The Cliff, The Negotiations And The Deadline (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • FOR YOUR READING LIST: 'THE OUTPOST: AN UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN VALOR' ABC's Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper's new book, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor" comes out on Tuesday. In it, Tapper explores one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan - the attack on Combat Outpost Keating by Taliban insurgents on the morning of October 3, 2009. Tapper's exposé closely examines the history of the camp and the heroic stories of these American soldiers and their families through first person accounts, photographs and extensive research. "The Outpost" (Little, Brown and Company) is available in stores tomorrow. Below is an excerpt from the book as well as Jake's remarks from a Saturday night book party at the Newseum in Washington, DC co-hosted by ABC News President Ben Sherwood and Washington Bureau Chief Robin Sproul.
  • COMING APPEARANCES: Tapper appeared on "Good Morning America" this morning and later today will meet the ladies of "The View." Later this week Jake will discuss his book on ABC's "Nightline," ABC Radio and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
  • HOW THE PETRAEUS AFFAIR CAME TO LIGHT. ABC's senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz reported on "Good Morning America" on the timeline that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus: This morning we know that the woman at the heart of the investigation that lead to Petraeus's downfall is a family friend of Petraeus who his lover, Paula Broadwell, apparently felt threatened by. The affair would likely never have come to light if not for Jill Kelly - she and her husband are family friends of the Petraeus's. Earlier this year, about the time Petraeus and Paula Broadwell were breaking off their affair, Kelly began receiving anonymous emails which she found so threatening she went to authorities. The FBI traced the emails to Broadwell's computer where they found salacious and explicit emails between Broadwell and Petraeus and made it clear that Broadwell and the nation's CIA director were having an affair.
  • WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? More from Raddatz's reporting: Broadwell had extraordinary access to the four-star general in Afghanistan as his official biographer. Despite the amount of time they spent together in Afghanistan, friends say Petraeus claims that he and Broadwell began their affair only after he was out of the army. If that turns out not to be true, he could face prosecution for adultery.


It isn't taking long for memories of the 2012 election to fade as Washington now fixates on both a scandal and a looming fiscal crisis.

While the GOP soul-searching continues about what went wrong for them last Tuesday, the conversation has shifted to the fast-approaching deadline to avert tax increases and spending cuts that will affect every American.

"Clearly, we have the ability between now and the end of the year to not go off the cliff," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington State, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. "But we can't accept an unfair deal that piles on the middle class and tell them they have to support it. We have to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share."

On "This Week," Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a GOP member of the "Gang of Six" during last year's debt ceiling debate was not definitive about whether the cliff could be averted by Dec. 31, but said "I certainly hope that happens."

"These are very, very difficult issues to deal with, and ultimately it's going to boil down to reforming entitlements and revenues," Chambliss told Stephanopoulos. "And I assure you, if we don't put politics aside, then we're not going to solve it. So it's imperative that we look at it at the right way now."

THE DEADLINE: ABC's David Kerley explains that the so-called "cliff" comes on Jan. 1, when several tax cuts expire, and severe cuts to government spending are triggered. It's also been called "taxmageddon," because an average American family will see their tax bill increase $3,700 next year The sticking point to solve the stand-off is what the president calls a "balanced approach" of spending cuts and increased revenues. The president campaigned on, and won on, the pledge to allow the tax rates for the rich to rise, while keeping middle class tax rates where they are currently.

THE URGENCY: As ABC News' Business Correspondent Richard Davies explains, the Dow Jones index, S&P 500 and other averages are coming off one of their worst weeks of the year with a drop of more than 2 percent. Economists have issued dire warnings about a possible recession and a new slump for the jobs market if the cliff isn't averted before the January 1 deadline.

THE SALES JOB: President Obama plans to go beyond the Beltway to build support for his approach to fix the budget with tax hikes and spending cuts, Davies notes. Instead of confining itself to private talks with Republican leaders, as it did last year during the debt ceiling crisis, the White House is set to launch a public campaign. With Washington lawmakers back in D.C. this week discussions are likely to pick up speed. One possible compromise suggested by Republicans would increase revenue from wealthy taxpayers by cutting deductions rather than rates.


