So Long, Farewell

Courtesy Amy Walter

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


  • KARZAI COMES TO WASHINGTON: With the U.S. set to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2014, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in D.C. to talk about it. ABC's Luis Martinez reports: President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan arrived at the Pentagon yesterday for the first in a series of discussions with senior American leaders about the future of the U.S. military role in Afghanistan after American combat troops leave the country at the end of 2014. … Topping the agenda for Karzai's meetings in Washington is a discussion over the effort to reach a security agreement between the two countries. The White House is currently considering the number of troops to be kept, with the leading options numbering between 3,000 and 9,000 forces, although earlier this week the possibility that no troops may be left behind was raised. At the Pentagon, Karzai and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met for an hour; Panetta later described the meeting as touching on the U. S.'s "enduring commitment" to Afghanistan. … Thursday evening Karzai met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for talks that would also focus on American security commitments after 2014.
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama meets with President Karzai. According to the White House, "The President looks forward to welcoming the Afghan delegation to Washington, and discussing our continued transition in Afghanistan, and our shared vision of an enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan. The Vice President will also attend the expanded bilateral meeting in the Cabinet Room … In the afternoon, the President and President Karzai will meet for a working lunch in the private dining room. The Vice President will also attend. … Later in the afternoon, the President and President Karzai will hold a joint press conference." The news conference is scheduled to take place at 1:15 p.m. ET.
  • SECURING OBAMA'S 'LEGACY': The Obama Campaign will use inauguration weekend to chart a course for the future, convening a so-called "Legacy Conference" in Washington to determine the structure, leadership and goals of a new organization, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. Supporters in town for the inauguration are invited and it will also be live-streamed online, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an e-mail message to supporters yesterday. The record-shattering campaign operation - with a much-coveted email list of four million names - is seen as a valuable asset for Obama and his second term agenda. Its next form will likely also play a key role in Obama's post-presidential activity. After the 2008 campaign, the Obama campaign became "Organizing for America," with staff in all 50 states working on community organizing, Democratic engagement and maintaining the voter infrastructure for 2012. All of that still remains. What it looks like next will emerge in the coming months.
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': Two powerhouse roundtables join George Stephanopoulos to tackle the latest challenges at home and abroad, Sunday on "This Week." As President Obama announces his new national security team, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., join Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz to discuss the nominations, plus the debate over U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the latest threats from Iran. Then Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman of The New York Times; Al Hunt of Bloomberg News; and PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff break down the domestic battles ahead, from the coming budget cliffs to the gun control debate. All that plus, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, honorary chairs of No Labels, tackle whether both parties can ever come together in Washington. Tune in Sunday:


As we announced in December, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter is departing this month to become National Editor of the Cook Political Report.

From her new perch, she will continue to provide regular analysis of the issues, trends and events that shape the political environment. And it's a homecoming of sorts for Amy, who served as the senior editor of the Cook Political Report from 1997 to 2007.

On a personal note, Amy has been my companion and co-author of the Note since the fall of 2010 as well as the leader of ABC's Political Unit, guiding us all through a momentous midterm election followed by a roller-coaster of a presidential cycle.

I cannot imagine anyone I would rather have had captain our ship for the last two-plus years. The combination of her razor-sharp smarts, her depth of knowledge (she's truly a walking political almanac), her ability to see the landscape of politics and policy at a granular level and from 30,000-feet - not to mention her humor and friendship - are a rarity in Washington, or anywhere for that matter.

Last night dozens of fellow journalists and a group of Washington, DC's top political operatives from both sides of the aisle joined the ABC News team to wish Amy well as she heads to the Cook Political Report. ABC Washington Bureau Chief Robin Sproul, Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl and the one-and-only Cokie Roberts toasted Amy's steady leadership, her love of politics, her fairness and her quick wit.

We will miss her tremendously.

