- EXCLUSIVE: GABBY GIFFORDS, MARK KELLY LAUNCH GUN-CONTROL GROUP. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly spoke exclusively to “ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer about an important new initiative they are launching called “Americans for Responsible Solutions.” ABC’s Alyssa Newcomb reports that the first change the couple hopes to enact is to require a comprehensive background check for the private sale of firearms. “I bought a gun at Walmart recently and I went through a background check. It’s not a difficult thing to do,” Kelly said. “Why can’t we just do that and make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to get guns?” Kelly, a recreational hunter, said he doesn’t believe an extended magazine is necessary for the sport. “An extended magazine is used to kill people,” he said, “lots of people.” Finally, the couple hopes to address the issue of how the mentally ill are treated in the United States. Kelly said, “We have to learn how to identify these people and get them treatment. And we don’t do a very good job at that.” The full interview airs tonight on “World News” – two years to the day after Giffords was shot in a Safeway parking lot in Tucson, Arizona. READ: http://abcn.ws/VPYhbT WATCH: http://abcn.ws/ShKe3a PHOTO: http://abcn.ws/VIeMtE
- MORE ON THEIR NEW EFFORT: The couple writes, in a USA Today Op-Ed: “In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary–nothing at all. I was shot in the head while meeting with constituents two years ago today. … Special interests purporting to represent gun owners but really advancing the interests of an ideological fringe have used big money and influence to cow Congress into submission. … Americans for Responsible Solutions, which we are launching today, will invite people from around the country to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention, will raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what’s right.” http://usat.ly/UDJN3P
- UPDATE ON GIFFORDS’ RECOVERY: In their interview with Diane Sawyer, Giffords herself, acknowledges that while she has made a remarkable recovery since the Jan. 2011 shooting, she still has a long way to go. “Physical therapy, yoga, speech therapy,” she said. Giffords also has a new companion, a service-dog named Nelson. The former congresswoman, who loved being active outdoors before the shootings, has been able to slowly ease back into some of her favorite activities. She’s been able to ride a horse and hopes to take a bike ride soon with Kelly on a tandem bike he is getting modified.
- BLOOMBERG WORKING WITH BIDEN’S GUN TASK FORCE. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the country’s most outspoken proponent of new gun laws, told reporters today his office is advising Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control legislation. “We sent some of our people down to Washington, and we had some people on the phone to give Joe Biden our ideas,” Bloomberg said at a press conference in New York City this morning. A spokesman for Bloomberg confirmed the New York City mayor has spoken with Biden about gun legislation since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Bloomberg is promoting a number of legislative and executive initiatives to develop new gun laws. He is calling for legislation that would require criminal background checks on all gun sales, limit high capacity magazines and “military style assault” weapons, and make gun trafficking a felony. http://abcn.ws/Zz85NH
In the tug-of-war over the fiscal cliff both sides had to find room to compromise, but in the first ABC News-Washington Post poll since the deal was struck, President Obama appears to be winning the war for public opinion.
Overall, 52 percent of Americans said they approve of the president’s handling of the negotiations to avert the cliff, compared to 37 percent who disapprove. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner’s ratings are upside down, with 31 percent approving of his performance on the cliff talks and 51 percent disapproving.
“Boehner lacks majority approval for his work on the fiscal cliff talks from any group,” notes ABC News polling analyst Greg Holyk. “And while Obama breaks even on intensity of sentiment, strong approval of Boehner’s performance falls to the single digits.”
Of the deal itself — which raised income tax rates on wealthy Americans but put off some tough choices on other fiscal matters for just a matter of months — 45 percent in today’s ABC News-Washington Post poll said they approve of the agreement while 38 percent disapprove. Another 17 percent of Americans remain undecided.
More findings from the poll:
–Among Democrats, 81 percent approve of President Obama’s handling of the talks, including 44 percent who approve “strongly.”
–Among Republicans, Speaker Boehner received 38 percent approval overall, and just 10 percent strong approval.
–Political independents split about evenly on the deal itself (40 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove and 16 percent don’t know) and on Obama’s handling of negotiations, but most (52 percent) disapprove of Boehner’s performance.
Full ABC News-Washington Post poll results: http://abcn.ws/U0nCRI
ABC’s AMY WALTER: For those of us who are true political junkies, Richard Ben Cramer’s tome on the election of 1988, “What It Takes’, is our bible. Unlike political journalism of today, however, it focused more on the profiles of the men who wanted to be president and less on the process of campaigning. Cramer dug into their past, tracking their childhood scars and successes and reminding us of the humanity involved in this sometimes dehumanizing experience.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: You can’t understand Chuck Hagel or John Kerry without understanding Vietnam. And you can’t understand President Obama’s foreign policy and national security mission for his second term without understanding what Vietnam means to the two men who will (Senate-willing) be the most prominent parts of his team. It’s not just the vision of Hagel and Kerry that the president is seeking — it’s their credibility during a time of winding down wars, downsizing the military, and confronting new threats in what all three men hope will be non-traditional ways. That will be the clear subtext in confirmation hearings, particularly Hagel’s, as Obama turns to two former colleagues for backup on Defense.
