Staying Out Of It

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • JEH JOHNSON OUT OF THE RUNNING FOR TOP PENTAGON JOB: Another one down. Just last week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was a top contender to be nominated as the next Defense Secretary. But senior officials tell ABC's JONATHAN KARL it will not be Johnson. He is now the third potential nominee who is no longer under consideration. A source close to Johnson says that he did not take himself out - it was a White House call. Previously Senator Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Michele Flournoy told the White House they were not interested in the job. According to White House officials, there are three remaining candidates: Ashton Carter, Richard Danzig and Kurt Campbell. Stay tuned.
  • ROB PORTMAN SAYS NO TO 2016 PRESIDENTIAL BID: It's not even 2015, and the 2016 presidential race already has its first dropout. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who was once considered a top contender to be Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee in 2012, said in a statement early this morning that he would not seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Instead, he said, "I have decided to run for re-election in 2016. I am excited about continuing to serve, especially with the change in the Senate leadership." "With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans. That's where I believe I can play the most constructive role," he said. "I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: The grown-ups are having an early say. Start with Sen. Rob Portman, whose statement overnight on why he's staying in the Senate and not running for president cited a desire to "actually get things done." "I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time," he added. (Almost but not quite offering advice to a handful of colleagues?) Then there's former Gov. Jeb Bush, who used a speech in Washington Monday night to make clear this commitment to a handful of issues that are less than popular in the GOP base isn't negotiable. A candidate, he said, has to be willing to "lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles." (Almost but not quite offering commentary on the last two Republican nominees?)

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Speaker John Boehner's strategy can be boiled down to three words: Vent, don't shutdown. The GOP leadership team will try and persuade their rank-and-file to vent their frustration on immigration through a largely symbolic bill denouncing President Obama's executive order, without allowing it to fester into a government shutdown. With only nine days remaining to pass a spending bill to keep the government running, House Republicans gather behind closed doors today to chart their way forward. For Team Boehner, the challenge is largely the same as it's been during recent episodes of Congressional brinksmanship: Will there be a center of gravity among the opposition? So far, it doesn't look like the Tea Party wing has the muscle to roll its Republican leaders, but there's still time for drama on Capitol Hill. It wouldn't seem like the holidays without it.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: It was quite a busy 2016 night. First, Hillary Clinton ignored the issue of the Keystone XL pipeline despite addressing a group committed to killing it's construction. And that was just hours after appearing at a fundraiser for pro-pipeline Mary Landrieu for her tough run-off battle. It's an issue that won't go away, thanks to not only Republicans, but also progressives who want her to announce opposition. Overnight, Rob Portman announced 2016 is a no for him when it comes to the presidential, but he will run for Senate. The Ohio senator stressed: "I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time." That same tricky issue doesn't apply to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who also announced his intention to run in 2016 for Senate, but still is making up his mind about a presidential bid. In Kentucky it's more difficult as it would require a change in Kentucky law. And Jeb Bush again said he's still deciding, but said he would make his decision "in short order." That's all in less than a 12 hour time period. We already knew this, but last night has made it absolutely clear we aren't even a month out from 2014 and 2016 is on.


MEET ONE OF AMERICA'S FURRY WAR HEROES. What has three legs, a Purple Heart, and fur all over? Meet German Shepard mix Lucca, a Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient (albeit unofficial) credited as a war hero for her work sniffing out IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lucca, who lost a front paw while serving on the front lines, is the subject of new book "Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca." And along with her first handler and current owner, Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham, this furry war hero recently sat down for an interview with "Power Players." WATCH:



HILLARY CLINTON SIDESTEPS KEYSTONE PIPELINE IN SPEECH TO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP. In an address to an environmental group that fiercely opposes the Keystone XL pipeline Monday evening, Hillary Clinton made no mention of the project, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. At a fundraising dinner for the League of Conservation Voters, Clinton spent most of her speech expressing support for the president's environmental policies, the need to stay vigilant in combating climate change and the risks around natural gas drilling, but she ignored the pipeline. The group has worked to kill its construction. The possible 2016 presidential candidate praised the "unprecedented action" President Obama has taken on climate change saying it "must be protected at all costs." "The science of climate change is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers may say, sea levels are rising, ice caps are melting, storms, droughts and wildfires are wreaking havoc," Clinton said. "The political challenges are also unforgiving, there is no getting around the fact the kind of ambitious response required to effectively combat climate change is going to be a tough sell at home and around the world at a time when so many countries including our own are grappling with slow growth and stretched budgets."

