Is Iran On Obama’s Diplomatic Dance Card?

Sep 24, 2013 8:53am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • TO MEET OR NOT TO MEET: Just after 10 a.m. ET this morning, President Obama will deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly that will attempt to reframe the U.S. approach to “Arab Spring” after a tumultuous year in the Middle East and North Africa, according to administration officials. Syria and Iran will figure prominently. ABC’s DEVIN DWYER reports that Obama will call for a United Nations Security Council resolution on chemical weapons that has bite. And despite diplomatic overtures with Iran, he’ll hail the success of sanctions and reiterate a red line on nukes. The day’s big wild card: Will Obama have an encounter with Iran’s new President Hasaan Rouhani? The most likely setting would be a UN luncheon both presidents will be attending. But a senior White House official tells ABC’s JONATHAN KARL that the luncheon is not the only place where a Rouhani-Obama encounter could take place today.
  • MEANWHILE: The Obama administration quietly announced yesterday that Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in New York — a meeting that would be the highest-level contact between the two governments on the nuclear issue, ABC’s DANA HUGHES notes. The State Department said the meeting will take place Thursday. One senior State Department official called the meeting an opportunity for the Iranians to give the U.S. “a sense of their level of seriousness and whether they are coming with concrete new proposals and whether this charm offensive actually has substance to it.” http://abcn.ws/19uqufL
  • SKEPTICISM FROM THE ISRAELIS: The Israeli ambassador to the United States has doubts that possible diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Iran will bring real progress. “Diplomacy is good, but only if brings about results,” Ambassador Michael Oren told ABC’s MARTHA RADDATZ. “We get the impression that they want to spin out for more time,” Oren said. “He himself [Rouhani] has lied in the past. He actually wrote a memoir bragging about how he lied to the West; he smiled at the West and installed centrifuges.” Oren acknowledged that Iran’s seemingly renewed willingness for diplomatic engagement coupled with a war-weary American public make for a certain sort of nightmare for Israel, which relies on its military alliance with the U.S. “It is a situation we have faced under previous administrations too,” Oren said. “President Obama has stated repeatedly that he understands that Iran with a nuclear weapon poses an existential threat to Israel, that he is committed to Israel’s security and that Israel has a right to defend itself.” http://yhoo.it/16nPbOI

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Is “Stand with Ted” far behind? Sen. Ted Cruz may be lonely this week, a week that seems certain to turn out badly for both his desired outcomes and his on-the-fly legislative tactics. But that doesn’t make him unpopular — outside the corridors of the Capitol, that is. To a dedicated, motivated cohort of the country, there’s no real political downside to standing up against Obamacare, President Obama, or just about anything (everything?) the federal government does. This is why Cruz is a disruptive force inside the Senate — not because he’s not a friendly guy or because college classmates thought he was pompous, but because he represents an uncomfortable truth inside the Republican Party right now. Cruz will fail inside Washington, and even Republicans have dropped niceties when it comes to making that known. But who thinks Cruz’s base will judge the failure to be Cruz’s?

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to not support Ted Cruz’s filibuster attempt this week is significant. But the smart money on a government shutdown? It’s still possible, but if so, probably only for a day or two. Here’s why: The Senate clock ticks slowly, so unless both sides decide to speed up the debate, the final votes on the budget bill may not come until next Sunday, which gives the House only a day to deal with it. If Speaker Boehner wants to volley a Plan B option back to the Senate, we could go through the motions of a shutdown, but it would likely be resolved quickly. If House Republicans double down — and Democrats don’t decide to help in pass the bill — it could go on far longer.

ABC’s DEVIN DWYER: Today in New York, the full spectrum of President Obama’s prospective legacy will be on display. At the U.N., Obama will use his address to advance what could be historic achievements in foreign policy: A deal to neutralize Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, healthy peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians and a thaw in relations with Iran. A handshake between Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rounahi would be a symbolic milestone for years to come. Later, Obama will spend an hour in the spotlight campaigning for his signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.  He’ll share the stage with former President Bill Clinton for what the White House calls an “enthusiastic and candid” discussion on the impact the law will have. Then, to cap off the day, Obama will attend his 20th Democratic fundraiser of the year, further solidifying his place as the fundraiser-in-chief.

ABC’s MICHAEL FALCONE: With just over three weeks to go until Election Day in New Jersey’s U.S. Senate special election, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is getting a rude awakening today. A brand-new Quinnipiac University poll shows Republican challenger Steve Lonegan “closing in” on Booker, who has been considered the runaway favorite to fill the seat left vacant by the death of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg back in June. In Quinnipiac’s first survey of likely voters, Booker leads Lonegan, 53 to 41 percent. Still, a 12-point lead isn’t too shabby, and Booker has a significant lead among women (60 percent to 34 percent). But 5 percent of likely voters said they are undecided and another 5 percent said there is a “good chance” they could change their mind between now and the Oct. 16 election. And although it’s an apples to oranges comparison, Booker was holding onto a 25 point lead over Lonegan among registered voters in an early August poll. “Maybe,” Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carroll noted, “that ‘show horse vs. work horse’ charge from Republican Steve Lonegan is having an impact.”

ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: GOP contenders for U.S. Senate are almost all in agreement when it comes to defunding Obamacare, even if the government does shut down — but not everyone. In Alaska there is a difference. Alaska tea party candidate Joe Miller supports the push, but Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell thinks a government shutdown goes too far. “Mead fully supports any attempt to defund and repeal Obamacare, but shutting down the government is not a good idea,” Treadwell’s communications director Rick Gorka told ABC News. And while Democrats are going to try to use it as a 2014 campaign issue some Republicans think it won’t work. GOP strategist Brian Donahue tells ABC News “The negative feelings towards government shutdown are very short lived. … It might satisfy a few nights’ coverage on the news, but it always gets solved and it’s not on people’s radars months later.” And Mary Ann Marsh, a Democratic strategist says it will only work politically if “people are reminded of it every single day and if it is personal.” Marsh said a government shutdown might not change the balance of power in the Senate or have any effect on GOP primaries, but the House could flip to the Democrats if there is a shutdown. “In terms of the general election, in the 17 (House) seats (a government shutdown) could be the difference in the Democrats getting the seats back or the Republicans keeping the House,” Marsh said.

 

BUZZ

SHUTDOWN COUNTDOWN: 6 DAYS TO GO.

By ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY

http://abcn.ws/17Z5oXM

–WHERE THINGS STAND:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced the continuing resolution in the Senate on Monday afternoon. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Reid to consider two procedural maneuvers: The first was to unanimously agree to pass the House-approved resolution, which removes funding for Obamacare, and the second was to require a 60-vote threshold for any amendments. Reid objected to both requests and later in the day filed cloture on the motion to proceed, setting up the first filibuster vote for Wednesday.

–WHO’S SAYING WHAT: After Reid shot down his requests, Cruz tried to turn the tables on Reid, arguing that the majority leader’s objections were what’s pushing the government closer to a shutdown. “Five minutes ago, the Senate could have acted to prevent a government shutdown,” Cruz said Monday. “But unfortunately, the majority leader chose to object and to say no.  He would rather risk a government shutdown than act to prevent it.” And Cruz warned his Republican colleagues that a vote in favor of cloture “will be voting to allow the majority leader to fund Obamacare on 51 votes.” But shortly after Cruz tried to rally his Republican colleagues to vote against cloture, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that McConnell would not support Cruz’s filibuster push.  Instead, the Kentucky Republican, along with the Senate’s No. 2 Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said they would not block a bill that would defund Obamacare. Translation: They will vote in favor of cloture, since they support the House resolution, but they’ll ultimately vote against the final Senate amended resolution.

–WHERE THINGS ARE HEADING: Let’s just say it’s going to be a long week in the Senate. Cruz has vowed to use every procedural measure available to him, including a filibuster, to try to keep the Senate from stripping the defund Obamacare language from the CR, so it is expected that this vote will go down to the wire.  Cruz plans to speak on the Senate floor this afternoon and could lay out his plans moving forward. The first test vote on the continuing resolution will be a vote on cloture on the motion to proceed on Wednesday morning.

WILL A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN HURT AMBITIOUS HOUSE REPUBLICANS? There are several Republican members of the House working to get themselves promoted to the Senate and they are speaking with one voice on the GOP’s threat of a government shutdown if Obamacare is not defunded, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. At least six House Republicans who are likely or definitely running for Senate are backing the GOP push. They all voted Friday for a House continuing resolution to fund the government through mid-December while defunding the Affordable Care Act. But when it comes to the general election, could their willingness to threaten a government shutdown hurt them, even in red states? Democrats hope so. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched a website to point out the possible effects of a government shutdown, and to blame Republicans for the “looming shutdown” that “would have a devastating impact on the country.” “Republican leaders have embraced the Tea Party’s ultimatum that Obamacare must be destroyed at all costs,” the website says. “Shutting down the government is a reckless and dangerous way to run the country and Republicans who support it include virtually every Senate candidate in the country,” DSCC national press secretary Justin Barasky said. http://abcn.ws/18S1bIu

