By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': The powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with Weekly Standard editor and ABC News contributor Bill Kristol, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and former Democratic Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Plus, we pay tribute to Barbara Walters - who has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon - with a look back at her incredible 38-year career at ABC News. Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek
ABC's RICK KLEIN: In an age of phony outrage, don't miss a real scandal when it comes along. That's what we're looking at in what we're learning about the treatment delays and cooked books at the Department of Veterans Affairs. We're talking about real people impacted at some of their most vulnerable moments, and all signs point to this getting far bigger before it settles down. We haven't yet seen the inspector general's report, and anecdotes flowing in from local hospitals are likely to build. The scandal isn't necessarily political; find a member of Congress, past or present, who isn't outraged by a veteran getting less-than-stellar care. But this has the potential to become a huge drag on Democrats if President Obama isn't seen as actively and fully addressing it - one big reason it's hard to imagine VA Secretary Eric Shinseki staying on in the long term. Once this becomes about competence and management - and the tone of senators' questioning brought it to that realm yesterday - this becomes a serious danger zone for the administration and its allies.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Today is the day we salute Barbara Walters and her amazing 50 year career, 38 of those with ABC News. A journalist where any one of her "gets" would have been career-making has had so many they would be impossible to rattle off, but one amazing statistic stands out: she has interviewed every president and First Lady since Richard Nixon. Her 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky was so widely watched it shattered ratings records when 70 million people tuned in. As a female journalist, I am so grateful for all the women who came first and today we thank the woman who truly was the first, who broke through all those barriers and all those glass ceilings: the iconic Barbara Walters. Without you, there would have been none of us. A big congratulations and thank you from all of us in ABC News' political unit and the DC Bureau.
ERIC SHINSEKI 'MAD AS HELL': 5 TOUGH QUESTIONS FOR VA SECRETARY. The man at the top of the country's scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs indicated yesterday that he may replace his upper management team in the wake of allegations that employee misconduct resulted in preventable deaths at several hospitals, and widespread falsifying of records, ABC's MATTHEW LAROTONDA notes. "I now have the great privilege of caring for people I went to war with many years ago, and people I have sent to war, and people who raised me in the profession when I was a youngster," the secretary said under the stares of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee. "For Any allegation, any adverse incident like this, makes me as - makes me mad as hell." Forty patients reportedly died at a veterans' hospital in Phoenix while waiting for doctor appointments, but VA records somehow showed everyone was seen within two weeks. Shinseki, now facing calls by some in Congress to resign, and VA Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel were hammered by Democrat and Republican alike for nearly two hours over the headlines. Even Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who is not a member of the committee, attended anyway to call it a "crisis of confidence" in the agency . Here are some of the toughest exchanges they faced: http://abcn.ws/RGXnCY
OBAMA RECOUNTS 9/11 HEROISM OF 'MAN IN THE RED BANDANA'. Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old former volunteer firefighter, worked a finance job in the South Tower when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001. After his heroism that day, he became known to many as, simply, "the man in the red bandana," who gave his life so that others might live. At the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York yesterday, President Obama paid tribute to the men and women who lost their lives when terrorists struck nearly 13 years ago. Their final moments, he said, were a testament to the "true spirit of 9/11: love, compassion, sacrifice." In particular, Obama singled out Crowther's story. "In those awful moments after the South Tower was hit, some of the injured huddled in the wreckage of the 78th floor. The fires were spreading; the air was filled with smoke. It was dark, and they could barely see. It seemed as if there was no way out," Obama said. http://abcn.ws/1jiYCEz
CHELSEA CLINTON'S IN-LAW MARJORIE MARGOLIES SKIPS OWN FUNDRAISER WITH HILLARY. Last night's campaign fundraiser for Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District hopeful Marjorie Margolies was just like any campaign fundraiser featuring an appearance by Hillary Clinton. Except the candidate, who happens to be Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, won't be there, ABC's BETSY KLEIN and LIZ KREUTZ report. Margolies' absence from her own fundraiser might surprise those who had hoped to catch a glimpse of the once and hopes-to-be-future congresswoman. The thousand-dollar-a-head event's invitation requested "the pleasure of your company at an event for Marjorie Margolies with Special Guest Hillary Rodham Clinton," but never mentioned that Margolies would not be in attendance. Campaign aide Dylan McGarry confirmed to ABC News that Margolies was attending the annual spring dinner for Montgomery County Democratic Party. "She felt it important that she be in the district, and the event with Hillary is going to go on whether she's there or not," McGarry said. This comes as Democrat Margolies, a Pennsylvania congresswoman from 1993 to 1995, struggles to connect to voters before a competitive four-way primary on Tuesday. While Margolies' internal polling placed her firmly in first place in August, opponent Brendan Boyle is gaining momentum. http://abcn.ws/1iQp8z5
THIS GUY IS TRYING TO DEFEAT THE OLDEST MEMBER OF CONGRESS. John Ratcliffe, a Republican candidate for Texas' 4th Congressional district, says he doesn't feel guilty about trying to force the House's oldest serving member out of office. He "stayed too long, promised too much, and became a part of the problem," Ratcliffe told ABC's ERIN DOOLEY. "Public service … should be about what the voters want." Ratcliffe's target, 91-year-old GOP incumbent Rep. Ralph Hall, who has been a fixture on the Hill for 34 years. But for the first time since his congressional career began in 1980, Hall failed to garner the required 50 percent of the votes in the March 4 Republican primary and faces a runoff on May 27. In a staunchly conservative district, that vote will likely determine whether Hall will see an 18th term. The Houston Chronicle calls the race the "fight of a very long lifetime." And the headline begs the question Ratcliffe is hoping you'll ask: Is Hall too far over the proverbial hill to continue serving on Capitol Hill? http://abcn.ws/QNvgS7v
WHAT WE'RE READING
"DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE IMAGINES INSURANCE EXEC DANCE PARTY OVER OBAMACARE REPEAL IN NEW AD," by the Huffington Post's Samantha Lachman. "'Insurance executives" boisterously dance on tables, guzzle Champagne and throw bills in the air as a Democrat running in a competitive House race imagines how the industry would react to a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Former Minnesota state Rep. Mike Obermueller (D) is demonstrating that Democrats are increasingly confident with rhetoric around the health care law as he launches a television ad that criticizes his Republican opponent's repeated attempts to vanquish the law. In the raucous spot, which was first shared with The Huffington Post and will begin airing Friday, Obermueller highlights comments the six-term Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) made concerning October's federal government shutdown." http://huff.to/TazRzU
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
RICHARD MANNING, VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC POLICY AND COMMUNICATIONS FOR AMERICANS FOR LIMITED GOVERNMENT, writes in The Hill today about why Congress should pursue online sales tax legislation this year. "It has now been more than a year since the Senate passed legislation on this inequity and it is time for the House to act and restore state control over the collection of sales taxes. And that is one of this debate's great ironies - all that House members like Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) want to do is effectively return the choice of whether to collect these out-of-state online sales taxes to the states, a position supported in principle by many opponents of reforming the law." http://bit.ly/RYPF7L
@DLeonhardt: Voters prefer Democrats on the issues. But guess what? The preference was even larger in 1994 and 2010. http://nyti.ms/1mYN5Z9
@vj44: POTUS: "Brown v. Board of Education shifted the legal and moral compass of our Nation." RT in honor of 60th anniv. http://goo.gl/BX7j4n
@washingtonpost: Tea party PACs blast lavish spending - just not their own http://wapo.st/1ioW9SH
@mlcalderone: NYT innovation report is a fascinating document, which shows continued fixation with what's on A1. Can that change? http://bzfd.it/RHmvcZ