Won’t Back Down

May 30, 2014 8:14am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • ‘THIS IS NOT A GUY THAT RUNS AWAY FROM PROBLEMS’: One day after the bombshell interim Inspector General report showing “secret waiting lists” as a Phoenix veterans hospital, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki met with leading veteran service organizations yesterday, ABC’s SERENA MARSHALL and MATTHEW LAROTONDA report. “At the end of the day, he’s used to being shot at and blown up, so this doesn’t distract him too much,” Derek Bennett, chief of staff for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL following the meeting. “The man has served almost five decades for this country, lost half a foot in Vietnam. The clamor of the Congress doesn’t distract him very much.” Bennett added, “This is not a guy that runs away from problems. He did not give any indication that he wants to resign. He gave every indication that he wanted to carry the ball down the field and resolve the problem.” http://abcn.ws/1km7tzV
  • ‘A SERIOUS CONVERSATION’: President Obama is preparing to have a tough talk today with Shinseki, according to ABC’s DEVIN DWYER. In his interview with “Kelly & Michael” that will air later this morning, Obama suggested Shinseki could go. “I’ll have a serious conversation with him about whether he thinks that he is prepared and has the capacity to take on the job of fixing it,” Obama said.  ”I don’t want any veteran to not be getting the kind of services they deserve.” Shinseki is due to deliver preliminary findings of his internal audit to the White House today. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1oBYGBt SHINSEKI SPEAKS to the National Coalition on Homeless Veterans in Washington, DC at 8:30 AM Eastern.
  • AND THEN THERE WERE 113: The embattled secretary faces an ever-growing list of lawmakers asking for his resignation. Of the 532 current members of Congress, at least 113 of them, including 34 Democrats, have requested the secretary’s departure - along with eight major candidates for high office, according to ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON. THE LIST: http://abcn.ws/1nZhjvr

 

THIS WEEK ON “THIS WEEK” In her first appearance on “This Week” since 2012, National Security Advisor Susan Rice goes one-on-one with ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Sunday. Then, in an exclusive interview, George talks with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Plus, the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics with Weekly Standard editor and ABC News contributor Bill Kristol, Tavis Smiley of “The Tavis Smiley Show,” New Yorker editor David Remnick and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Finally, with her passing this week at the age of 86, we remember the lasting legacy of the great author and poet Maya Angelou.

 

14 FOR 14: THE MIDTERM MINUTE

JONI ERNST ON SANTA BARBARA KILLINGS: ‘ABSOLUTE TRAGEDY’ OR ‘UNFORTUNATE ACCIDENT’? The California campus shooting reverberated all the way to Iowa last night in a Republican Senate debate, ABC’s JEFF ZELENY reports. Joni Ernst, who has gained outsized attention in the race because of her provocative ads, was asked about one of her TV commercials called “Shot,” where she aims a gun directly into the camera. A voter wondered if it was appropriate, asking: “Is this what politics has become in this country?” Ernst replied the shootings and stabbings at the University of California, Santa Barbara were “an absolute tragedy,” but said she stood by her commitment to protect the Second Amendment. But when pressed by a moderator whether she would change the ad, given the timing of the shooting, Ernst doubled down. “I would not, no,” she said. “This unfortunate accident happened after the ad.” If she wins next Tuesday’s primary, look for Democrats to replay this moment again and again.

 

BUZZ

HAGEL WON’T SPECULATE ON SHINSEKI. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Veterans Affairs’ Inspector General’s interim report on the hospital in Phoenix where several veterans died waiting for care clearly indicated there were problems with the system, but refrained from making a judgment or prediction about VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s future. “It certainly gives us enough information to know that there are problems and they have to be addressed,” Hagel said of the report, speaking to reporters on board his flight from Alaska to Singapore, according to ABC’s ALI WEINBERG. But even as more Democrats join the chorus of members of Congress calling for Shinseki’s resignation, Hagel said he would leave the politics to others. “I’m not going to get in to General Shinseki’s future,” he said, before offering praise, if not a defense, of the embattled secretary’s record. “I would say that Gen Shinseki is a war veteran, disabled. Lost part of his foot in Vietnam. And I think he understands not just the systematic depth of all of this, that’s his job. And I’ll let him explain that.” http://abcn.ws/1k7idrJ

VA SCANDAL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. When doctors revealed that our nation’s wounded warriors weren’t getting timely care in Veterans Administration hospitals, a firestorm erupted. The allegations of scandalous treatment of veterans and revelations that VA officials doctored records to obscure the problem has triggered several investigations. Probes have spread to 42 VA facilities, and members of Congress – Republican and Democrat – have called for VA Secretary Eric Shenseki to resign. Here’s ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY’s look at everything you need to know about the rapidly evolving story: http://abcn.ws/1iwnKCF

TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama meets with his “My Brother’s Keeper” task force this morning and attends a FEMA briefing on hurricane season preparedness, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. And after Hillary Clinton got her lunch with the president yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden gets some face time too today – also over lunch.

