Shinseki not going quietly if he goes

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Buzz Cut:
• Shinseki not going quietly if he goes
• Hillary weaves web on Benghazi talking points
• Power Play: Can the GOP expand the Senate map?
• Romney to Iowa for Ernst
• A lobbyist who knows how to move politicians

If Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is going, it’s not quietly. Before heading to the White House to this morning to “update” the president on the VA scandal, the retired general apologized but sounded defiant in an address before a group of activists on homeless veterans.

‘Lack of integrity’ - From Fox News:  “Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced Friday that he would oust senior leaders at the embattled Phoenix VA, ahead of a private meeting with President Obama where the two are expected to have a “serious conversation” about whether Shinseki himself can stay in the job. …Obama, in an interview, said he planned to ask Shinseki whether he was “prepared and has the capacity” to fix sweeping problems in the VA’s nationwide health care system. …Earlier Friday morning, Shinseki publicly apologized for the failures in the VA system... Shinseki said the ‘lack of integrity’ is something he has ‘rarely encountered.’ He announced several steps to address the situation, short of resignation, including directing that patient wait times no longer be used as a measure of success in employee evaluations.

Growing Chorus - Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., is the first member of House Democratic leadership to call for Shinseki’s resignation. “‘If it will help fix the problem to clean house, then yes, he should resign,” [Israel told Roll Call], “but my main concern is getting the root of the problem here, and I want to make sure any steps taken actually lead to drastic improvements for our veterans.’”]

Still on the fence - Two vulnerable Senators struggling to keep their seats this election cycle – Mark Begich, D-Alaska and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., -- are holdouts from the growing list of red state Democrats calling for VA Secretary Shinseki to step down.

[#mediaBuzz: Host Howard Kurtz will discuss this week’s developments in the VA scandal with WaPo’s Dana Milbank and National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.]

New at Fox News Opinion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offers an OpEd in which he calls again for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and the passage of bipartisan legislation to make firing VA officials easier. McConnell also says that President Obama’s priorities are misplaced: “Back when [the ObamaCare Web site] first showed signs of failure, the president promised to move Heaven and Earth to get it fixed (even though it’s still not complete). He told his people not to rest until a solution could be found. You could see the determination in his eyes. But where is that determination now? Where’s the determination to root out the administration's systemic failures and provide our veterans with the care they’ve earned? Don’t our veterans deserve just as much attention as a website? The answer is obviously yes – and a whole lot more, too. So the president needs to get serious and take action.”

“Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” - Chris sits down with Chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’ Affairs, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fl. Plus, how ready is Hillary? RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., discuss. “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News Channel.

In an apparent move to coordinate with President Obama and other Democrats, 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton is pushing out her talking points on Benghazi, giving Politico a look at the chapter from her upcoming memoir “Hard Choices” that covers the attack and the scandal that followed. Clinton makes it political, accusing Republicans of bad motives in seeking answers about the raid by Islamist militants that killed four Americans in 2012. In the chapter, which Politico says is “mostly a chronological retrospective,” Clinton defends the intelligence preceding the attack and the administration’s military response. “Clinton takes responsibility for the ‘horror’ of the loss of life in Benghazi, but puts it in the context of ‘the heartbreaking human stakes of every decision we make’ — and she accuses adversaries of manipulating a tragedy for partisan gain. ‘Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,’ Clinton writes. ‘Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.’”

Dude, he’s, like, probably totally stoked - Politico also reports that former National Security Council spokesman and longtime Obama flack Tommy Vietor will assist in the response to the book, a source told Politico.

Journalism is hard - People magazine tweeted a photo of beaming reporter Sandra Westfall posing with 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton “before her mtg at the WH. Hope we didn't make her late for @barackobama!” Within minutes, the magazine, which is helping with the publicity for Clinton’s forthcoming book, deleted the tweet. Why? It referenced a previously secret lunch meeting between the president and his potential successor. The White House press corps sent up another round of remonstrations about the always secretive and sometimes dishonest Obama media operation. The president huddling with a powerful political figure who is currently the target of a congressional inquiry sure seems like news. But, whatevs. People magazine subsequently offered a tweet more in keeping with the administration spin that the get-together was just a lunch between friends.

[You can have a friendly lunch with Hillary Clinton, too. You just have to drop $300,000…]

Really, really? - In an appearance today on morning chat show “Live! with Kelly and Michael,” President Obama dismissed longstanding examples of friction between the two dominant Democratic political operations: “You know Hillary and I, we’re buddies, I think because we ran in the longest primary in history, and our staffs were doing battle politically. The perception was that this was always kind of a marriage of convenience, when she came in as Secretary of State. I always admired her, as soon as she got here, she couldn’t have been more effective, more loyal, and since that time we’ve become really, really good friends. And I think, I don’t know what she’s going to decide to do, but I know that if she were to run for president, I think she’d be very effective at that.

Hillary supporter to lay out Benghazi rebuttal - Philippe Reines, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser and spokesperson, will reportedly address a group of Democratic operatives organized by the Clintonite group Third Way at a meeting in Washington on Friday. Reines is expected to provided Democrats with updated talking points for attacking Republicans and uncooperative media outlets.