The Note's virtual political roundtable.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Last time, it was Rod Blagojevich and his clumsy attempts to auction a Senate seat that left the Obama transition team on uncomfortable footing. This time, it's a public servant from the other end of the respectability spectrum - until now, of course - consuming post-election oxygen. David Petraeus' extramarital affair, and questions about how it came to life and who knew when, get even more currency with a Benghazi link - meaning more scrutiny on an uncomfortable sore point for the Obama administration. President Obama will have a hard time getting the press and the public to consume its fiscal-cliff vegetables with all this candy on the table.

SPEED READ: 'THE OUTPOST: AN UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN VALOR' An excerpt from Jake Tapper's new book: "It was madness. At Jalalabad Airfield, in eastern Afghanistan in the summer of 2006, a young intelligence analyst named Jacob Whittaker tried with great difficulty to understand exactly what he was hearing. The 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army wanted to do what? Whittaker had to choose his words carefully. He was just a low-ranking 'specialist' with the Idaho National Guard, a very low man on a very tall totem pole. A round-faced twenty-six-year-old, Whittaker had simple tastes - Boise State football, comic books - and a reputation for mulishness belied by his innocent appearance. Whittaker stared at his superior officer, Second Lieutenant Ryan Lockner, who was running this briefing for him and Sergeant Aaron Ives. Lockner headed intelligence for Task Force Talon, the Army's aviation component at Jalalabad Airfield, in Nangarhar Province, adjacent to the Pakistan border. Military leaders considered this area, officially designated Regional Command East, the most dangerous part of an increasingly dangerous country." READ MORE:

TAPPER: THE STORY 'GNAWED AT ME' In his remarks at the launch of his book on Saturday night at the Newseum, Jake recounted how the idea for the book was born not long after his son Jack was: "My son Jack was born on October 2, 2009. The next day, in the haze of my wife's recovery room, I heard that eight other sons had been taken from this world. The heroes of the October 3 battle of Kamdesh. Kevin Thomson, Josh Kirk, Michael Scusa, Justin Gallegos, Chris Griffin, Vernon Martin, Joshua Hardt, Stephan Mace. The way the story was covered was along the line of "Why would anyone put a combat outpost there, at the bottom of three steep mountains 14 miles from the Pakistan border?" It was a question no one answered. Not the media, not the military. It gnawed at me. I had been covering the war in Afghanistan from the security of the North Lawn of the White House, and I wanted to know more about the war. Eventually telling the story of the battle became a book project.

"Then a young intelligence officer Ross Berkoff with 3-71 Cav got in touch with me. He wanted to make sure the book didn't just tell the story of the attack. He wanted me to understand what it was that brought the US to Nuristan Province, to Kamdesh Valley. He wanted me to tell the story of what the US was trying to accomplish there. He wanted me to tell the stories of Lt. Col. Joe Fenty and Brian Moquin and Jared Monti and Pat Lybert and Buddy Hughie and Ben Keating. Then a young lieutenant from 1-91 Cav, the squadron that followed 3-71, got in touch with me: Dave Roller. He wanted me to tell the story of his team, the successes they had in the valley. He wanted me to tell the stories of Tom Bostick and Chris Pfeifer. It went on like that. For more than two years. The book is long. But it's too short in many ways. There are too many stories it doesn't tell. Hopefully the stories I attempted to tell honors those missing. Soldiers, families: The failures of the book are mine. Anything heroic or impressive in the book is yours."


-SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS 'CONFIDENT' DAVID PETRAEUS WAS TRUTHFUL DURING CONFIRMATION HEARING. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week," Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he was "confident" that former CIA director David Petraeus was truthful during his confirmation hearing for his post in the Obama administration. "I don't know (the) exact date of when all of this process began and what took place there, but we're - we're confident that David Petraeus was very straight up with us during the confirmation hearing," said Chambliss, the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who said he learned of the FBI investigation that uncovered the alleged affair on Friday.

-Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State also praised Petraeus on Sunday morning on "This Week." "I think that General Petraeus has served our country incredibly well in many different forms and fashions. And like all men and women who serve our country - have served our country - we owe him a debt of gratitude," Murray said. "And I hope this moves forward quickly for him and his family to resolve."

