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The Washington Report – October 3, 2014

03 Oct 2014

The Washington Report – October 3, 2014


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This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.

 

WHAT THE SECRET SERVICE SCANDAL HAS TO DO WITH BIPARTISIANSHIP … WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE A SECRET SERVICE? … EBOLA … AT THE RACES … WOMEN ARE DEMS LAST BEST HOPE TO SALVAGE THE SENATE … THE SECRET GOLDMAN TAPES … PACKER BAR IN PARIS … and other news of the week.

Enjoy the weekend!

Best,

Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Kathryn Wellner, Maggie Moore and Ross Willkom)

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ELECTION DAY 2014 COUNTDOWN:  32 Days

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ANNIVERSARY (OF SORTS) “One year ago (on October 1, 2013), the federal government shut down after — stop if you’ve heard this one — lawmakers failed to find common ground on how to fund it. It was the first time in 17 years that the government had shut its doors and for official Washington  — and those who cover or care about it — it was a moment.”

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SHOCKING NEWS AP reports: “Just 7% of likely voters approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Asked how they feel about the Obama Administration, 58% are dissatisfied or angry, while 74% were dissatisfied or angry with the Republican leadership in Congress.”

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c81ebcfddca52969a3fdda49_280x157THE SECRET SERVICE IS BESET BY A CULTURE OF COMPLACENCY AND INCOMPETENCE The Atlantic: “The director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, resigned on Wednesday, bowing to bipartisan pressure following a series of embarrassing security breaches. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced her departure in a statement, saying he appointed a retired senior Secret Service official, Joseph Clancy, to serve as interim acting director. … Topping off a dreadful day for Pierson, news broke hours after her testimony that yet another security breach occurred in September when the Secret Service allowed an armed contractor with a violent criminal history to ride an elevator, without authorization, with the president during a visit to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. In what may have been the final straw for the president, [White House Press Sec.] Earnest acknowledged that the White House was not aware of the elevator incident until shortly before news outlets reported it on Tuesday.”

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SCANDAL SPARKS RARE BIPARTISANSHIP StarTribune: “… Democratic and Republican lawmakers … have been surprised to find themselves largely agreeing on a response to the agency’s recent extraordinary security breaches … with bipartisan agreement on the need for a wide-ranging independent investigation. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both joined in that call. MOST UNUSUAL The Atlantic: “What was unique about the response from both parties was not their shared outrage, but the lack of any apparent partisan sniping that usually accompanies even the most apolitical scandals.”

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BARACK OBAMA’S SAFETY The New Yorker: “It seems inconceivable that the most technologically sophisticated power in the world was incapable of tackling an intruder running across the White House lawn, like a punt returner headed for the end zone. Worse, amid the rash of hair-trigger law-enforcement shootings in the news, is that the Secret Service’s initial statement about the incident fell just shy of self-congratulation—they said that “the officers showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with this subject”— when an aggressive response would have been reasonable, if not outright necessary. Extreme restraint in the face of actual impending danger is indistinguishable from passivity. Earlier this month, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, Barack Obama’s detail allowed an armed man with a history of violence into an elevator with the President—and didn’t realize it until the man later handed his gun to his supervisor. These incidents have pushed to the fore a common, unspoken fear for the President’s safety that has abided the Obama years. … Early in his ascent to the stratosphere of political possibility, Obama was commonly compared to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.—the suggestion being that his election would, after a long winter of cynicism, reintroduce idealism to American life. In polite dialogue, one mentioned that Kennedy and King have something more than idealism in common: an ugly legacy of assassination.”… The Secret Service that was antsy about the prospect of a newly inaugurated Obama walking along Pennsylvania Avenue in January, 2009, is, as Vox reported, handling three times the number of death threats that attended other Presidencies. It is doing so on a severely limited budget. Speaking before a House inquiry into the security lapses, Pierson remarked that THE BUDGET SEQUESTER HAS LEFT THE SERVICE NEARLY FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY PEOPLE SHORT OF THEIR OPTIMUM NUMBER OF PERSONNEL. This at a time when the factions we need to be most concerned with are driven not only by the President’s identity but by American foreign policy and the dictates of the interminable war on terror. … THE REALIST knows that a single individual enabled by complacency or negligence can alter the path of history. The danger of the Secret Service’s failures is not in the narrowly averted disasters; it’s in the capacity of those failures to generate even more dangers on their own.”

