The Audacity Of Nope

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • MARCH MADNESS COMES TO 1600 PENN.: It's long been the audacity of nope, when it comes to would-be Cinderellas, notes ABC's RICK KLEIN. "I know these are not imaginative picks," President Obama told ESPN's Andy Katz, in outlining his brackets for this year's NCAA tournament, "but I think they're the right ones." The presidential Final Four, as revealed early by ESPN, are predictable enough that it's fair to say John Boehner would flip-flop on health care before Buffett's billion is in danger from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He picks No. 1 seeds Arizona and Florida, plus trendy No. 4 seeds Louisville and Michigan State, to make it to March Madness' final weekend.
  • BARACK'S BRACKETS - MORE OF KLEIN's ANALYSIS: "Clearly he's enough of a college hoops fan to buy into conventional wisdom. But - as with previous years - the president is also showing he's too much of a fan to engage in any fanciful visions about crazy runs. (He was, what, a 14 seed against Hillary Clinton's 3? Surely he was no higher than a 12.) If anything, the president has shown a predilection to favor strong coaches in strong systems. Twice since "Barack-etology" became a thing - and once correctly - he's chosen North Carolina to go all the way. His other would-be champs have been Indiana, Kansas, and Kentucky. At least, though, he doesn't play much politics: It's hard to imagine him wanting to making Jan Brewer, Marco Rubio, or Mitch McConnell any happier with this year's picks. As for the Tar Heels - Roy Williams gets no big thank-you for that Obamacare Web video he filmed for the White House."
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: This afternoon President Obama hosts a screening of the new film "Cesar Chavez" at the White House. The film stars America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and Michael Peña. He also does a series of interviews with local television anchors from New England, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego making the case for raising the minimum wage.


JOHN KERRY TO RUSSIA: YOU LOST THE COLD WAR, GET OVER IT. Secretary of State John Kerry had harsh words yesterday for Vladimir Putin, saying he is surprised and disappointed in a speech the Russian president gave about the country's right to take over Crimea from Ukraine, notes ABC's DANA HUGHES. "It really just didn't jibe with reality or with what's happening on the ground," Kerry said, speaking to a group of university students at the State Department. "The president may have his version of history, but I believe that he and Russia, for what they have done, are on the wrong side of history." He suggested that the United States didn't believe the Kremlin would move beyond Crimea given Putin's speech yesterday, which focused on the historical ties Russia and the Ukraine have. Kerry acknowledged those ties but said they were no excuse for the invasion. "Russia has an enormous historical connection to Ukraine," Kerry said. "We know this, but that doesn't legitimize just taking what you want because you want it or because you're angry about the end of the Cold War or the end of the Soviet Union."

NOTED: BIDEN REJECTS POLISH SUGGESTION U.S. NOT COUNTERING PUTIN. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski stood next to Vice President Biden yesterday as he tweaked the U.S. for not doing more to counter Russia's military buildup, but Biden - looking directly at Komorowski - tweaked right back, ABC's ALI WEINBERG reports. Komorowski, who received Biden at his presidential palace, said that Russia had for years been able to beef up its military spending with impunity, allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn his armed forces into "an instrument of external policy," the Polish president said. "Russia has increased their budget," Biden countered. "But I want to remind you that you have an ally whose budget is larger than the next 10 nations combined. So while others may not have stood up to their responsibilities, the United States has more than stood up to its responsibilities," he said, looking directly at Komorowski.

GOP CHIEF PREDICTS REPUBLICAN 'TSUNAMI' IN 2014 (DEMS BEG TO DIFFER). Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus raised expectations for his party's prospects this fall, saying yesterday, "I think we're in for a tsunami-type election in 2014," according to ABC's JEFF ZELENY. "My belief is, it's going to be a very big win, especially at the U.S. Senate level," Priebus said. "And we may add some seats in congressional races." The party chairman, speaking to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, said the year was turning out to be a political "disaster" for Democrats. He said the still-unpopular health care law and President Obama's sagging approval rating were creating several new Republican paths to victory.

-NOT SO, Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a rebuttal yesterday, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. Wasserman Schultz dismissed Priebus' bullishness about 2014, saying she's confident that the Senate will remain in Democratic hands, and that Republican predictions will turn out to be as accurate as their 2012 presidential bets. "I'm confident that we're going to hold the Senate," Wasserman Schultz told reporters at the National Press Club. "They were predicting up to hours before the polls closed on Election Day in 2012 that we would be inaugurating President Romney too," she said. "So their prediction accuracy isn't always on the mark of late."

-WHY IS THE GOP SO BULLISH, AND IS IT WARRANTED? ZELENY SAYS: Voters in a midterm election are much more aligned with Republicans - older, whiter, etc. - which was most recently on display in the 2010 congressional elections, when Republicans swept control of the House. At the same time, Democrats have long had difficulty turning out their coalition of voters during nonpresidential years. Priebus conceded that the party still faces significant "demographic challenges," particularly among young women, black and Hispanic voters. In rebuilding for the 2016 presidential election, he declared, "We'll work like dogs to try to figure it out."

OBAMA AWARDS MEDAL OF HONOR TO 24 VETS WHO SUFFERED BIAS. Righting an historical wrong, President Obama yesterday awarded the nation's highest military honor to two dozen Army veterans who were previously overlooked, saying "today we have the chance to set the record straight," ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "No nation is perfect. But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal," the president said. The "truly historic" group includes 19 Hispanic, Jewish and African-American soldiers who were unjustly denied the Medal of Honor because of prejudice, passed over because of their race or ethnicity. Yesterday's ceremony came after a 12-year Pentagon review of records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to determine if deserving veterans were being overlooked because of discrimination.


AMERICAN BRIDGE LAUNCHES 'SAME OLD GOP' WEBSITE. To coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Republican Party's 2012 election "autopsy report", the Democratic super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, has launched a new website taking the GOP to task. The site,, features a raft of prominent Republicans who have made controversial comments on a variety of issues - from the economy to women's rights. "Republicans may be congratulating themselves on the 'progress" they've made, but who are they kidding?" said Brad Woodhouse, president of American Bridge. "Their self-imposed autopsy depicted a GOP whose policies and rhetoric were anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant, and anti-middle class. Year two of the new Republican Party promises nothing but more of the same."


BILL GATES TAKES A CONTROVERSIAL STANCE FOR SCHOOL REFORM. Computer genius, billionaire, philanthropist and-education visionary? Stepping out of the world of computers and into the classroom, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is wielding his capital and celebrity to support his latest passion project: national standards for more rigorous math and English language arts and literacy programs in schools though the Common Core Standards Initiative. "I'm thrilled this is moving forward and disappointed that, through confusion and various groups, its implementation is actually at risk in some states," Gates told "Power Players." "There are states looking at delays or looking at staying with the status quo."


@cmarinucci: Susan Molinari, @Google VP of govt relations, among "The Influencers" - 10 most powerful women in DC … @ELLEmagazine

@JillDLawrence: Exciting news: @MrWalterShapiro & I will be working w @EKamarck on great project about primaries & future of politics

@cspanJeremy: . @CSPAN today marks 35 years of live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S. House floor #cspan35

@DemGovs: Rauner limps into general election in #ILgov, spends $6 mil of his own money to win by only 2 percentage points

@The_RGA: RGA Launches BLUE STATE MADNESS Bracket Challenge: #BSMadness

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