Can Susan Rice Deal With Defections On The Left?

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • HILLARY CLINTON HEADS TO THE MIDDLE EAST: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hastily departed Cambodia and is headed to the Middle East to deal with the escalating violence that has gripped the region for the last week, reports ABC's Reena Ninan, Mary Bruce, Matt Gutman and Anthony Castellano. Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem later tonight to meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. Clinton will also meet with Palestinian officials in Ramallah before heading to Cairo to meet with leaders in Egypt. A senior Israeli government official told ABC News that Netanyahu has decided to hold off on a ground invasion for a "limited time" in favor of a diplomatic solution.
  • CLINTON'S MESSAGE: ABC's Dana Hughes hears from a State Department official that Clinton's visit "will build on American engagement with regional leaders over the past days - including intensive engagement by President Obama with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Morsi - to support de-escalation of violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns and restores a broader calm. … She will emphasize the United States' interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel's security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza; and that can reopen the path to fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for two states living in peace and security. She will continue to express U.S. concern for the loss of civilian life on both sides."
  • NOTED: OBAMA UP UNTIL 2:30AM MAKING MIDDLE EAST CALLS: President Obama was on the phone until 2:30 am with leaders in the region trying to de-escalate the violence, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president in Asia. ABC's Mary Bruce reports, the president spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Egyptian President Morsi.
  • THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK" - SUNDAY SHAVE-OFF: What does a pair of buzz shears have to do with bringing bipartisanship to Washington? ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports that this Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the top spokesmen for the Republican and Democratic National Committees will set aside their differences to settle a political bet - and it all benefits a good cause. Before the presidential election, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse made a bet with his Republican counterpart, Sean Spicer, who's spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. The deal: Whoever's candidate won the election would shave the loser's head, on national television. But rather than let Spicer go bald alone, the pair decided to team up to support the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a national group that raises money for childhood cancer research grants by shaving the heads of volunteers. They've both agreed to lose their locks for charity, and - with a little razor help from ABC's Jon Karl - you can catch their hair-raising transformation Nov. 25 on "This Week." HOW TO DONATE:
  • FROM THE LEFT: "After the election, I was excited that I'd be shaving Sean's head instead of him shaving mine," Woodhouse wrote on his online fundraising page. "But, when we learned about St. Baldrick's, we decided that we should BOTH shave, making our bet pay off for kids fighting cancer." FROM THE RIGHT: Spicer, who lost the bet after Republican presidential contender Gov. Mitt Romney conceded the election to President Barack Obama, said the shave-off is about more than just politics. "We're not just honoring a bet," Spicer wrote on his fundraising page. "We're having our heads shaved to stand in solidarity with kids fighting cancer, but more importantly, to raise money to find cures."


It was President Obama at his most fired up.

The question, from ABC's Jonathan Karl at his news conference last week, was about threats from Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham indicating they favored Watergate-style hearings about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi - with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice at the center of that inquiry.

Would those threats deter the president from naming Rice his next Secretary of State, Karl asked?

"For them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous," Obama said, adding: "When they go after the U.N. Ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."

But just yesterday nearly 100 Republican members of the House co-signed a letter opposing Obama's possible nomination of Rice as the nation's top diplomat.

"Though Ambassador Rice has been our Representative to the U.N., we believe her misleading statements over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world," according to the letter.

And there's more for President Obama to worry about than just the upset on the right. Some left-leaning voices are also warning the president too.

Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd argued that Rice, who "who has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation … would have been wise to be more bull-in-a-china-shop and vet her talking points, given that members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities and sources in news accounts considered it a terrorist attack days before Rice went on the shows."

And Washington Post scribe Dana Milbank criticized Rice's "shoot-first tendency" and her "pugilism."

"[The] nation's top diplomat needs to show more sensitivity and independence - traits Clinton has demonstrated in abundance," Milbank opined. "Obama can do better at State than Susan Rice."

To be sure, Rice continues to enjoy powerful defenders within Democratic ranks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee stood up for the embattled U.N. Ambassador while speaking to reporters on Friday.

"We have seen wrong intelligence before, and it all surrounded our going into Iraq, and a lot of people were killed based on bad intelligence," Feinstein said. "I don't think that's fair game. I think mistakes get made - you don't pillory the person."

Last week, President Obama struck a note of defiance, but said he had yet to make up his mind about who he wants to fill Hillary Clinton's shoes.

Referring to Rice, Obama said: "If I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity of the State Department, then I will nominate her. That's not a determination that I've made yet."

As Time Magazine's Jay Newton-Small wrote today, in the end it may come to a cost-benefit calculation: "With a high-risk, high-reward nomination like Rice, Obama must ask himself if he's willing to spend the political capital. Is she worth it? These are questions only he can answer."


with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

SPINNERS AND WINNERS: A GOP PLAN FOR 2016. In the latest episode of his ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series "Spinners and Winners" ABC's Jonathan Karl interviews Kentucky Senator Rand Paul about his future ambitions, and his thoughts on a new direction for the GOP. Though Paul's father Ron, the frequent presidential candidate, is retiring at the end of the year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says he may follow in his father's footsteps and run for president in 2016. "I'm not going to deny that I'm interested," Sen. Paul tells ABC's Jonathan Karl about his presidential aspirations. While Paul is quick to add that he isn't ready to make a decision about a presidential bid yet, he is not hesitant to say that the Republican Party needs a new message. "I think we have to go a different direction because we're just not winning and we have to think about some different ideas," says the senator.