Here's Amy's bottom line:

ABC's AMY WALTER: For the last two years I have had the privilege of working with some of the smartest and most politically attuned reporters in the business. I have been spoiled with their dispatches from the campaign bus, Capitol Hill and the bowels of the White House. I have enjoyed being able to share their reporting and insights with you, while adding in my own analysis and reporting detail. I am the most thankful, however, to have been able to work with Michael Falcone. The man is one of the hidden treasures in this town: smart, dedicated, loyal and unflappable under pressure. He has been the brains and the brawn behind the Note and will continue to provide our loyal readers with a brilliant product.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: The Team of Rivals is turning in its uniforms. What's left is a team of loyalists - and a team of managers faced with intractable issues on the foreign and domestic fronts. The men (and yes, it's just about all men so far) tasked with managing the economy and national security are charged with putting out fires far more than launching new initiatives. It's a reflection of the way President Obama campaign for reelection - less inspiration, more perspiration.


-KATY PERRY, ALICIA KEYS, BRAD PAISLEY AND MORE…. The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced the initial talent lineup for the Kids' Inaugural concert on Saturday, Jan. 19 and the official Inaugural balls on Monday, January 21. From a press release: "The events will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and will highlight the Obama and Biden families' support for our military service men and women. The events will include appearances by Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Far East Movement, fun., members of the cast of Glee, John Legend, Katy Perry, Marc Anthony, Mindless Behavior, Nick Cannon, Smokey Robinson, Soul Children of Chicago, Stevie Wonder, and Usher. … In addition to today's news, PIC previously announced Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, and James Taylor will perform at the Inauguration ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 21."

VIDEO OF THE DAY: CLUB FOR GROWTH SAYS GOV'T SHUTDOWN MIGHT BE BEST. In the latest installment of ABC/Yahoo! video series "Top Line," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola tells Amy Walter, Rick Klein, and Olivier Knox: "The pain of a temporary shutdown the next few months pales in comparison to the pain of financial disaster of turning into Greece." Chocola says he's not concerned about America defaulting on its debt and that Republicans will have trouble getting reelected if they capitulate to Democrats. WATCH:


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

NRA VS. JOE BIDEN. After Vice President Joe Biden met with the National Rifle Association at the White House, ABC's Jonathan Karl and Arlette Saenz reports things didn't go well: The National Rifle Association blasted Vice President Joe Biden after a meeting Thursday afternoon with gun ownership groups, and the president of the NRA told ABC News the White House is promoting policies that will not solve the problem of gun violence but instead violate Americans' Second Amendment rights. "We think what they're talking about are basically feel-good measures that allow them to say, 'Look, we've done this.' But none of these things are going to prevent the next school shooting," David Keene, the president of the NRA, told ABC News. "Everything that's been proposed impinges on people who have every right to own firearms on the one hand and are legitimate honest Americans on the other, but doesn't do much about criminals," Keene said. Following the meeting, the NRA released a stinging statement on the talks, arguing that the talks did not produce legitimate ideas about how to curb gun violence but instead went after the Second Amendment. "We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment," the NRA said in a statement.

SEN. SESSIONS: LEW MUST 'NEVER' BE TREASURY SECRETARY. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports on the latest nomination controversy: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, declared Thursday that Jack Lew must "never" become secretary of the Treasury. "To confirm Mr. Lew would be to acquiesce in a policy of dishonesty to the American people," Sessions said. "For me, no mea culpa, no excuse, can erase the errors of Mr. Lew." President Obama today formally nominated Lew, the White House chief of staff, in the East Room of the White House, to replace outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. At issue, Sessions said, is what he called Lew's "outrageous and false" testimony before the Senate Budget committee nearly two years ago. Sessions said the testimony should disqualify Lew from becoming Treasury secretary.

CORY BOOKER IN '92: 'I HATED GAYS.' In a 1992 op-ed flagged by the AP and republishes by the Stanford Daily, Newark Mayor Cory Booker wrote that he "hated gays." Booker wrote in 1992: "Yet, while I was highly adroit at maintaining an air of acceptance, I couldn't betray my feelings. I was disgusted by gays. The thought of two men kissing each other was about as appealing as a frontal lobotomy. Allow me to be more direct, escaping the euphemisms of my past-I hated gays. The disgust and latent hostility I felt toward gays were subcategories of hatred, plain and simple. While hate is a four-letter word I never would have admitted to, the sentiment clandestinely pervaded my every interaction with homosexuals. I sheepishly shook hands with gays or completely shied away from physical contact. I still remember how my brow would often unconsciously furrow when I was with gays as thoughts would flash in my mind, 'What sinners I am amongst' or 'How unnatural these people are.' It takes too much energy to hate. Daniel Bao showed me that. He was our gay counselor at The Bridge when I was a freshman."

