.0 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 21.8 percent//Wrong Track – 70.9 percent
CHRISTIE TEASES - Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., again teased a potential presidential bid in an appearance on the “Michael J. Fox Show.” Christie told Fox’s character, “There’s been a lot of speculation about things… And I feel so inspired today that I think I should make an announcement.” The gag: Fox’s character is asleep and doesn’t hear what Christie is about to say, and neither does the audience. It was a seemingly odd place for Christie to do that dance choice given that Fox is most famous in politics for starring in a brutal attack ad denouncing Republicans. Fox, citing his own Parkinson’s disease, lambasted the GOP concerns over harvesting human embryos for medical research. It helped deliver the Senate to Democrats in 2006.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY PREVIEW - Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., joins Chris Wallace to discuss what may be in his political future and what lies ahead for the GOP.“Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.
MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS? - Campaign Carl Cameron is watching: How long will the Republican National Committee put up with criticism from Tea Party groups for not spending enough on Ken Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial bid, when Virginia records show that Heritage Action, Freedom Works, Tea Party.net and the Tea Party Express contributed a grand total of zero dollars. That’s according to the Virginia Public Access Project as of the day after the election.
HOLLYWOOD’S LEADING LADY - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be feted by A-list Democratic Hollywood donors today. Clinton will address early childhood education at an event moderated by “All in the Family’s” Meathead, producer Rob Reiner. DreamWorks’s CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and director Steven Spielberg play host for Clinton when she accepts an award from the International Medical Corps, at the swanky Beverly Wilshire. More from Hollywood Reporter.
Cruz goes Jaywalking - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will also be in LaLa Land today. He’s appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
OBAMA’S POSITIVE DOUBLE NEGATIVE FOR BIDEN - President Obama brushed aside reports in the new book, “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” that he considered dropping Vice President Joe Biden from the ticket last year. Obama told NBC News, “If they had asked me, I would have said there is no way that I am not running again with Joe Biden.”
SASSE TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS - The conservative Club for Growth announced its support for Midland University College President Ben Sasse, a first-time candidate and a former top health official in the Bush administration, in his bid to replace retiring Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb. Sasse faces a primary fight with former Republican State Treasurer Shane Osborne.
NORTH CAROLINA’S COBLE TO RETIRE - Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., will not seek re-election in 2014. The 82-year-old Congressman first elected in 1984, told reporters it was time for him to step-aside joking with the media, “Some of you may disagree with this, but mentally, I’m stable and reliable.” WGHP has more.
AMERICANS FAVOR IMMIGRATION WITH SECURE BORDERS - Washington Examiner: “A new poll published by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a center-left group, said 71 percent of Americans support immigration reform. The group cites its poll as proof that a ‘majority of Americans will hold elected official[s] accountable’ if they don't support reform. What the group does not say is that the reform Americans want includes ‘secur[ing] our borders’ and an ‘employer verification program,’ according to the group’s own poll.”
A LIFE THAT MATTERS - The successful launch of Charles Krauthammer’s new book “Things That Matter” got another boost on Thursday night at a Washington celebration hosted by Bret and Amy Baier. Big names abounded at the Hotel W, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. Also on hand were many of Dr. K’s fellow “Special Report” panel stalwarts: George Will, Steve Hayes, Jonah Goldberg, Charles Lane, AB Stoddard, Juan Williams and Bill Kristol among others. Also toasting the author: Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Ed Henry, Examiner Editor Stephen G. Smith and Examiner Senior Congressional Correspondent David Drucker, whose tie may have been askew but whose pocket silk was still standing at full attention for the Sage of Studio One.
‘WOMEN DRIVERS, RAIN, OBAMACARE’ - The North Carolina Department of Transportation used its alert service to warn commuters to “stay home” due to “A High severity incident has been Added for I-40 Eastbound in Wake County in Raleigh,” before going on to list the incident as “Vehicle Accident: Women Drivers, Rain, Obama Care.” WBTV has the story.
HOPE FLOATS - Edwin Tobergta, 34, of Hamilton, Ohio was sentenced to 11 months in prison for amorous contact with a rubber pool float in public. This follows his 2011 arrest for a similar offense with a pink inflatable swimming pool raft and a 2002 Halloween offense with an inflatable pumpkin. WXIX has the story.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…“[President Obama] said, ‘If you have your plan and you like your plan, you will keep your plan, period.’ The punctuation is the key here. No context, no caveats, no exceptions, that's what the word period means. He couldn't have been clearer, and for him to pretend he wasn’t, is simply appalling. ...The president now is toxic…The thing is called Obama Care. There's no running away from it, it's got his name on it.”— Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.