-YOUNGEST CONGRESSMAN AARON SCHOCK ON CAPITOL HILL: 'IT'S A LOT LIKE HIGH SCHOOL'. After his appearance on the "This Week" roundtable yesterday, ABC's Kaye Foley interviewed Illinois GOP Rep. Aaron Schock, asking viewers' questions from Facebook and Twitter. Question from Carlie Kenny on Facebook: "Does your age affect the way other members of Congress address you?" SCHOCK: "I was elected at 27 years old so the person asking the question would need to get there at 25 which is the Constitutional age required to come to Congress. … I have found that my colleagues have always treated me with respect. It's a lot like high school - I compare it to. If you show up, you work hard, you do your homework, you come prepared with good questions, you bring forward thoughtful ideas, your colleagues quickly respect you. And at the end of the day, you have an equal vote among the 435 members of Congress. And so your vote is just as valued as someone else's." Foley also asks about Schock's potential plans to run for governor of Illinois and his workout regimen: "If you look at most of who I serve with in Congress, they could use a few hours in the gym," the 31-year-old Illinois Republican said. WATCH:


with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

OBAMA MARKS VETERANS DAY AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. Honoring the nation's military "heroes over the generations, who have served this country of ours with distinction," President Barack Obama Sunday participated in Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, reports ABC's Matt Larotonda. After laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the president spoke at the memorial amphitheater to tell assembled military and their families that Nov. 11 would forever belong to them and, "every service member who has ever worn our nation's uniform."

TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: The president has no public events and there is no briefing slated for today, ABC's Mary Bruce notes.

MEANWHILE IN BOSTON: A LONG LINE OUTSIDE MITT ROMNEY'S DOOR. ABC'S David Muir reports that on Friday morning Mitt Romney and his wife Ann drove themselves to campaign headquarters in Boston. Gone were the secret service detail and the motorcade that had trailed them in the final months of the campaign. Instead of the long lines of supporters waiting to see them, there was now a line of dozens of staffers outside Romney's office door; some waiting to shake his hand, others looking for a quiet moment with the Governor after a loss that stunned a confident campaign Tuesday night. One Romney staffer said the line easily reached a hundred employees Friday as the former presidential candidate ate pizza out of the box in his office. Mrs. Romney wore jeans and a sweater. The Romneys came to headquarters every day after the election after telling staffers they would do anything they could to help them find their next job.

'WE WOULD RATHER LOSE WITH YOU THAN WIN WITH ANYONE ELSE' Their pledge to help came just hours after the loss Tuesday night. Muir reports that Romney called a staff meeting at headquarters the next morning. With emotions still raw from the night before, Romney and his wife arrived to deafening applause and chants of "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt." As workers wiped away their tears, one staffer said Romney was clearly moved and that Mrs. Romney cried as they stood before the team. Campaign manager Matt Rhoades told the Governor and his wife, "We would rather lose with you than win with anyone else," sources said.

FOUR DAYS AFTER ELECTION, OBAMA WINS FLORIDA, SWEEPING BATTLEGROUNDS. On Saturday Florida's Secretary of State finally announced Obama would walk away with its 29 electoral votes reports ABC's Matt Larotonda. President Obama took the state by a paper-thin margin over challenger Mitt Romney at 50 percent to 49.1, or roughly 74,000 votes - barely over the half a percent margin that would have mandated a recount. Florida had been listed as "too close to call" since Tuesday, and although the national race had been called fairly early into that evening, the outlier evoked memories of the 2000 election's recount in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

ROMNEY CAMP SAYS HIGH-TECH ELECTION DAY MONITORING FACED 'CHALLENGES.' The name for Project ORCA, the Romney campaign's much-vaunted, digital voter turnout and poll monitoring system, started out as something of a joke, reports ABC's Michael Falcone. ORCA was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder to an advanced data-gathering effort put together by the Obama campaign called Project Narwhal. The Romney team's conceit: An orca is a natural predator of the narwhal, a tusked-whale that lives in the Arctic. But to many who used ORCA, the problems with the system were no laughing matter.