BIDEN SAYS AID WILL FLOW TO FLOOD ZONE EVEN IF GOVERNMENT SHUTTERS. Vice President Joe Biden yesterday reassured victims of Colorado’s recent floods that a looming federal government shutdown would not interrupt the federal aid for recovery and rebuilding efforts, according to ABC’s DEVIN DWYER. The idea of a shutdown is “probably going to scare the living devil out of you,” Biden said. “You have reason to be scared, but not in terms of disaster relief. None of it is going to be impacted.” If Congress does not pass a funding measure in the next eight days, the federal government will shutdown effective Oct. 1. It would shutter some government services and likely delay distribution of benefit payments, but not stop them outright.  Republicans and Democrats remain at impasse over a compromise bill and whether funding for Obamacare should be included. “I don’t want people to see the dysfunction of Congress and thinking all the relief efforts are going to shut down,” Biden added. “They will not shut down even if the Congress doesn’t fund the federal government with a continuing resolution.” http://abcn.ws/1aj4HZA

HILLARY CLINTON ‘IN NO HURRY’ ON 2016. Hillary Clinton’s first major print interview since leaving the Obama administration seven months ago leaves two inescapable impressions: She is running in 2016, and this campaign won’t look anything like her failed 2008 run, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes. The former secretary of state’s official line in her interview with New York magazine was that she’s happily enjoying her unofficial life, even as she casually mulls the prospect of a presidential run. “I’m not in any hurry,” she told the magazine. “I think it’s a serious decision, not to be made lightly, but it’s also not one that has to be made soon.” At the same time, however, her aides suggest in the article, “Hillary in Midair,” that a 2016 presidential run is going to feature a more organized, less stodgy Clinton than the candidate who came just shy of the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.Clinton, they say, has learned from her mistakes, and will bring a sense of discipline to a presidential run that her 2008 campaign lacked. The former first lady and New York senator insists that she’s in no hurry to make a decision, although Clinton acknowledges that she’s seriously mulling a run. http://abcn.ws/15mGHXt

–BILL CLINTON ON BEING A CLINTON:  Former President Bill Clinton says he and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are “not nearly as political as everyone thinks we are.” In an interview with PBS News Hour on Monday, the former president downplayed his Hillary’s consideration of a run for the White House, which she confirmed publicly this week in New York Magazine, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. “We don’t sit around all the time talking about this.  We swim in the late afternoon every day.  And if either one of us even mentions a political topic we will stop the other one and just talk about the weather or whatever.”

–NOTED: This evening President Obama takes part in what the White House is calling an “enthusiastic and candid” hour-long conversation with former President Bill Clinton on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative.  Hillary Clinton will introduce both presidents.

OBAMA’S SECRET WEAPON AGAINST CIGS: FEAR OF THE FIRST LADY. President Obama may keep his nicotine gum handy in his fight to quit smoking, but it seems he’s got an even more potent weapon: fear of the first lady, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER writes. After his afternoon U.N. roundtable discussion on civil society yesterday, Obama was caught by an open mic speaking with an attendee about his progress kicking his addiction to smoking. “I hope you quit smoking,” Obama is heard telling Maina Kiai, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. “Sometimes,” Kiai replied with a chuckle. “I chew Nicorette,” Obama could be overheard telling Kiai, followed by an inaudible exchange. “No, no. I haven’t had a cigarette in probably six years,” Obama said. “I’m scared of my wife.” http://abcn.ws/19uSdwX

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

AFTER TEA PARTY CONTROVERSY, IRS OFFICIAL LOIS LERNER RETIRES. Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official at the center of a controversy over the tax agency’s targeting of tea party groups, will retire, according to Congressional sources. ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP reports that Lerner had been on paid administrative leave at the agency since May, after she acknowledged at an American Bar Association conference that the IRS inappropriately scrutinized conservative groups for years. As the director of the Exempt Organizations group, Lerner supervised the unit responsible for the targeting. But she infuriated Republican lawmakers by invoking her Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to testify at a Congressional hearing into the matter. Republican lawmakers, who have called for Lerner to be fired for months, said her retirement doesn’t put to rest questions about her involvement in the targeting controversy. “Lois Lerner’s exit from the IRS does not alter the Oversight Committee’s interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said in a statement. “We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress. http://abcn.ws/18Qfayg

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@billclinton: Two Bills, one selfie. Already having fun at #CGI2013 MT @BillGates A @billclinton selfie as we sat down to talk http://ow.ly/i/3ekGo 

@thehill: Cruz filibuster could leave House little time for response to Senate http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/324083-cruz-filibuster-could-leave-house-little-time-for-response … by @russellberman

@StevenTDennis: Sen Ron Johnson says there’s not enough public opposition to Obamacare to repeal/defund. Need supermajority. On @cspan

@HotlineJosh: In WaPo poll, Cuccinelli really underperforming with conservative independents. T-Mac wins 21% of cons, mostly from indy camp.

@JillDLawrence: “We got both the majority and the minority trying to create chaos”–Dick Armey. My latest @nationaljournal http://bit.ly/1fxLmb9 

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