Good Sunday morning. The staff is in and we're preparing for today's program. Prepare along with us – read what we're reading this morning.
On our radar: the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, building the campaign war chests and a look at "the Presidents Club."
Check out what we're reading, and be sure to watch our exclusive interview with House Speaker John Boehner. Also on the show: White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Govs. Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia) and Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) and TIME Magazine editors Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs. State of the Union airs today at 9am/12pm ET.
POLITICS / 2012
Montana has a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators. Every statewide office except for the state’s at-large House seat is filled by a Democrat. In 2008, the Obama campaign had 50 staffers in the state, and fell just 2 points short of claiming its three electoral votes.
Yet the president’s reelection campaign has effectively written off Montana, according to leading state Democrats including outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
When asked about the president’s prospects in the state (in the same interview where he repeatedly tried to tie Mitt Romney, a Mormon, with polygamy, Schweitzer said, “it’s already sort of predetermined that the GOP is going to win in Montana.” The only scenario in which Obama wins the state, he added, would be as part of a “47-state landslide.”
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will end his presidential bid on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., a source close to the former House speaker told CNN.
Previous reports said Gingrich would likely quit the race on Tuesday.
He is expected to express his support for likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The two spoke by phone last week, a Gingrich spokesman told CNN.
The decision to hold the event this week was due to logistical reasons, sources told CNN last week.
As he readies his war chest, Obama is scheduled to join former President Clinton on Sunday at Terry McAuliffe’s house in Northern Virginia for a fundraiser. The event is charging $1,000 per ticket and $25,000 to co-host. The afternoon money raiser will be the first that Clinton and Obama have ever held together, according to McAuliffe, a giant Democratic moneyman and the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
And on Monday Michelle Obama is holding a fundraiser in Tuscon, Arizona with the country musical band Calexico and charging $100 for young professionals, $500 to sponsor the event, and $10,000 to chair it.
The Romney campaign didn't seem to find it funny.
"I do think there was something a little bit off-key about the president slow jamming and appearing to make light of the fact that students are struggling," Fehrnstrom said Saturday at an event put on by The Washington Post. "I don't think it's something to slow jam about or to make light of it."
He added: "If that skit was brought to the governor, he would have declined."
Senate Democrats are planning a new ploy to put Mitt Romney and Republicans on the defensive with female voters.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will bring to the floor in coming weeks legislation to protect women from retaliation by employers if they inquire about salaries paid to male colleagues.
Republicans voted in unison to block the bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, when it came to the floor in November of 2010. Democrats say it will be difficult for GOP senators to back out of their opposition, especially because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has staunchly opposed the legislation.
"Romney's going to be on defense on the Paycheck Fairness Act," said a senior Democratic aide.
The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades. ...
Mr. Obama’s readiness to use force — and his military record — have won him little support from the right. Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.
MIDEAST / OVERSEAS NEWS
As U.S. helicopters approached in darkness a year ago, Osama bin Laden was woefully unprepared: no means of escape, no way to destroy files, no succession plan.
But U.S. intelligence analysts scouring the trove of data he left behind continue to find evidence that al-Qaeda was making provisions for the long term, plans that in some cases remain on track.
Among the previously undisclosed records is a lengthy paper by bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, laying out the al-Qaeda strategy for Afghanistan in the years after the United States withdraws, current and former U.S. officials said. ...
The emerging picture is of a network that is crumpled at its core, apparently incapable of an attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, yet poised to survive its founder’s demise.
With the military operation in 2002, Israel took a step away from the internationally brokered peace deals that dominated the 1990s and the idea that its security could be achieved through compromise with Palestinians.
The doctrine that evolved in its place has relied instead on military strength and a willingness to take unilateral measures, even though Palestinians say the approach is threatening to kill any hope for a two-state solution and could backfire on Israel in a region where "Arab Spring" uprising memories are fresh.
Soon after the reoccupation of the West Bank came the construction of a massive separation barrier, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice, which cut off Palestinians from Israel. Next was the withdrawal from the restive Gaza Strip, which Israel initiated on its own terms outside the formal peace process.
President Barack Obama has signed a waiver to remove curbs on funding to the Palestinian Authority, declaring the aid to be "important to the security interests of the United States."
A $192 million aid package was frozen by the US Congress after the Palestinians moved to gain statehood at the United Nations last September. ...
In signing the waiver, Obama instructed Clinton to inform Congress of the move, on the grounds that "waiving such prohibition is important to the national security interests of the United States."
Egypt’s most conservative Islamists endorsed a liberal Islamist for president late Saturday night, upending the political landscape and confounding expectations about the internal dynamics of the Islamist movement.
The main missionary and political groups of the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, threw their support behind Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood known for his tolerant and inclusive view of Islamic law.
Mr. Aboul Fotouh’s liberal understanding of Islamic law on matters of individual freedom and economic equality had already made him the preferred candidate of many Egyptian liberals.
Despite months of fighting, Western and Arab sanctions that have sapped the national treasury and defections that have eroded the unity of the military, the Syrian government is not on the verge of falling nor abandoning its use of lethal force. …
Even Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly called for an international effort to do so, has been hesitant. “I have talked to the British, the French, the Americans, Turkey, everyone,” said Walid Jumblatt, one of the few politicians in Lebanon outspoken in his support for the Syrian opposition. “They all say no weapons because it will lead to civil war, as if it is not a civil war now.” ...
Since the Syrian government accepted the plan a month ago, at least 1,000 Syrians have died and thousands more have been displaced, [Sen. John] McCain said. “The United States and the world are failing the people of Syria, and every day that we refuse to lead, more Syrians will die,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has closed its Cairo embassy and recalled its ambassador after days of protests by Egyptian activists angered by its detention of an Egyptian human rights lawyer this month.
The diplomatic tiff, the worst in decades between two Arab allies, was provoked by the arrest of Ahmed al-Gizawy on his arrival at Jeddah airport where he had flown to perform a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places in Mecca and Medina.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT...
“Remember when the country rallied around you in hope for a better tomorrow? That was a good one.” – Kimmel.
“President Obama wanted to move the dinner to the Kennedy Center this year, but the Republicans wanted to keep it here at the Hilton, so they compromised and here we are at the Hilton.” - Kimmel
“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious.” – Obama.
“It’s nice to be here in the nice, vast Hilton ballroom. Or as Mitt Romney would call it, a fixer-upper.” – Obama.
“The reason he [House Speaker John Boehner] smokes so many cigarettes is because his tears keep putting them out.” – Kimmel.
“Four years ago I was locked in a primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Now she won’t stop drunk-texting me.” – Obama.
“There’s no one linking to as much hard-hitting journalism as you’re linking to.” – Obama addressing Arianna Huffington.
“What’s black and white and read all over? Nothing anymore.” – Kimmel.