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The Note: Setting Our Sights on Syria
PHOTO: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers

Image credit: Scott Applewhite/AP

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )

NOTABLES

  • DRAWING A 'RED LINE': House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Sunday on "This Week" that "some action needs to be taken" against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, saying that the red line "can't be a dotted line." The U.S. announced last week that an initial evidence assessment showed that Syria, which is engulfed in a bloody civil war that has left tens of thousands dead, had used a small amount of chemical weapons in the war. Rogers said Sunday that classified information only strengthened the case. "There is also classified information that we have, that I think strengthens the case that in fact some small amount of chemical weapons have been used over the course of the last two years," Rogers said. "And - and the problem is, you know the president has laid down the line. And it can't be a dotted line. It can't be anything other than a red line." http://abcn.ws/15S0c9k
  • MISTAKES WERE MADE: Intelligence Committee member Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who also joined the "This Week" roundtable Sunday, said the investigation into the use of chemical weapons should be finished and called the implication that the U.S. isn't doing enough a "mistake," reports ABC's BENJAMIN BELL. "Well the president, and I appreciate his deliberative approach to - to this, you know we've had a little problem with going to the U.N. with the idea of weapons of mass destruction before so we certainly want to finish the investigation," Schakowsky said. "But he said, it's not an on and off switch, but it is - it has changed his calculation. And of course, he's looking into all of the options. But, you know to - to imply that maybe we're not doing enough, or we're not doing anything, I think is also a mistake." http://abcn.ws/15S0c9k
  • GROUND TROOPS 'NOT GOING TO HAPPEN': ABC's Chief White House Correspondent JONATHAN KARL reported on "Good Morning America" today that while the official line from the administration is that "all options are on the table" when it comes to Syria, senior officials say that "ground troops are not going to happen." Other options include, arming the rebels, targeted airstrikes and a no-fly zone. But, as Karl notes, "I wouldn't expect to see any of these anytime soon." http://abcn.ws/13FRIOc

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC's RICK KLEIN: President Obama's selection of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as transportation secretary puts a Democratic rising star - Foxx turns 42 tomorrow - in the second-term inner circle. It also begins to answer that unlikely critique of the first black president: That he has too many white guys in that circle. Conan O'Brien's routine, at the White House Correspondents Association dinner Saturday, even included this jab: "Seriously, Mr. President, your hair is so white it could be a member of your Cabinet." Foxx, who leads the city that hosted a successful Democratic National Convention last year, is part of a quite small cadre of young black politicians who've seen their prospects brighten during the Obama years. As Politico's Jonathan Martin points out today, Obama's election, oddly, has done almost nothing to increase the number of would-be future Obamas. Foxx, if confirmed, will have a resume primed for national politics.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Remember that FAA fix President Obama was going to sign into law? It still hasn't happened yet. Turns out, the bill had a spelling error - a missing 'S,' a Senate aide says - so the legislation is going back to Capitol Hill for a quick do-ever. No more votes needed, since lawmakers are back home for a weeklong break, but just a procedural correction. This raises a question: If Congress can act with lightning speed on this, can't they move on anything else?

ABC's ELIZABETH HARTFIELD: Special election primaries are almost always low turnout affairs, and with a perceived frontrunner, Ed Markey, for Democrats and low-profile candidates on the GOP ticket, it's hard to imagine Tuesday's primary in Massachusetts for John Kerry's old U.S. Senate seat would ever have bucked that trend. But now, coming just two weeks after the marathon bombings, that crucial last stretch for the candidates, which would normally have been a focal point for local and national press, has been pushed to the side as the state's capital recovers from the attacks and the on-going investigation into the attackers dominates the headlines. After a brief suspension immediately following the attacks, the candidates themselves have been actively campaigning, trekking across the state, debating, and amping up their appearances ahead of the big day. Despite this, the big question heading into tomorrow's vote seems to be: Are people in Massachusetts paying attention right now?

