Talk Media News
 

Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.
 

Quick News
  • GOP primaries: New tests
  • Democrats face “enemy” Fox News
  • Bloomberg won’t run – again
  • SCOTUS: Obama’s shortlist
  • Has the budget collapsed?
  • US to release drone report / Al Shabab strike
  • SCOTUS: Gay adoption
  • Netanyahu cancels WH meeting
GOP Primaries: New Tests (WSJ, me)
• Donald Trump’s march towards the Republican presidential nomination faces new tests today in Michigan and Mississippi, states where rivals John Kasich and Ted Cruz are betting their regional appeal will serve as an antidote to Trump’s outsider campaign (getting down to the wire to stop Trump outright…)
 
• Kasich, the Ohio governor, is basing his candidacy on how he does in his home state’s 15 March primary, and is counting on performing well in a string of coming Midwestern primaries. For Cruz, the Texas senator, Mississippi represents the last of the Deep South states he once hoped to sweep on his way to the nomination
 
• Trump has so far won every Southern state by large margins, except for Louisiana, where a surge by late-breaking voters on Saturday pushed Cruz to within three percentage points of the front-runner (Trump is now running his “rallies” like fascist rallies, demanding complex loyalty pledges, pre-emptively ejecting “protesters,” plain-clothes security and corralling the press)

 

• Mitt Romney is making robocalls for Marco Rubio in the four states holding GOP primaries and caucuses today. “
[Vote for] a candidate who can defeat [Democratic presidential frontrunner] Hillary Clinton and who can make us proud,” the 2012 GOP nominee says in the message – which stops short of formally endorsing Rubio (NYT)
 
• Meanwhile, Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla), after engaging in barnyard taunts with Trump last week, has suddenly became almost an afterthought and a battle is said to be waging in his campaign about whether he should get out before the primary in his home state of Florida on 15 March. He’s fourth in Michigan, below the 15% threshold to win any delegates
 
Today, Michigan will award 59 delegates. Another 40 are at stake in Mississippi, 32 in Idaho’s primary and 19 in Idaho’s caucuses. Today’s contests will serve as an opening act to the next GOP event – the 15 March winner-take-all contests in Ohio, which will award 66 delegates, and Florida, which has 99
 
• Trump leads the field with 384 delegates, Cruz is second with 300 delegates, Rubio third with 151 and Kasich has 37. It requires 1,237 delegates to clinch the party’s nomination. Polling has been scarce in Mississippi and Idaho, but Trump is expected to win both contests. Hawaii is also voting

 

Democrats Face “enemy” Fox News (NYT, Politico, me)
• Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders confronted ultimate adversary, Fox News, Monday night, at a forum in Detroit at which host Bret Baier grilled both candidates separately on topics that seldom come up at Democratic events, including abortion rights and Libya. Democrats have primaries in Michigan and Mississippi today
 
• Sanders clarified his remarks from Sunday’s debate that white people “don’t know what it’s like to be poor” or about “living in a ghetto.” “What I meant by that is that in African American communities you have people living in desperation after being abused by white police officers,” but he added, “I know about white poverty.”
 
• Asked which Republicans they have good relationships with, Sanders said: “If I tell you that person, it will be a disservice to that person.” Clinton named Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen John McCain (R-Ariz), but, “I hesitate to mention any more names. It will probably hurt them and I do want to work with them.”
 
• Pressed on his budget-busting plans for universal health care, Sanders reiterated his belief that health care is a right for all people. “Excuse me, where does that right come from, in your mind?” Baier asked. “Being a human being,” Sanders replied. “Being a human being.” (he has to explain the costs so that people get on board – or people will blow him off)
 
• Both Sanders and Clinton said they believed abortion is a decision best left to women, their doctors and their families. “I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother,” Clinton said, adding she objected to recent efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks without exceptions

Bloomberg Won’t Run – Again (Bloomberg View, NYT, Politico, me)

• Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who for months quietly laid the groundwork to run for president as an independent, will not enter the 2016 campaign, he said Monday, citing his fear that a three-way race could lead to the election of: Donald Trump (he didn’t need to spend all the money – could have told him that for free)
 
