By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- OBAMA HEADS TO THE SHORE: This morning President Obama travels to New Jersey where he will have a firsthand look at the recovery and rebuilding efforts along the Jersey Shore six months after Hurricane Sandy hit, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. With Gov. Chris Christie in tow, he will meet with families and business owners affected by the storm and highlight rebuilding efforts. At 1:30 p.m. ET, the president will deliver remarks at Asbury Park, N.J. (Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono will also be at this event). While the president is in New Jersey, First Lady Michelle Obama will host children affected by Hurricane Sandy to harvest the White House Kitchen Garden.
- THE BACKDROP: “For Obama, the tour helps him continue redirecting the political conversation after two weeks of dealing with the fallout over the administration’s response to terror attacks last September in Benghazi, Libya, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department’s review of journalist phone records as part of a leak investigation,” the Associated Press’ Jim Kuhnhenn reports. “For Christie, the president’s appearance is yet another way to showcase his beloved Jersey Shore. The Republican has been touting it throughout the Memorial Day weekend as a destination point that is back in business and he broke a Guinness World record Friday by cutting a 5.5 mile ceremonial ribbon that symbolically tied together some of the hardest-hit towns by Sandy. The state has a $25 million marketing campaign to highlight the shore’s resurgence in time for the summer season.” http://bit.ly/12dCC6C
- ALSO ON THE AGENDA: Upon returning to the White House this afternoon, President Obama will meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at 4:30 p.m. ET. Afterward, the president will deliver remarks at the AAPI Heritage Month Celebration in the East Room. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden continues his South American jaunt. In the morning he meets with President Carmona in Trinidad and Tobago and holds separate meetings with a number of prime ministers and senior officials from the Caribbean region. He will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil tonight.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: It wouldn’t be a Chris Christie public event if it didn’t have some subtext. Gov. Christie reunites with President Obama today, at Christie’s beloved Jersey shore, to kick off summer – along with a new round of speculation about what it means for Christie’s fortunes. Like so much with the New Jersey governor, his strengths are potential weaknesses. His post-Sandy leadership is fueling the high poll numbers that leave him a virtual shoo-in for reelection in his blue home state this fall. So another Obama visit can’t hurt, particularly in the service of the tourism industry. And yet, another round of pictures of Christie and Obama will last well beyond 2013. Today, they can smile – two politicians whose interests align, at least for now.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The president heads to the Jersey Shore today to see recovery and rebuilding efforts six months after the storm hit and right after the Memorial Day weekend, which officially marks the start of the summer season. He will meet with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie which will bring up comparisons from when President Obama visited just days after Superstorm hit, standing next to Christie before the November presidential election. But, this time the photos can only help him…at least in the short term. Christie is already beating his opponent: Democratic state senator Barbara Buono by a wide margin, but the photos of Christie with Obama in this blue state can only help. Buono too will meet with Obama, something that may help her as well, but she does have a steep mountain to climb. The most recent poll, an NBC News/Marist from earlier this month has Christie beating Buono by 32 points 59 percent to 27 percent. But, long term both sets of those buddy-buddy photos are sure to be used by an opponent if Christie decides to run for president. It’s something he may not be thinking of today as he prepares to meet with the president at the shore, but his opponents may be.
ABC’s TOM SHINE: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he wants to see how military forces in other countries deal with sexual assaults. He can start by talking to Yehudit Grisaro, former Brigadier General, now retired after 26 years in the Israeli Defense Forces. When asked by Nick Hopkins of the Guardian newspaper whether she was ever sexually harassed during her service, the former adviser on women’s issues to the army chief of staff, said, “I don’t know if there were men brave enough to take the chance. This is not an issue in the IDF.” Fifty percent of its officers are female, and she says that makes a huge difference. She goes on to say that one third of the force is female and 92% of all positions in the IDF are open to women. “The men in the IDF are educated and aware about the issues of sexual harassment, so it is not a phenomenon. I used to say that the most sophisticated weapon against sexual harassment was improving the awareness of men. The majority of soldiers know the rules and recognize the contribution of women,” she told the Guardian.
REPUBLICAN PARTY TAPS NEW HISPANIC OUTREACH DIRECTOR. The Republican National Committee is tapping veteran GOP strategist Jennifer Sevilla Korn to lead the party’s effort to become competitive again with Latino voters, reports FUSION’s JORDAN FABIAN. Korn will hold the titles Deputy Political Director and National Field Director for Hispanic Initiatives. Her selection comes as the GOP is looking for ways to rebuild its credibility with Latino voters after taking a shellacking in the 2012 presidential election, when President Obama won over seven in ten Latino votes. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that Korn “will play a key role in directing our Hispanic engagement efforts to ensure that Republicans are building new relationships in the Hispanic community.” The GOP’s failure to attract more non-white voters has become more magnified as the nation’s electorate grows more racially and ethnically diverse. The RNC commissioned a 97-page post-election autopsy report this year, which acknowledged that the party has alienated some of the fastest-growing voter groups in the country: African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. The party has launched a project to spend $10 million on outreach to these voters. http://abcn.ws/17lIpsw
HER RESUME: Korn served as Hispanic vote director on George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, the last Republican presidential bid that attracted enough Latino voters, 40 percent, to win an election. She also worked in the Bush White House as director of Hispanic and women’s affairs. During the 2012 election, Korn worked as executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, an offshoot of the center-right political group American Action Network.