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: The respected Quinnipiac University poll is serving up what its pollster calls a "triple dose of bad news" for Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbett today. "Three Democratic challengers would beat him handily if the election for governor were held today," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said. Former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak, not yet a declared candidate, does the best - topping Corbett 48 percent to 34 percent if the election were held today. Rep. Allyson Schwartz is ahead of the incumbent governor by a 47 to 34 percent margin. And State Treasurer Rob McCord bests Corbett 44 percent to 35 percent. That said, the Democratic primary field is still very much in flux and nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats are still undecided right now. "Right now," Malloy said, "voters are doing their ABCs - Anyone But Corbett."

BUZZ

CABINET SHUFFLE: President Obama will nominate Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the new Transportation secretary today, a White House official said. ABC's MARY BRUCE and ARLETTE SAENZ report that Foxx, who has served as mayor of Charlotte since 2009, has overseen several major infrastructure initiatives in the city and rose to prominence after bringing the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte last year. Foxx will be the first African American nominated to the president's cabinet this year, and if confirmed, he will be one of two African Americans, in addition to Attorney General Eric Holder, serving in the Cabinet. The president was criticized earlier this year over a lack of diversity in his early appointments in his second term, but last month, he announced a trio of cabinet positions, including two women, which upped the diversity level in top level positions. Foxx would replace current Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, who is staying in the post until a new secretary is confirmed. http://abcn.ws/153EnnJ

LOOKING AHEAD: President Obama makes a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica starting Thursday, where he'll meet with the leaders of both countries, deliver a speech to students in Mexico City and attend a working dinner with leaders of Central American countries. And ABC's RICK KLEIN notes, his hosts have plenty they want to talk about. On the agenda are drug enforcement, gun trafficking and marijuana legalization efforts on this side of the border, plus a new Venezuelan leader and the pressure for changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba. The visit also comes as immigration reform heats up in this country, an issue with direct implications for our friends and neighbors to the south. This trip will mark a chance for the president to influence a debate in Congress that's off to a slower-than-expected start in Boston's wake.

MATTHEW DOWD ON GEORGE W. BUSH'S 'DISASTROUS DECISION'. ABC News political analyst and special correspondent Matthew Dowd joined the "This Week" roundtable on Sunday and weighed in on the legacy of President George W. Bush. "I think the president, reflecting back, had done a number of good things. What he did for aid to Africa. As Donna [Brazile] has pointed out, what he did in the aftermath of Katrina, and a number of things. And I think what you saw was everybody thinks 'this is a good man.' But the problem that I saw in this whole thing as we had that day and everybody focused on it, it's as if you were asking the people that got off the Titanic, they say, other than that, how was the trip? And the Iraq War was a disaster. We spent over $1 trillion. We lost thousands of lives. I had a son that served there. We lost thousands of U.S. lives, thousands of lives over in Iraq. And the Iraq War for at least 20 years is going to affect us. It's already affecting our foreign policy in Syria. It's caused the president to not say, well I don't know if I can do this because of what happened in the Iraq War. It's affected our domestic policy because the lack of funds, the lack of ability. And it polarized the country. And so I think we pause for a moment and we say, yes he's a good man. But in the end, the Iraq War was such a disastrous decision, it affected this country so dramatically. His tie to history is going to be completely tied to that." http://abcn.ws/17rdqYz

VILLARAIGOSA'S WARNING ABOUT THE IMMIGRATION BILL: 'SWISS CHEESE'. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS that a comprehensive - rather than piecemeal - approach to immigration reform was the best option, but, he cautioned, "We don't do comprehensive very well. Well, they don't do comprehensive very well. But the fact of the matter is, we're not gonna have an immigration bill that doesn't have a pathway to citizenship. Look even this bill says, 13 years it's going to take. The vast majority of polling has said people think 5 years is an appropriate period of time. This is very tough on border security, it's very tough on the hurdles that you have to overcome to become a citizen. You have to pay back your taxes, you have to have a background check, if we do it piecemeal, we'll have people shoot it, like swiss cheese, and you'll never get a bill."