• Bloomberg said in Bloomberg View that Trump has run “the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.” He said he was alarmed by Trump’s threats to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the country and was disturbed by Trump’s “feigning ignorance of David Duke,” the white supremacist leader
 
• Bloomberg’s aides have spent months assembling a network of several dozen strategists and staff members, they conducted polling in 22 states, drafted a website, produced TV ads and set up campaign offices in Texas and California. Bloomberg was ready to ask former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Rear Adm Michael Mullen, to serve as his running mate (he was ready)
 
• But in polling in Feb and March, Bloomberg’s pollster found that in a race against Trump and Hillary Clinton, the most favorable result for Bloomberg would have been a stalemate in the Electoral College, with no candidate taking 270 votes. Then, the House of Representatives, with Republicans holding a majority, would choose – – – President Trump (Belize is quite nice…)
 
• Monday, Bloomberg said he wasn’t ready to endorse, but: “I will continue urging all voters to reject divisive appeals and demanding that candidates offer intelligent, specific and realistic ideas for bridging divides, solving problems, and giving us the honest and capable govt we deserve.” (he must be gutted – his last chance)
 

• Anti-Trump well-funded Republican group has a new ad in Florida highlighting Donald Trump’s filthy language. Watch and listen – the worst words are bleeped. “I went to an Ivy League School,” he says. “I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words.” Then he says just about every word you can’t say on the air – except one…

 

SCOTUS: Obama’s Shortlist (WaPo, me)
• The WH is considering nearly a half-dozen relatively new federal judges for President Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court, focusing on jurists with scant discernible ideology and limited judicial records as part of a strategy to surmount fierce Republican opposition – the Senate GOP majority vows to ignore any nominee he proposes (optics, optics…)
 
• Based on interviews with anonymous legal experts and others, including some who have spoken in recent days with Obama admin officials involved in the vetting process, the president is leaning towards a sitting judge to fill the vacancy – and probably one the Senate confirmed with bipartisan support during his tenure. Possibles:
 
• Two judges who joined the influential DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013: Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett; Jane Kelly, an Iowan appointed in 2013 to the Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit; Paul Watford, 2012 appointee to the 9th Circuit; and a lower court judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, 2013 appointee to the U.S. District Court for DC

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• Srinivasan would be the high court’s first Asian American and first Hindu. Kelly would be the first with a public defender’s background. Watford or Jackson would add a second African American. And as with Obama’s last nominee, Elena Kagan, Millett would increase the number of women on the court
 
• None has carved out a distinct identity in their views on the role of law or their positions on any divisive legal question facing the nation and the courts, according to an examination of the judges’ public statements and writings, their mentors, and their career paths. WH officials regard the opaqueness of their views as a selling point (i’ll bet – no trip wires)
 
• Another name being vetted by the WH is one with a longer judicial record: Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. He’s a moderate who has served on the court for nearly two decades and was considered by Obama for a previous Supreme Court vacancy
 
• Those familiar with WH thinking said Obama is disinclined to name an outspoken progressive as a probable sacrificial lamb. Instead, the WH thinks it may be able to apply the greatest pressure on resistant GOP senators by choosing a highly qualified federal judge regarded as moderate and non-ideological. Even a moderate, admin officials think, could shift the court
 
• First lady Michelle Obama will attend the funeral of Nancy Reagen on Friday, a WH official said Monday. The former first lady will be laid to rest beside her husband during a private ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. President Obama ordered flags to be flown at half staff until sunset Friday (Hill)
 

Has the Budget Collapsed? (Hill, Hill, Politico, Politico, me)

• Senate Budget Committee chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo) is postponing action on the budget amidst disagreements in the House over spending cuts. Enzi announced Monday that his committee will postpone possible action this month but will continue to discuss their action
 

• Enzi argued, “The Senate already has top-line numbers and budget enforcement features available this year” set in last year’s budget deal. Vulnerable GOP incumbents who aren’t eager to take politically charged votes this spring have made the same argument
 

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) pledged earlier this year that Republicans would make a “major effort” to pass a budget, repeatedly noting it’s required by law. McConnell pledged in 2014 that Republicans would pass a budget every year if they won control of the Senate. “I don’t think the law says ‘pass a budget unless it’s hard.'” (maybe very very hard?)
 