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WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE A SECRET SERVICE? The Fix: “In the mid-19th century, as much as half of American currency might have been fake. Money was kind of like driver’s licenses — many states were making their own, so it was relatively easy for counterfeiters to manufacture bills without being caught. So on April 14, 1865, the Secret Service was created by President Abraham Lincoln. They would be the Treasury Department’s army, tasked with fighting financial crime. Later that day, another blind spot in the federal government’s layers of protection became obvious. The President was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, and no one was there to prevent it from happening. Two dead presidents later, Congress decided it might be prudent to make the Secret Service’s duties, “protect money … and the president.” Teddy Roosevelt became the first president to have the full protection of the Secret Service.  … During the 19th-century, they had investigated the Ku Klux Klan, mail robbers, and, of course, counterfeiters. During the Spanish-American War and World War I, they even did a bit of espionage. Over time, the Secret Service’s purview in investigating fraud has grown broader as technology has advanced and laws have grown more complex. After the New Deal they began watching out for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and more recently, they have launched some high-profile missions against hacking, credit card fraud and identity theft. The Patriot Act gave the Secret Service the authority to partner with law enforcement and other entities to help suppress Internet crimes, as a Congressional Research Service report from earlier this year notes. AFTER 9/11 the Secret Service was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2003. Since then, plenty of officials have wondered if the Secret Service should be divorced from its founding purpose forever. The Secret Service has been fighting to keep this role.  … Most Americans are likely oblivious to the fact that the Secret Service has any other face than the one it wears in public, the grim-with-glasses look of the men and women near the president. The Secret Service’s responsibilities in this respect have grown astronomically too. After Robert. F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, the Service began offering protection to presidential candidates. Former presidents were given lifetime protection — which ended for a spell and has now been reinstated, despite budget concerns. Vice presidents and visiting foreign leaders are also offered extensive protection. If McKinley thought that having one or two Secret Service agents around was bad, he would have loathed the system in place today. When J.F.K. was shot in Dallas more than 50 years ago, there were around 38 agents present. Any big event Obama attends today requires hundreds of agents. After the past few weeks of intense attention, the Secret Service is probably destined to change in new — and big – ways.”

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EBOLA The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Ebola virus diagnosed in United States. The patient — Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national — had recently flown here from Liberia to visit family.  A PRETTY BIG FLAW…YA THINK? NJ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said that a “flaw” in its electronic health records prevented doctors from seeing Duncan’s travel history, leading them to send him home with symptoms despite the fact that he told a nurse he flew to the U.S. from Liberia. The hospital says it has since changed the system so doctors and nurses will see patient travel history. (CNN) EBOLA POLITICS The Hill reports that the arrival of Ebola in the United States has already sparked a political war: “Ebola is becoming an issue for the midterm election campaign, with several Republicans using the spread of the virus to the US to criticize President Obama’s leadership.”

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THE SUPREMES The Fix: “The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted new cases about congressional redistricting, judicial candidates asking for campaign donations and religious discrimination. But the justices took no action on requests that they decide whether there is a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. The court waded through hundreds of petitions that have accumulated during its summer break, and accepted 11 new cases. Among the pile were petitions from Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin, where federal appeals courts have struck down state bans on same-sex marriages. Both the winners and losers in those cases have asked the court to provide an answer to the question that would apply nationally. There is still plenty of time for the court to take up the question and rule on the issue during the new term that begins Monday and will end next June.”