What do Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer, Mexican toads, suburban backyard sex parties and health food co-ops have in common? California, of course. Writing for The Paris Review, historian Benjamin Breen takes a look at the role of the occult in California’s history and California’s continuing role in the history of the occult. Notorious British cult leader Alastair Crowley was thrilled at how receptive Californians were to his hedonistic new religion in Pre-War Southern California, but Crowley, no prude himself, was worried about how far the Californians were carrying things: “Meanwhile, back in London, Crowley fumed in letters to friends that the Californians’ fascination with ‘sex magic’ would give his magical system ‘the reputation of being that slimy abomination, ‘a love cult.’”

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Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve –  44 percent//Disapprove – 52 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent//Wrong Track – 62.7 percent 
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43 percent// Republicans 42.3 percent

How are Republicans faring at expanding the map in this midterm election cycle? This week’s installments of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt: Political Pros” look at the Senate races in blue states, Iowa and Colorado, where the GOP hopes to ride an electoral wave and gain two of the six seats it needs for a Senate majority. Chris asks Brad Blakeman, a former member of George W. Bush’s senior staff and Kristian Ramos, a former top Democratic Senate aide and campaign strategist, first to break down the race to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Watch here. Then the trio discusses the chances for Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., to pull off an upset against incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. Watch here.

Romney to Iowa for Ernst - Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., returns to Iowa today to stump for Joni Ernst, the state senator, farmer and Army officer, who is trying to pull off an upset in the Republican Senate primary there and defeat businessman Mark Jacobs in the June 3 contest. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released an ad with Romney’s endorsement ahead of his visit today.

(Ashville) Citizen Times: “A conservative Civitas Institute poll has Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis leading Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan by just three points though more than half of voters say it's time for a new face in the office. Tillis leads with 39 percent to 36 percent for Hagan. Libertarian Sean Haugh got 8 percent in the poll of 600 voters May 20-22. Fifty-five percent said it was time for someone new in the office when asked whether Hagan has performed well enough to deserve re-election.”

Fox News: “The Mississippi state senator challenging longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in next week's Senate primary picked up the backing of former presidential contender Rick Santorum and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on Thursday. Santorum and Palin were the latest conservative darlings to back Chris McDaniel, whose challenge to Cochran has become one of the few potential success stories for the tea party this election year.” Palin will headline a rally for McDaniel today in Ellisville, Mississippi.

Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou - Washington Times: “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a surprise campaign stop with retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, urging voters to get behind the tea party favorite in the high-profile Louisiana Senate race.” Maness trails far behind both Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican frontrunner.

The Hill: “Former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) picked up the backing of former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) in his bid for the Senate. Watts has been a longtime mentor to Shannon, who worked as a field director in his congressional office. In his endorsement, obtained first by The Hill, Watts references that shared history and says he ‘sensed right away [Shannon] was a young man of character and integrity, with great potential.’”

Republicans have their sights set on six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. So which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia.

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

Kansas City Star: “Republican Todd Tiahrt announced … that he’s running for his old seat in Congress. Tiahrt said he’d take on incumbent, and fellow Republican, Mike Pompeo in the August primary. The prize: the 4th District House seat. Tiahrt held the seat from 1995 to 2011. Pompeo has held it since….Tiahrt stepped down from the House in 2010 to seek the U.S. Senate seat that fellow Congressman Jerry Moran wound up winning.”

KAKE: “Shortly after Todd Tiahrt's announcement that he's running for the 4th Congressional District, Representative Mike Pompeo issued the following statement: ‘I am surprised that Todd has chosen to attempt to get back the job he abandoned back in 2010. Todd endorsed me in my run for Congress that same year, my first effort to seek political office. Todd also endorsed me in my second campaign, my successful re-election to Congress in 2012. Todd said today, in an attempt to explain his run, that Pompeo doesn't listen to Kansans. That's certainly a reversal from his endorsement of me in the 2012 election, when Todd said precisely the opposite…’”

Talk about commitment to your client! A lobbyist for the local water company in Oxford, Mass. is accused of pulling the fire alarm during a town meeting to prevent a vote to have the town take over the utility. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that police will charge William F. Malloy, Jr. with a false fire alarm and disturbing a public assembly after the 57-year-old allegedly yanked the alarm just as a vote on the city takeover was about to occur. The measure had been defeated in a vote early in the meeting. Hours later, after most of the residents who voted against the measure went home believing the issue was resolved, a town councilor brought the issue forward again. “This led to a commotion, and then someone pulled the fire alarm at 12:35 a.m., police said.”

“This president is just barely hanging on. Normally you have a rough sixth year, seventh year because you are already a lame duck….Your domestic agenda is generally over and you get active in the world, foreign affairs and that’s where the president had his shot at West Point and he blew it. So I don’t see a blue sky anywhere.” Charles Krauthammer on ‘Special Report w/ Bret Baier

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.