MCCAIN SLIPS INTO SYRIA. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., crossed the Syrian border to meet with rebel forces yesterday, ABC News has confirmed. McCain, one of the strongest critics of President Obama’s handling of the bloody two-year old conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria since the civil war began, notes ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP. The trip was first reported by The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin. McCain traveled across the border from Turkey to Syria with Gen. Salem Idris, leader of the rebel forces known as the Supreme Military Command. Idris has become the principal interlocutor between the international community and the highly localized Syrian rebel movement. http://abcn.ws/12cX0Vv
WHAT HAPPENED: ABC News confirmed that in meetings with rebel forces during McCain’s several-hour visit to Syria, rebel leaders called for more support from the U.S., including assistance in the form of heavy arms, airstrikes against the Syrian national army, and the enforcement of a no-fly zone. McCain has also called for the administration to enforce a no-fly zone and provide additional assistance to the Syrian rebels. WATCH ABC’s Jonathan Karl on “Good Morning America” today taking a closer look at Sen. McCain’s trip to Syria: http://abcn.ws/13fke95
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: NEBRASKA GOVERNOR TAKES A PASS ON SENATE BID. Being a U.S. senator is not as attractive as it used to be. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska said over the wekeend he would not be a candidate for the Senate seat in his state that will become vacant next year because Sen. Mike Johanns is not running for a second term, ABC’s JEFF ZELENY reports. “After careful consideration of all of the issues involved in a race for the United States Senate, I have decided to keep my focus on being the best governor that I can for the citizens of Nebraska,” Heineman said in a letter to his supporters. “Every day, I enjoy the challenges and opportunities of being the governor of the best state in America.” Heineman, a popular Republican governor who could have almost certainly waltzed to victory in 2014, is the latest in a string of prominent elected officials who are taking a pass on running for the Senate. Several veteran incumbent senators have also announced their retirements, with some saying they are frustrated by the dysfunction in Washington. Senate Republican leaders in Washington have spent months trying to persuade Heineman to run. While there is little danger that the seat could slip into Democratic hands in the deeply-conservative state, there is no room for error in the GOP’s quest to win control of the Senate next year. http://abcn.ws/18qqIoF
REESE WITHERSPOON OR SCARLETT JOHANSSON AS HILLARY CLINTON? An upcoming movie about the law school years of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is drawing interest from a roster of A-list actresses, according to one report. ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes that The Independent reports that the movie, “Rodham,” which is due out in 2016, has attracted a bevy of actresses interested in playing the 26-year old Clinton, including Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson. “They’re all wonderful actresses. We’re very fortunate that a lot of really great actors are interested in playing these roles. We’re in an enviable position,” “Rodham” director James Ponstoldt told the Independent. The film recounts Clinton’s days as a promising law school student at Yale Law School in the 1970s. Some of the film’s more risqué elements, including its depiction of the burgeoning relationship between Clinton and a young University of Arkansas Assistant Law Professor Bill Clinton emerged when a copy of the screenplay was obtained by the Daily Beast earlier this month. http://abcn.ws/12cEgp3
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX:
REPUBLICANS RELEASE NEW MEMO: ‘DNC’S DENIALS AND DESPERATION’. An excerpt of a memo from Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer: “Some of you have already read DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse’s desperate fundraising plea from Friday in which he actually accused Republicans of ‘making up so-called ‘scandals’ out of thin air.’ I don’t need to tell you all how bizarre that statement is. You’ve spent the last weeks covering the events embroiling the White House — the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, the Justice Department’s monitoring of reporters, and the White House’s changing story on Benghazi. Whatever one thinks of these scandals, they’re not ‘made up.’ The IRS admitted to actions they previously denied. Some of you know firsthand the effects of the Justice Department’s snooping. And in Benghazi, four Americans lost their lives. The DNC is either in denial or desperate. I’m not sure which is worse: pretending the gross incompetence and unaccountability displayed by the federal government is a farce, or attempting to distort these serious scandals for the sake of monetary gain.” http://bit.ly/10ZFU66
@mviser: In today’s Globe: Kerry at the center of lobbying efforts as he weighs decision on controversial Keystone pipeline. http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2013/05/27/secretary-state-john-kerry-under-siege-from-all-sides-faces-keystone-pipeline-decision/4IgnkoPPF0wnQtVzAJpEHL/story.html …
@rickklein: next step in #IRS scandal – politics playing vs. House Dems, @chris_moody reports http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/embattled-irs-makes-debut-house-gop-attack-ads-112054152.html …
@ron_fournier: “Right-wingers should be demanding that Obama carry out the promises of his speech, rather than demonizing them.” http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/what-if-the-next-president-is-even-worse-20130528 …
@SalenaZitoTrib: great read–> @instapundit: My USA Today column: Helping Politicians Feel Our Pain. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/05/27/irs-benghazi-scandal-politicians-column/2363901/ …