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OPERATION NAME-THAT-MISSION WSJ: “For weeks, military planners have debated a thorny strategic problem. … America’s newest war won’t be called ‘Operation Inherent Resolve.’ … To some military officers, Inherent Resolve didn’t properly evoke the Middle East. … [or] simply found it uninspiring. … The use of nicknames to influence public perception started with the 1989 invasion of Panama, or ‘Operation Just Cause.’

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LOOKING TO KEEP THE U.S. EDGE Politico: “Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has been assigned to forge a path for the U.S. military to preserve the lead it enjoys over potential competitors around the world, one that his boss worries is fading fast. Work and his colleagues face problems their predecessors never did. Cyber-spies steal American intellectual property at an industrial scale. The pace of technological development runs much faster than the Pentagon’s acquisition system can handle. And unlike in the 1970s, the government has many competitors in buying or pursuing new systems or computers.”

ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT BACTERIA ON DOD’S RADAR Marine Times: The Pentagon figures prominently in President Obama’s new national plan to fight lethal, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. An executive order issued by the White House in September outlined a national strategy to address the growing problem of illness and death caused by germs that can’t be controlled with existing medications. The order brings together seven Cabinet departments as well as other agencies to implement a five-year plan to address antibiotic overuse and misuse in the U.S., improve health surveillance of infectious diseases and develop new diagnostic tests and medications to treat bacterial infections.  …  DoD spends more than $40 million a year to support research and development of vaccines or medications to treat antibiotic-resistant illnesses as well as viruses that don’t respond to any drugs.”

WAR BUDGET WILL ‘PROBABLY’ NEED A BOOST Morning Defense: ([Retiring] House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon says the Obama administration will “probably” have to submit a request for extra war dollars for fiscal 2015 to pay for its military campaign against the ISIL. McKeon says he hasn’t heard anything yet from the administration about the possibility of a revised request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds – but several analysts have said there are few other options to pay for a campaign in Iraq and Syria that costs $7 million to $10 million a day.”

NAVY WON’T RELEASE LCS REPORT Morning Defense: “The Navy has rejected a public-records request for the results of its Small Surface Combatant Task Force, findings that could affect the future of the Littoral Combat Ship program. In its letter the Navy said [the findings] will be PART OF THE 2016 BUDGET DELIBERATIONS and that releasing them [now] could be “detrimental to the Navy’s decision-making process by creating a chilling effect on the expression of candid opinions.”

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DISABLED VETS MEMORIAL WaPo: “On Sunday the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which has been built adjacent to the U.S. Botanic Garden and within view of the Capitol building, will officially open to the public.”

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AT THE RACES … SENATE Roll Call: “While the structure of the competitive Senate map has finally solidified, plenty of uncertainties remain as the two parties enter the final month of the midterm elections. The most glaring question mark and startling development over the past several weeks is in Kansas. THIS IS A STATE THAT LAST ELECTED A DEMOCRATIC SENATOR IN 1932 The Fix: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is the most shockingly vulnerable incumbent senator of the 2014 election. And his campaign has been a succession of stumbles — so much so that it makes you wonder how this guy was elected to the Senate in the first place. Well, if Roberts seems out of practice, there’s a pretty good reason for it: It’s because he has never faced a competitive campaign before. Ever. NO MEMBER OF THE SENATE HAD SUCH AN EASY RIDE Roberts has faced 11 federal elections, starting with his 1980 campaign for the House. In none of those 11 races has he ever taken less than 60% of the vote. … having your first tough race at the age of 78 isn’t exactly great for sharpening one’s political skills.”

GOP NEEDS SIX SEATS to win the majority, and the party can get halfway there by picking up open seats in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana, where retirements hindered Democrats’ ability to hold their ground. Democrats have better odds in the other open seats, with Iowa still hosting one of the most competitive races in the country and Democrats continuing to hold the edge in Michigan. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., remains a top target for Republicans. But Democrats are pummeling Republican nominee Thom Tillis on the air, and Hagan is the only red-state Democrat whose positioning has clearly improved in recent months.”