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX:
–INAUGURATION UPDATE: The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced today that Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, has been selected to deliver the invocation and Rev. Louie Giglio, the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, has been selected to deliver the benediction at the Inaugural swearing-in ceremony of President Obama and Vice President Biden on Jan. 21. “Vice President Biden and I are honored that Myrlie Evers-Williams and Rev. Louie Giglio will participate in the Inaugural ceremony,” President Obama said today. “Their voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond. Their careers reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans – justice, equality, and opportunity.”
with ABC’s Chris Good (@c_good)
CHUCK HAGEL PUSHBACK: GROUPS SAY HE’S ANTI ISRAEL, ANTI GAY. Now that President Obama has announced Hagel as his pick despite all the backlash against him, pushback from Israel and gay groups has begun anew. The Bill-Kristol-counded Emergency Committee for Israel posted a new website attacking Hagel — www.chuckhagel.com. The Anti-Defamation League, a group founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism, doesn’t sound too excited. The group’s president, Abraham Foxman, released a statement that read, in part: “I trust that the confirmation process will provide an opportunity for Senator Hagel to address concerns about his positions, which seem so out of sync with President Obama’s clear commitment on issues like Iran sanctions, isolating Hamas and Hezbollah and the president’s strong support for a deepening of U.S. Israel strategic cooperation. I particularly hope Senator Hagel will clarify and explain his comments about the ‘Jewish Lobby’ that were hurtful to many in the Jewish Community.” Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay comment about an ambassadorial nominee hasn’t faded, either. The gay GOP group Lob Cabin Republicans took out a full-page A7 ad in today’s Washington Post, surfacing a timeline of Hagel’s anti-gay record. http://abcn.ws/Wp4afs
HAGEL: REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS REACT. The new Cabinet nominee has his supporters, detractors, and those in the middle. Colin Powell: “”I wholeheartedly endorse President Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense.” Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer: “Chuck Hagel, as a former colleague and a patriot with a decorated service record, has earned the right to nothing less than a full and fair process in the Senate. I look forward to fully studying his record and exploring his views.” GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: “Senator Chuck Hagel is the wrong man for the job at such a pivotal time.” http://abcn.ws/ZzhXqT
KARZAI TO THE WHITE HOUSE. With the U.S. withdrawing troops from Afghanistan on its 2014 timeline, Afgha president Hamid Karzai will come to the White House on Friday. The White House announcement, via ABC’s Devin Dwyer: “President Obama will host President Hamid Karzai and his delegation at the White House for bilateral meetings on Friday, January 11. President Obama 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.”
JOHN BRENNAN TO FACE QUESTIONS ON INTERROGATION. The Hill’s Carlo Munoz reports: President Obama’s pick to head the CIA could face a rough road to confirmation in the Senate due to his involvement in the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques of the George W. Bush administration. The president on Monday announced he would nominate John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism chief, to lead the top spy agency following the recent departure of David Petraeus. … Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he has ‘many questions and concerns’ about Brennan’s role in overseeing the interrogation programs, ‘as well as his public defense of those programs. I plan to examine this aspect of Mr. Brennan’s record very closely as I consider his nomination,’ said McCain in a statement Monday.” http://bit.ly/VQdg5K
FIRST CONTESTED GOP PRIMARY SHAPES UP. Via National Review’s Jim Geraghty, the Elk Valley Times reports: “Jim Tracy, who currently represents state senatorial district 14, announced his candidacy for Congress Wednesday at the famed Reeves-Sain Pharmacy in Murfreesboro. Tracy, a small business owner and conservative state senator, said he was running for Congress because government is both financially and morally bankrupt, and in order to get America back on the right track, the country needs leaders of character and integrity with a core belief in conservative principles serving in Congress. ‘I am running for Congress because our government is broken–morally and financially,’ said Tracy (Rep., Shelbyville). ‘I am a conservative in word and deed. I have lived my life both personally and professionally in a way that is consistent with my core conservative values.’ … Tracy will face incumbent Dr. Scott DesJarlais in the August 2014 primary.”http://bit.ly/XI6AMN
CLINTON BACK TO WORK, PLANS TO TESTIFY. The LA Times’ Morgal Little reports: “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to work Monday, following a lengthy absence caused by a series of health-related concerns.Clinton will be leaving her post shortly, with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) expected to take her place. But before that happens, the State Department confirmed that she intends to testify on the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, as the sitting secretary. ‘The expectation is that the sequence will work out such that she’ll be able to testify,’ State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Monday, emphasizing that Clinton’s testimony will be delivered ‘while she is still sitting secretary of State.’” http://bit.ly/XI6AMN
@RonBrownstein: We will all remember the great Richard Ben Cramer who raised campaign reporting to a literary level never again equaled, not even close. RIP
@NKingofDC: Yep, “What It Takes” still awes. But Richard Ben Cramer also wrote one of the best baseball stories ever and won his Pulitzer overseas. Wow.
@GarrettNBCNews: When I got the embed job I was told to read “What It Takes,” and if I didn’t love it, quit. A true classic. RIP Richard Ben Cramer
@GovernorOMalley: I’m deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Richard Ben Cramer. He was a great American, great Marylander & a dear friend.