IN CAMBODIA, OBAMA HAILS 'CONSTRUCTIVE' US-CHINA RELATIONSHIP. President Obama today said the United States and China have taken a "cooperative and constructive approach" to their relationship, as he came face-to-face with the rising economic power that his administration is trying to counter-balance in the region reports ABC's Mary Bruce. Meeting with outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, Obama reiterated his commitment to working with China, despite the tenuous relationship between the two economic superpowers. In his first post-election meeting with a Chinese leader, Obama stressed that "we work to establish clear rules of the road internationally for trade and investment, which can increase prosperity and global growth."

ANALYSIS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS SMALL EDGE ON 'FISCAL CLIFF' LEVERAGE. The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib reports: "Any negotiator will tell you that the key in a bargaining session is knowing at the outset who has leverage, and where it comes from. So it is in the great deficit-cutting showdown now under way between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans. The problem the GOP face is relatively simple: In the aftermath of the election, the leverage in this negotiation has shifted, slightly but perceptibly, toward the president. Top White House officials insist that they will be careful not to over-read their advantage or their electoral mandate and say they realize the need to avoid hubris. And indeed, at a time when political power is so evenly balanced between the two parties, neither side has a huge amount of leverage. Advantages can be fleeting."

AFTER OBAMA, CHRISTIE WANTS A G.O.P. HUG. The New York Times' Michael Barbaro reports: "A few days after Hurricane Sandy shattered the shores of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie picked up the phone to take on a different kind of recovery work: taming the Republican Party fury over his effusive embrace of President Obama. On Nov. 3, Mr. Christie called Rupert Murdoch, the influential News Corporation chief and would-be kingmaker, who had warned in a biting post on Twitter that the governor might be responsible for Mr. Obama's re-election. Mr. Christie has been explaining himself to Republicans ever since."

BOEHNER TIGHTENS GRIP ON GOP RANK AND FILE AHEAD OF DEFICIT TALKS. The Hill's Molly K. Hooper reports: "Speaker John Boehner is tightening his grip on the House Republican Conference weeks before an anticipated vote on a deficit deal. The Ohio Republican has smoothed over differences with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), expanded his powers on the panel that doles out plum committee assignments, shot down a challenge to his earmark moratorium and worked behind the scenes to ensure that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) would win her leadership contest. All of Boehner's moves are aimed at shoring up his influence over the GOP conference, which in turn maximizes the Speaker's leverage with President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate."

POLL: MORE FOLLOWING 'FISCAL CLIFF' DEBATE THAN PETRAEUS SCANDAL. A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that nearly identical percentages of Republicans (36%) and Democrats (35%) say they very closely followed the debate over the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect at the beginning of next year unless the president and Congress act. Fewer Republicans and Democrats are interested in the Petraeus investigation - 28% to 21% respectively.

ALLEN WEST CONCEDES IN FLORIDA. The AP's Matt Sedensky reports: "Tea party freshman Allen West gave up his fight to remain in Congress on Tuesday after two weeks of recount battles in court. The first-term Republican said in a statement he was conceding the race to Democrat Patrick Murphy, a 29-year-old political newcomer. Murphy had held the lead in the race since the wee hours of Election Night, but West's campaign questioned the voting results in South Florida's District 18. After several appearances in court and two partial recounts in St. Lucie County, West said his fight was over."

MARCO RUBIO TALKS RAP, EMINEM, AND HIS BEST FRIENDS. A self-proclaimed "hip-hop fan," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has never hidden his love of music, and in an interview with GQ Magazine, he talked bout his respect for the lyrics of Eminem and revealed his top three favorite rap songs - "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A., "Killuminati" by Tupac, and Eminem's "Lose Yourself." ABC's Arlette Saenz reports, Rubio is considered a likely contender for the 2016 presidential race, but while he is far from making any official announcement about a 2016 bid, he has started to boost his profile in some of the early primary states. Over the weekend, Rubio attended a fundraiser and birthday party in honor of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

FIRST LADY HONORS TOP AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS. Pairing Mariachi professionals with students, putting young journalists on the radio and preserving Chinese oral traditions; the nation's top extracurricular programs for the arts and humanities were honored today in an awards ceremony at the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama, who is honorary chair of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, presided over the event, ABC's Matt Larotonda reports. Twelve programs from around the country were recognized for what Mrs. Obama called, "those pushing and inspiring" children, "revealing their boundless promise, and teaching them to believe in themselves."


@mlcalderone: How many journalists in Gaza? Over 170 entered through Israel; unclear how many through Egypt:

@daveweigel: Bogus schadenfreude for Dems: The Allen West strategist promising to fight on was Chris LaCivita, of Swift Boat fame.

@SJLorber: Defense cuts looming, a struggle to save $3 bill in govt contracts to workers w/ severe disabilities

@SabrinaSiddiqui: Messina says the dumbest move the Romney campaign ever made was the Jeep ad - put them on the defense in the last few weeks.

@ArletteSaenz: Happy 70th Birthday to @VP @JoeBiden!

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