By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- FRENCH CONNECTION: Today President Obama welcomes French President Hollande to Washington for a State Visit — the sixth of the Obama presidency. They will spend part of the day touring Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, one of the United States’ earliest envoys to France, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. Tomorrow the president and First Lady officially welcome Hollande with an arrival ceremony. Later, the two presidents have a bilateral meeting and press conference. That evening, the President and First Lady host a State Dinner for Hollande.
- INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE: The highlights of previous such affairs in the Obama era include Salahis, a few absurdly expensive bottle of wine, and one planned dinner that the Brazilian president called off because of the Snowden revelations, notes ABC’s RICK KLEIN. Whatever is on the menu, it will be a week of playing host for Obama: He will host King Abdullah II of Jordan Friday at Sunnylands in California – the same resort he met President Xi Jinping of China at last year.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: How far will Rand Paul go? The Kentucky senator’s readiness to joust with the Clintons, calling former President Bill Clinton an “unsavory character” and even a “sexual predator,” ensures that he will be asked to expand on his thoughts on the subject. It’s an easy way to draw a headline, and a slightly-less-easy way to distinguish Paul inside a muddled GOP 2016 field. It may even succeed, at some point, in drawing the Clinton camp out of its thick shell with a response. Paul, though, has already defined some of his limits: Asked about Hillary Clinton’s possible/likely candidacy, he told ABC Houston affiliate KTRK-TV that he considers her political ambitions a separate issue from her husband’s behavior.
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
MARCO RUBIO TO DELIVER ADDRESS ON COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will talk about making higher education in America more affordable and accessible in a speech this afternoon at Miami-Dade College. According to an aide to the senator: “Drawing on his own personal story (he still carried over $100,000 in student loans when he was sworn into the Senate), he will frame reforming higher education as a key to improving income mobility in America. Reforms that Rubio will propose include providing students better cost/benefit analysis of higher education programs, transitioning to an income-based repayment system for student loans, and dramatic new ways to access and pay for higher education, including major reforms to the current accreditation system. Monday’s speech follows a speech Rubio delivered on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty last month, where he proposed overhauling the federal government’s anti-poverty programs to also improve income mobility. ”Those with the right advanced education are making more than ever. But those that do not are falling farther and farther behind,” Rubio will say, according to prepared excerpts shared with The Note. “The result is a growing opportunity gap between haves and have-nots, those who have advanced education and those who do not. And if we do not reverse that trend, we will lose the upward mobility that made America exceptional.” The speech with livestream at 1:15pm ET: http://bit.ly/1loQsbz
HOUSE INTEL CHAIR PRAISES SOCHI SECURITY. Yesterday on “This Week” — only a few days after the start of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games — Republican Rep. Mike Rogers praised efforts by the Russian government to secure the site, but cited intelligence sharing between the United States and Russia as a point of weakness, notes ABC’s BEN BELL. “First of all the guards, gates, and guns portion of this is really unparalleled for an Olympic games, so the Russians have been very good about that physical security presence – an outer ring and then you have inner rings of security – so that what your reporter was discussing is the closest proximity, so you won’t see the big guards, gates, and guns,” Rogers, the House intelligence committee chair, said. “That gets pushed out.” Rogers also mentioned counter-terrorism operations aggressively pursuing leads, including “kicking in doors and taking people down in the way that they did in Dagestan. … Internationally the intelligence…is as good as I’ve seen it…the Brits are working with the French are working with the United States and everyone in between to try to find to try those pieces of intelligence that might help protect the games,” he said. “The one last weakness, and this was the tension between Russia and the United States, was that internal sharing of intelligence that we believe would be important.” http://abcn.ws/1iCS5RO
THIS WEEK REWIND: THE POWERHOUSE ROUNDTABLE with Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. Keith Ellison, S.E. Cupp, David Plouffe and ABC’s Jeff Zeleny on the week’s politics. http://abcn.ws/1fVXNhj
DID PETRAEUS ENDORSE HILLARY CLINTON? Among Republicans, there is no more popular general than David Petraeus, the commander credited for salvaging the Iraq war and the architect of the counter-insurgency strategy pursued by President Bush. Petraeus has always shied away from politics, but in a new book he is quoted lavishing so much praise on Hillary Clinton, he seems to be endorsing her as a candidate for President, ABC’s JONATHAN KARL. “She’d make a tremendous president,” Petraeus says in the new book “HRC” by Jonathan Allen and Aimee Parnes. And for Petraeus, Exhibit A in why she would be a tremendous president is the very thing for which Republicans most aggressively attack Clinton: her performance as Secretary of State when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked. “Like a lot of great leaders, her most impressive qualities were most visible during tough times,” Petraeus tells Allen and Parnes. “In the wake of the Benghazi attacks, for example, she was extraordinarily resolute, determined, and controlled.” Petraeus was director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time of the attacks, which killed four Americans, including two who worked for the CIA and the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. http://abcn.ws/1aKtDxT