HILLARY CLINTON’S YOUTH OFFICE GETS NEW HOME, BUT WILL IT GET LOST? A State Department office created by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she touted as a direct channel to young people around the world is undergoing bureaucratic changes that could lead to the elevation of its mission – or, one veteran of government red tape warned, its eventual demise, ABC’s ALI WEINBERG reports. Founded in 2011 under the leadership of Special Adviser Ronan Farrow, now an MSNBC host, the Office of Global Youth Issues was established to change the way America engages with people under 30 around the world, Farrow said in an email to ABC News. As special advisers, Farrow and his successor Zeenat Rahman reported directly to the Secretary of State, first Clinton and then John Kerry – unlike the structure of more permanent bureaus at the State Department, which are led by undersecretaries who focus on a particular issue or part of the world. But beginning in mid-summer, the Global Youth Issues office will become part of the Bureau of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, headed by newly sworn-in Undersecretary Richard Stengel. Rahman, the current special adviser, said the change will happen in mid-summer. The reason, said Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz, is that it can be hard for special advisors’ offices, which report directly to the top leaders at Foggy Bottom, to carry the institutional heft to survive at the State Department long-term. READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/1wubhbW

KENTUCKY DEMS TRY TO PUT MCCONNELL ON DEFENSIVE OVER OBAMACARE. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was accused yesterday of campaign  sleight of hand for demanding the repeal of Obamacare – which is very unpopular in Kentucky – while ignoring the effect it could have on Kentucky’s health care exchange which has proved to be well received in the state, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. McConnell has tried to make Obamacare a pivotal issue in his reelection bid, repeatedly pointing out that his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes  has refused to say whether she would have voted for the Affordable Care Act. McConnell was put somewhat on the defensive when ABC News’ Louisville affiliate WHAS asked  him at a press conference Friday if Kynect, the state’s health care exchange, should also be dismantled. “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question here,” McConnell told WHAS’ political editor Joe Arnold. More than 400,000 Kentuckians have health insurance through the exchange known as Kynect, which was created by the state under the Obamacare law. Kynect seems to be working in the state, and a threat to the exchange could put McConnell in a bit of a political bind. http://abcn.ws/1krjPvG

 

A NOTE FAREWELL: JOE BRETTELL HEADS TO HOUSTON. Former Capitol Hill aide and long-time GOP consultant Joe Brettell has accepted a new position as Vice President with FleishmanHillard. He will be working on energy and public affairs issues and will be based in Houston (but plans frequent trips to Washington, DC). Joe tells the Note: “Two years ago my sister-in-law was killed and left behind a young daughter. My in-laws have done a great job of raising her so far, but Erica and I want to go down to Houston and lend a hand.”

–JOE’S LATEST COLUMN FOR ABCNEWS.COM: THE GOP’S SOUL SEARCHING ON POVERTY. “When it comes to the policy priorities of an aspiring President, there are some generally accepted choices. Education reform, entitlement reform, something involving the military – all of these fit nicely into a portfolio that is suited toward biding ones time and putting points on the board while courting donors and building out an operation in Iowa and New Hampshire. Let’s be clear: poverty is an important topic, but in official Washington, not typically one that results in great career longevity. That’s why it came as something of a surprise that potential candidates for President like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, have all taken a shot at trying to solve the problem, albeit on traditionally conservative terms. When asked about why he’d take on an issue that has proven to be so difficult, Ryan responded, ‘I’ve been interested in this issue since the time I worked for Jack Kemp, who was a real pioneer in this field…I wanted to know what I could do to help.’” READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/TZshIA

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@WhiteHouse: Congrats to Ansun and Sriram, the incredible co-champs of the #ScrippsNationalSpellingBee. You make us all proud! -bo

@maggiepolitico: My exclusive this AM – a look at @HillaryClinton‘s Benghazi chapter from her upcoming book “Hard Choices” http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/hillary-clintons-benghazi-chapter-107240.html …

@Timodc: Based on @maggiepolitico recap of Hillary Benghazi chapter no responsibility taken for failures; much finger pointing http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/hillary-clintons-benghazi-chapter-107240.html …

@CarrieNBCNews: Cochran to @danbalz “I thought I’d served long enough..But people were saying, what are we going to do without you?” http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cochran-promotes-dc-influence-to-fend-off-tea-party-challenge/2014/05/29/59a8a824-e6f6-11e3-8f90-73e071f3d637_story.html …

‏@gretawire: Maryland goes stupid..wants to regulate #Uber..why, because it works?

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