WHITE HOUSE FACES CRITICISM FOR LACK OF DIVERSITY. ABC's Mary Bruce reports: With the naming of Jack Lew for secretary of the treasury, President Obama has now nominated four men to key Cabinet posts since his re-election, causing some to criticize the administration for a lack of diversity. … Rep Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., said it was "embarrassing as hell" that the Obama administration is under fire for its lack of diversity. "We've been through all of this with Mitt Romney. And we were very hard on Mitt Romney with his 'women binder' and a variety of things. And I kind of think there's no excuse when it's the second term," he said on MSNBC. Criticism for Obama's boys' club was further fueled by The New York Times' decision to run on its front page a Dec. 29 photo showing the president meeting with a group of all-male senior advisors. Well, almost all-male; the paper did report in the caption that Valerie Jarrett's leg was visible behind one of the men.

LIFETIME SECRET SERVICE REINSTATED FOR OBAMA, BUSH. ABC's Ann Compton reports: As a cost savings, Congress had ended lifetime security details for former presidents, cutting off Secret Service protection 10 years after a president leaves office. But in the post-9/11 world Congress decided that former chief executives may still be vulnerable and need protection. President Obama has now signed the repeal. HR. 6620, the "Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012," also gives Secret Service protection to former First Ladies and guarantees agents will continue to shadow children of former Presidents until they become 16 years of age.

RICHARD HAASS: FISCAL CLIFFF HURTS U.S. ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE. Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass answered eight questions for "This Week," ABC's Benjamin Bell reports. On whether a failure to reach a quicker fiscal-cliff deal hurts America on the international stage: "The short answer is yes. The obvious inability of the American political system to deal with the structural challenge of growing indebtedness dilutes the appeal of the American political and economic model and, more fundamentally, of democracy and capitalism. It makes other countries and societies less likely to follow either the lead of Washington or its example. It also leaves the United States vulnerable to the vagaries of markets and the agendas of central bankers. And it could mean that the country will not have the resources required to lead and act effectively in the world."

SOUTH CAROLINA TEACHER COULD LOSE JOB OVER FLAG STOMPING. ABC's Jilian Fama reports: Scott Compton, a South Carolina high school teacher, is facing possible dismissal by his school board for stomping on an American flag in three of his classes last month. Compton, who teaches honors English at Chapin High School, has been with the school for seven years, but the tenure of his job is now in question as the Lexington-Richland 5 school board will decide whether or not to dismiss the teacher for his actions. Michael Copeland, the father of one of Compton's students, told local WIS-TV News that he heard about what had happened from his daughter. "He drew a couple of symbols, like one of them was a cross, and he said, 'What does this represent?' and everybody said, 'Christianity,'" said Copeland. "Then he proceeds to take down the American flag, and said, 'This is a symbol, but it's only a piece of cloth. It doesn't mean anything,' and then he throws it down on the floor and then stomps on it, repeatedly."

BIDEN CONSULTS THE VIDEO-GAME INDUSTRY. AP's Julie Pace and Erica Werner report: "Looking for broader remedies to gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden is reaching out to the video game industry for ideas as the White House seeks to assemble proposals in response to last month's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Biden is scheduled to meet with video game representatives Friday as the White House explores cultural factors that may contribute to violent behavior. The vice president, who is leading a task force that will present recommendations to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, met with other representatives from the entertainment industry, including Comcast Corp. and the Motion Picture Association of America, on Thursday."


@guycecil: RT @asmith83: Great stuff from @kackleyz on the tension between Republicans and biz groups on the fiscal cliff deal

@markknoller: NRA came away fuming after its session with VP Biden yesterday. Sees Biden meetings as political cover to recommend more gun controls.

@evanmc_s: why gun control advocates want to be called "gun safety" advocates now: …

@ZekeJMiller: To Stabilize the Debt, Policymakers Should Seek Another $1.4T in Deficit Savings - Center on Budget & Policy Priorities …

@ron_fournier: Make her day ->RT @JillDLawrence: Six followers away from the magic 5,000. Come on people, make my day.

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