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and other leading Democratic senators sent a letter to McConnell Monday saying he should urge committees to stick with spending levels outlined in last year’s Bipartisan Budget Act, which was “a product of painstaking negotiation and compromise.”
 

• Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee will vote on a budget resolution as early as Tuesday 15 March/Wednesday 16 March, according to two aides – GOP and Dem. But even if the committee approves the resolution, there’s no guarantee the full House will adopt it as many on the right remain resistant (ie hardline House Freedom Caucus)

 
US to Release Drone Report / Al Shabab Strike (Hill, Hill, NYT, WSJ, me)
• The Obama admin will disclose in coming weeks how many people have been killed by U.S. drone and counterterrorism strikes since 2009. “Going forward, these figures will be provided annually,” Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, announced Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations
 
• The WH has long faced criticism from lawmakers and human rights groups for its lack of transparency on casualties – either civilian or combatant – from U.S. drone strikes

• It will not cover “active hostilities,” such as in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but will include strikes in nations such as Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The report isn’t expected to detail deaths by country but will instead offer an aggregate assessment (why not active hostilities, why not by country – a cop out – and not transparent)


 
• In the most recent example, American warplanes on Saturday struck a training camp in Somalia belonging to the Islamist group the Shabab, the Pentagon said Monday, killing about 150 fighters who U.S. officials said were preparing an imminent attack against American troops and their regional allies in East Africa
 
• Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif), ranking member of the House Permanent Intelligence Committee, praised the drone announcement and said Congress should pass legislation to make sue the policy lasts beyond the Obama admin. “Sometimes strikes do result in civilian casualties.” (no kidding)

 

SCOTUS: Gay Adoption (Bloomberg, AP, me)
• The Supreme Court overturned an Alabama court order that had prohibited a lesbian from having contact with the three children she adopted and helped raise in neighboring Georgia while in a long-term relationship with their biological mother
 
• Before their breakup, one partner bore three children; the other formally adopted them in Georgia. The Alabama residents went to Georgia because they had been told Atlanta-area courts would be more receptive than judges in Alabama. The Georgia court granted the adoption in 2007
 
• Alabama courts got involved when the birth mother tried to prevent her former partner from regular visits with the children. The two women had been together for about 16 years
 
• The Alabama Supreme Court sided with the birth mother in refusing to recognize the other woman as a parent and declaring the adoption invalid under Georgia law. Alabama justices ruled that the Georgia adoption law didn’t allow a “non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents.”
 
• In December, SCOTUS temporarily set aside the Alabama decision as the justices decided whether to hear the appeal. The issue was whether the actions of one state’s courts must be respected by another’s. Monday, the justices said in an unsigned opinion that ‘the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit.”

 

Netanyahu Cancels US Trip (Reuters, me)
• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said today he had declined an offer to meet President Obama at the WH later this month because of the heated U.S. election campaign. (dear dear – still furious about the iran deal?) Netanyahu was scheduled to speak at the AIPAC conference in Washington DC. Netanyahu will not now travel to the U.S. – address AIPAC remotely
 
• The WH first announced on Monday that Netanyahu had turned down the meeting – a move that was seen as the latest episode in a fraught relationship that has yet to recover from deep differences over last year’s U.S.-led international nuclear deal with Israel’s foe Iran
 
• A WH spox said Monday Israel had requested a meeting and that two weeks ago Netanyahu was offered a 18 March encounter, but U.S. authorities later learned from media reports that Netanyahu had canceled the visit (ooh ouch – WH is said to be “surprised” and was “looking forward” to the meeting…)
 
• A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office said that while the PM “appreciated Obama’s willingness to meet him,” he decided “not to go to Washington at this time, at the height of the primary election campaigns in the U.S.” Israeli political sources said he was eager to avoid giving the impression of favoritism in the current race (don’t blame him)

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Victoria Jones – Editor