WHY WOMEN ARE DEMOCRATS’ LAST BEST HOPE TO SALVAGE THE SENATE National Journal: “The “gender gap”—the difference between Republicans’ usual margin of victory among men and Democrats’ usual margin of victory among women—is nothing new. It has been evident for years in almost every election up and down the ballot. But a National Journal analysis of public polls, and interviews with strategists from both parties, suggests that the gap has ballooned to historic proportions across 2014’s battleground states. Democrats are running campaigns designed to press an advantage among women that is helping the party compete in a number of races despite an unfriendly political climate and steep GOP advantages among men. Meanwhile, Republicans are searching for issues to combat the trend with female voters. It’s a trend several Republicans privately admitted they are watching nervously. In Senate and governor’s races since 2004, the average gender gap has been 13 points, according to a review of exit polls from the past decade, and just seven races (out of more than 200 measured in that time) have had gender gaps of more than 30 points. (The 2010 Colorado Senate race, in which Republicans carried male voters by 14 points but lost among women by 17 points for a 31-point gender gap, is one rare example.) Since August, though, independent live-caller polls of Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds have had an average gender gap of more than 20 points, and the gaps have topped 30 points in multiple polls of three races: the North Carolina and Iowa Senate contests and the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. There are only three battlegrounds where Democrats have trailed among women in a Senate or gubernatorial contest, and only another three where Republicans have trailed among men in any independent live-caller poll.”

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THE FATE OF SENATE COULD COME DOWN TO ALASKA The New Republic: “Among the truest things you can say about Mark Begich-the imperiled Alaska Democrat, whose loss this November might flip the Senate-is that he’s sweet. Easygoing, plain-looking, and sweet. He’s a meaty handshake guy. … It’s also fair to say that he has performed without distinction as a senator since winning a fluke election six years ago. He doesn’t have a trademark issue; no important bill bears his name. As a Democrat from a red state, he landed positions on both the commerce and appropriations committees. … Alaska is a notoriously difficult place to poll, but everyone assumes the contest is a dead heat.”

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AT THE RACES … HOUSE Roll Call: “House Majority PAC, a super PAC that aids House Democrats, has recently canceled around $1 million in ad reservations in races throughout the Midwest and Northeast. The shifts indicate Democrats are more optimistic about winning some House races — and have given up hope on others.”

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BIG MONEY AIR WAR Wall Street Journal: “American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS Raise $100 Million,”  … “The groups’ fundraising success will allow them to spend more heavily in major Senate races in the final few weeks. … [Along with spending another $5.1 million in North Carolina for Thom Tillis] American Crossroads also announced Thursday that it is expanding its role in Senate races in New Hampshire and Iowa.”

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YES, POLITICS STILL DOMINATED BY OLD(ER), WHITE MEN (graphic from Brookings Institute) The Fix: As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-
N.Y.) will tell you, Congress today is still very much an old boys club — and more specifically, we would add, a white old boys club. Members of Congress are more than 80% male, about 80% white and about 60 years old, on average. One big reason is that things have always been that way, and stuff like this doesn’t change quickly. Another big reason, though, is that women and minorities quite simply don’t run for office as much. According to the Pew Research Center, about 2% of the American public has run for some kind of political office. Men, despite being a slight minority of the U.S. population, comprise about three-quarters of all candidates. The same goes with race: While whites are two thirds of the population, they are 82% of all candidates for office. … While women will make up the majority of voters, as they typically do, the ballots and the winner’s circle will be about as overwhelmingly white and male as it always is. MORE MEN RUN; MORE MEN WIN.”