NOTED: Villaraigosa also sat down for a web interview with ABC's KAYE FOLEY answering viewer questions from Facebook and Twitter. Villaraigosa discussed L.A. traffic, his wishes for the city, and the origins of his last name. What's next for Villaraigosa? He says he will "ride into the sunset for a bit." "I think I'll work in the private sector, maybe join a speaker's bureau, if you will. Write a book. Affiliate with a think tank. And get ready… I love public service, it's an honor. It's been a real honor to be mayor of the city that my grandpa came to a hundred years ago. I want to continue to serve, but a little time for reflection is always good." More questions for the mayor: http://abcn.ws/ZtMxl2

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

GAME CHANGER: MAJ. GEN. ABRAMS ON THE "HOMEGROWN" REJECTION OF TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN. Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, the top U.S. and NATO commander in southern Afghanistan, is confident the country won't fall back into the grips of the Taliban and other extremists when international forces pull out in two years-pointing to what he calls a "homegrown" rejection of the Taliban and the readiness of the Afghan security forces. "No one expected it to happen in the place we're today," the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division told ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ, standing in the same region of Afghanistan where al Qaeda trained many of the 9/11 perpetrators just over a decade ago. "All the places in southern Afghanistan considered the heartland for the Taliban, no one expected that the people here would rise up against the Taliban in a sort of homegrown, anti-Taliban movement, and it happened here. It is real," Abrams says. For more of the interview with Gen. Abrams, and to hear his insights into how the long war has put stress on the U.S.'s all-volunteer force, check out this episode of On the Radar. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/12I7dW5

WHAT WE'RE READING

"AFTER STRING OF SETBACKS, MORE CHARM MAY BE THE LAST, BEST OPTION FOR OBAMA," by the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Zachary A. Goldfarb . "There was little time to mingle Tuesday night at the White House. Five minutes after greeting them, President Obama ushered 20 female senators into the State Dining Room and invited each to offer her thoughts on the issues of the day. And that was about it. 'That took up our entire two hours, to go around the table,' Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), recalled in an interview. 'It was not the kind of warm banter that can go back and forth. People had their points they wanted to make to the president. It was all business.' After more than four years in the White House and weeks into his latest effort to woo lawmakers, Obama still isn't very good at using his personal charm to achieve political success. Yet, it may be one of the few strategies the president has left if he hopes to accomplish his remaining ­second-term priorities, including a sweeping budget deal and a comprehensive immigration bill. At this point in his presidency, Obama has pretty much tried it all. He has met privately with Republican leaders in the House, collaborated with bipartisan groups of senators and taken his case to the people, hoping that the power of public opinion could win over his opponents in Congress. This year, for the most part, none of those approaches have worked." http://wapo.st/12T8RFl

WHO'S TWEETING?

@KarlRove: Dem strategy of blaming congressional GOP working? @Gallup unfavorable: Pelosi 48%/ Reid 38/McConnell 34/Boehner 31 http://bit.ly/11DqBn1

@SalenaZitoTrib: On guns Obama tactically chose self-righteousness, strategically he took path of least resistance in negotiations -> http://triblive.com/opinion/salena/3911232-74/obama-gun-deal …

@DavidMDrucker: About last week's House GOP revolt on a leadership driven Obamacare bill. It's not what it looked like: http://bit.ly/ZRjmrD

@mckaycoppins: Petraeus is waging a quiet, determined campaign to be admitted back in to DC's polite society, @BuzzFeedBen reports http://www.buzzfeed.com/bensmith/general-david-petraeuss-new-campaign …

@whignewtons: "It's not lost on high-profile Democrats that the GOP now enjoys more ethnic diversity among its statewide leaders." http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/black-pols-stymied-in-obama-era-90727.html …

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