MICHELLE OBAMA GETS ALL MOTHERLY ABOUT JUSTIN BIEBER. What would first lady Michelle Obama, a mother of two girls, do if she also had a son — or more to the point, a 19-year old international pop star with a penchant for fast cars, private jets and alcohol named Justin Bieber? “I would pull him close. You know, I don’t know if it would be advice as much as action,” Obama said in a recent interview with Univision Radio host Enrique Santos. “I would be very present in his life right now. And I would be probably with him a good chunk of the time, just there to talk, to figure out what’s going on in his head, to figure out who’s in his life and who’s not, you know.” And Obama is not the only one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. being asked to weigh in on Bieber’s case. A petition created on the White House’s “We the People” site calling for the government to deport Bieber and revoke his green card has garnered more than 250,000 signatures — far exceeding the 100,000 signature threshold to require an official response. http://abcn.ws/LIPeL2
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
FIVE MOST CRINGE-WORTHY BLUNDERS FROM OBAMA’S AMBASSADOR NOMINEES. President Obama’s A-list campaign fundraisers are turning out to be B-list ambassador nominees. Several of his nominees in recent weeks have had cringe-worthy moments in their confirmation hearings. And people are starting to take notice, notes ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP. Two nominees, who also happen to be top fundraisers for the president’s campaigns, stumbled in the same hearing last month by botching questions about the countries they were tapped to serve in. George Tsunis, a hotel magnate, was slammed in the Norwegian media for displaying a “total ignorance of Norway” in his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in January. And last week, Obama’s nominee to Argentina Noah Bryson Mamet, also a top Obama bundler, was caught admitting that he had never been to the country. Here are the most cringe-worthy moments from Obama’s nominees: http://abcn.ws/1fFnjVS
NOTED: WHAT DOES IT COST TO BE AN OBAMA AMBASSADOR? Upwards of a half a million dollars. That’s what more than half of President Obama’s second-term political appointments raised for his re-election campaign, according to data gathered from the American Foreign Service Association and the Center For Responsive Politics, ABC’s MARY BRUCE and JONATHAN KARL report. Rewarding donors and political allies with ambassadorships is nothing new, but Obama vowed to buck the tradition, promising shortly after he was elected to “have civil servants, wherever possible, serve in these posts.” “My expectation is that high quality civil servants are going to be rewarded,” he said in a January 2009 news conference. In fact, Obama has rewarded political supporters plum ambassadorships more than his predecessors. So far, 37 percent of Obama’s appointments have been political, compared to 30 percent under George W. Bush and 28 percent under Bill Clinton. In his second term, Obama has named more political than career appointments, 39 versus 36. Twenty of his political appointments raised more than $500,000 for his 2012 campaign. http://abcn.ws/1ccsEBr
–WHITE HOUSE WEIGHS IN: “Over the course of history, there have been many, many ambassadors who have come from outside of the career paths who’ve been very successful,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told ABC News. “There are many who have been very successful serving in these roles in countries around the world, and that’s part of the reason why this will continue.” http://abcn.ws/1ccsEBr
WHAT WE’RE READING
“KENTUCKY SEN. RAND PAUL TALKS ABOUT KEY U.S. ISSUES, POLITICAL FUTURE,” by KTRK’s TOM ABRAHAMS. “In a brief but wide-ranging interview with Eyewitness News, Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said he keeps talking about the Clintons because people keep asking him about it. Paul, has called President Bill Clinton a ‘sexual predator’ and an ‘unsavory character’ in previous interviews. He said that it’s hypocritical of Democrats to accuse Republicans of being insensitive to women’s rights when a leading fundraiser for the party and its candidates preyed on a 20-year-old woman. The reference was to the former President’s acknowledged sexual indiscretion with then 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky in 1998. ‘I just don’t think it’s acceptable,’ he said, ‘and frankly I think they lose any kind of moral ground they think they have to beat up Republicans.’ He said, however, when asked if Bill Clinton’s behavior should preclude Hillary Clinton from running for president in 2016, that the two are separate issues. … When asked if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should remain the chair of the Republican Governor’s Association in light of the so-called Bridgegate scandal, Paul said it’s not for him to judge. But he did say, ‘It’s important that people think that their government not be used to bully them. So for example, one of the things that conservatives have been upset with President Obama is that it looked like he was using the IRS to target taxpayer groups. Nobody wants to think their government would shut down a bridge or do something just because you’re a Democrat and I’m a Republican. It’s an unsettling charge. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s unsettling.’” http://bit.ly/1iNPhku
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
MEET SHANE OSBORN: FROM CHINESE PRISONER TO U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE. ABC’s JEFF ZELENY sat down with Shane Osborn, who was the pilot of the US military plane that was forced down in China in 2001 – and is now running for a Senate seat from Nebraska. The Nebraska Republican says being a captive helped to prepare him for politics. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1fSHO1j
@jonkarl: My review of “HRC” by Jonathan Allen and Aimee Parnes in today’s WSJ: http://m.us.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052702303496804579367234288377144-lMyQjAxMTA0MDAwOTEwNDkyWj …
@dcbigjohn: So excited for two weeks of everyone being twitter experts on figure skate dancing or whatever the hell you people call it these days
@nytmedia: Bill Keller, Former Editor of The Times, Is Leaving for News Nonprofit http://nyti.ms/1gjUH4W
@SalenaZitoTrib: Sometimes smallest races tell biggest stories. First Post-Obama House Democrat primary tells a facinating story —> http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/02/09/pa_house_race_previews_2016_for_dems_121518.html#ixzz2sq4BjhiK …
@markknoller: Jefferson was 2nd American Ambassador to France, serving 1785-1789. The visit to Monticello meant to underscore France as oldest US ally.