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MITT ISN’T READY TO CALL IT QUITS NYT: “… a confluence of political realities has created a genuine opening for a Romney third act. As Obama struggles through a difficult final term, there is a lack of a clear Republican heir apparent. Presumptive early front-runners, like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, have shown themselves to be flawed or reluctant or both. A splintering of possible movement candidates (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz) could beget a need for a default consensus choice. Romney, for his part, is noticeably playing along. He recently told a radio host that he was not planning on running for president but allowed that “circumstances can change.” SELF-DEPRECATING BRIDESMAID When asked is if there was a chance [he would run}, Romney’s response was decidedly meta — “I have nothing to add to the story” — but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

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The president or [Obamacare] have been mentioned in more than 1 out of every 10 television ads that have aired about elections for state-level political office so far.” (Center of Public Integrity)

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THE SECRET GOLDMAN TAPES Bloomberg View R: “Probably most people would agree that the people paid by the U.S. government to regulate Wall Street have had their difficulties. Most people would probably also agree on two reasons those difficulties seem only to be growing: an ever-more complex financial system that regulators must have explained to them by the financiers who create it, and the ever-more common practice among regulators of leaving their government jobs for much higher paying jobs at the very banks they were once meant to regulate. Wall Street’s regulators are people who are paid by Wall Street to accept Wall Street’s explanations of itself, and who have little ability to defend themselves from those explanations. Our financial regulatory system is obviously dysfunctional. But because the subject is so tedious, and the details so complicated, the public doesn’t pay it much attention. RAY RICE VIDEO FOR THE FINANCIAL SECTOR HAS ARRIVED That may very well change … after … the radio program “This American Life” aired a jaw-dropping story about Wall Street regulation. The reporter, Jake Bernstein, obtained 46 hours of tape recordings, made secretly by a Federal Reserve employee, of conversations within the Fed, and between the Fed and Goldman Sachs. SPINELESS REGULATORS The Street/Bloomberg View: “The most interesting part of the tapes is where the whistleblower, Carmen Segarra, is asked to change her report by her boss. She is obviously bright and inquisitive: speaks four languages, holds degrees from Harvard, Cornell and Columbia. She is also obviously knowledgeable: Before going to work at the Fed, she worked directly, and successfully, for the legal and compliance departments of big banks. She went to work for the Fed after the financial crisis, she says, only because she thought she had the ability to help the Fed to fix the system. In early 2012, Segarra was assigned to regulate Goldman Sachs, and so was installed inside Goldman. (The people who regulate banks for the Fed are physically stationed inside the banks.) The job right from the start seems to have been different from what she had imagined: In meetings, Fed employees would defer to the Goldman people; if one of the Goldman people said something revealing or even alarming, the other Fed employees in the meeting would either ignore or downplay it. For instance, in one meeting a Goldman employee expressed the view that “once clients are wealthy enough certain consumer laws don’t apply to them.” After that meeting, Segarra turned to a fellow Fed regulator and said how surprised she was by that statement — to which the regulator replied, “You didn’t hear that.” HOW SEGARRA GOT HERSELF FIRED In 2012, Goldman was rebuked by a Delaware judge for its behavior during a corporate acquisition. Goldman had advised one energy company, El Paso Corp., as it sold itself to another energy company, Kinder Morgan, in which Goldman actually owned a $4 billion stake, and a Goldman banker had a big personal investment. The incident forced the Fed to ask Goldman to see its conflict of interest policy. It turned out that Goldman had no conflict of interest policy — but when Segarra insisted on saying as much in her report, her bosses tried to get her to change her report. Under pressure, she finally agreed to change the language in her report, but she couldn’t resist telling her boss that she wouldn’t be changing her mind. Shortly after that encounter, she was fired. BREATHTAKING WUSSINESS OF THE PEOPLE AT THE FED Once you have listened to [CLICK HERE) — consider the following:

1. You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.

2. The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.

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PACKER BAR in PARIS! The Canadians who run the Moose Bar stayed open for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on “Thursday Night Football,” starting at 2:30 a.m. The game had a happy ending for ahem… Packer fans. In case you missed it, 42-10. (h/t Mike Allen)

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