'THE SYSTEM THOUGHT IT WAS UNDER ATTACK' In an interview with ABC News on Friday, the Romney campaign's digital director Zac Moffatt responded to the critical online commentaries. "Was it flawless? No," Moffatt said. "Without a doubt, ORCA had its challenges." He acknowledged that technical issues began early and continued sporadically throughout the day. The system crashed entirely for about 90-minutes in the late morning on Tuesday - a problem the campaign attributed to an overload of the data servers in the TD Garden in Boston, the site of the campaign's Election Day "war room." "So much data was coming in, the system thought it was under attack," a campaign official said.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ELECTIONS AND GOVERNING. ABC's Matt Dowd notes: The electoral coalition that President Obama put together is almost the mirror image of the winning strategy that President Bush cobbled together in 2004. Yet President Bush and the White House made the mistake of thinking the coalition that helped win a very close election in 2004 gave them a mandate and was enough to lead the country and govern. They didn't reach across to the blocs they lost on Election Day and bring folks together. And, as we know, that turned out badly for the Bush administration and the country. I hope President Obama understands that the only way to govern this country is to bridge the divides that have become so apparent. A winning effort on Election Day doesn't automatically translate into a governing coalition that will enable leaders to move this country forward.

BOEHNER'S GOP PROBLEMS COMPLICATE DEFICIT NEGOTIATIONS. House Speaker John Boehner is about to begin another attempt at a grand bargain deficit reduction deal with President Obama, a high wire act in which he will be buffeted by demands from the White House as well as from House Republicans reports ABC's John Parkinson. The difficulty of keeping in step with the hard line approach of his fellow Republicans has been on view since the presidential election.

OBAMA IS READY TO GO BEYOND THE BELTWAY. The New York Times' Jackie Calmes reports: "President Obama, emboldened by his decisive re-election and lessons learned over four years in office, is looking to the renewal of budget talks with Republicans this week as a second chance to take command of the nation's policy debates and finally fulfill his promise to end gridlock in Washington, associates say. As he prepares to meet with Congressional leaders at the White House on Friday, aides say, Mr. Obama will not simply hunker down there for weeks of closed-door negotiations as he did in mid-2011, when partisan brinkmanship over raising the nation's debt limit damaged the economy and his political standing. He will travel beyond the Beltway at times to rally public support for a deficit-cutting accord that mixes tax increases on the wealthy with spending cuts."

WITH MEMBERS RETURNING, NANCY PELOSI'S PLANS UNKNOWN. Roll Call's Jonathan Strong reports: "As lawmakers come back to Washington, D.C., for the first time since the elections, the Democratic leadership picture remains frozen in place as members wait for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to announce her plans. The California Democrat has always kept tight council, and she was reticent about the future in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 elections when deciding whether to stay on as leader after the tea party wave swept Republicans into control of the House. But Democrats say there are even fewer signs this time around about her intentions."

DID PETRAEUS MISTRESS REVEAL NEW BENGHAZI DETAILS? Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell reports: "Paula Broadwell, the biographer revealed as the woman having a secret affair with the now-former CIA director, gave a talk at the University of Denver on Oct. 26 in which she appeared to reveal sensitive, maybe even classified, information about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The most interesting revelation is her claim that the CIA was holding several Libyan militia members prisoner, which may have prompted the attack. (Though she also sought to explain the Obama administration's initial view that the attack was linked to the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islam polemic that sparked riots across the Muslim world.)…The CIA has denied holding prisoners at the annex, according to the DailyBeast's Eli Lake."

MEMO FOR 2016: THE REPUBLICANS ELECTORAL MAP PROBLEM. "Republicans have a major electoral map problem," The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes. "Amid all of the agita and hand-wringing about the campaign Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney ran, the reality is that the former Massachusetts governor was operating on an in­cred­ibly narrow electoral map that made his only path to victory something close to a total sweep of the most closely contested states. That problem isn't unique to Romney and, along with the party's demographic disadvantages, is the biggest issue facing Republicans as the party tries to regroup for 2016, 2020 and beyond."


@waltershapiroPD: Why second terms are invariably sad: The dispiriting 100-year historical pattern confronting Obama. My Yahoo column:

@JohnCornyn: WSJ: "Imagine the gusher of revenue the feds could get if government got out of the way and let the economy grow…

@jmartpolitico: The long-simmering tension tween gop eggheads/hacks and gop entertainers into public view …

@DavidMDrucker: Major Q for POTUS/Dems re #FiscalCliff is whether willing 2 go over cliff 2 pursue tax hikes on "rich" figuring GOP will get blamed & cave

@secupp: Of course, now that there's sex involved, suddenly the media really wants to talk about Libya.