LANDRIEU, CASSIDY SLING MUD IN FINAL DEBATE BEFORE RUNOFF. In the one and only debate before Louisiana's runoff election, set for Dec. 6, Sen. Mary Landrieu and her GOP challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy sparred over which candidate has committed the greater crime, according to ABC's JORDYN PHELPS. While Landrieu made the case that Cassidy has padded his own payroll at the expense of the poor patients who he was supposed to help as a part-time professor of medicine at LSU, Cassidy batted back that Landrieu caused greater harm with her use of taxpayer funds to charter flights to campaign events. "My opponent has told us he is a doctor for the poor, but he is not a doctor for the poor, he's a doctor for himself," said Landrieu, who sought to distinguish her misuse of taxpayer funds on campaign related expenses - a mishap revealed earlier this year, which Landrieu has since corrected by reimbursing the misspent funds - as a book-keeping error compared to what she said was an intentional lack of record-keeping on Cassidy's part. Landrieu, who is widely considered the underdog headed into Saturday's election, repeatedly called on Cassidy to release the full records of his 63 months working at LSU to supplement the 16 months of time sheets that were made public in a surprise document release a week ago. But Cassidy said Landrieu is the one who needs to be more forthcoming with voters.

NOTED: LANDRIEU COUNTING ON STEVIE WONDER AND OTHER STAUNCH SUPPORTERS. Landrieu is relying on a close group of staunch Democratic supporters as she makes a final push to save her Senate seat from Cassidy. Cassidy has received a fresh round of endorsements from big-name 2016 contenders, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ken., and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. With just days to go before the election that could send this political survivor packing after 18 years in the Senate, Landrieu is not entirely in this alone. ABC's JORDYN PHELPS takes a look at some people who are still supporting her.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO AVOID ANOTHER GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. With only two weeks to go in the lame duck session, funding the federal government and avoiding another shutdown is at the top of Congress' to-do list of time-sensitive items that must be passed before the end of the year. Government funding is set to run out Dec. 11 when the continuing resolution expires, meaning lawmakers returning from Thanksgiving break must strike a deal in the next two weeks to stop a repeat of the 16-day government shutdown that occurred in 2013. But navigating the government funding debate could prove to be difficult, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and ARLETTE SAENZ note, because some conservatives are pressuring GOP leaders to tie President Obama's recent executive action on immigration to the upcoming funding fight. Republicans have yet to craft a response to the president's immigration decision, but could present a concrete counter-proposal in the coming weeks.

FOUR WAYS OBAMA IS TRYING TO MEND COMMUNITY-POLICE RELATIONS AFTER FERGUSON. With fallout from Ferguson, Missouri, in the spotlight, President Obama announced new action Monday aimed at boosting accountability of local law enforcement and improving policing policies in minority communities. ABC's DEVIN DWYER looks at the top four pieces of the plan.


CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER RESIGNS AFTER DISPARAGING COMMENTS ABOUT OBAMA GIRLS. A Congressional communications director resigned Monday after making disparaging comments about Sasha and Malia Obama on Facebook, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and DEVIN DWYER report. Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., criticized the girls' demeanor during the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony last week, writing on Facebook: "Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you're both in those awful teen years, but you're a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don't respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I'm guessing you're coming up a little short in the 'good role model' department." Lauten was widely criticized across social media for her comments. She then deleted her original post and wrote an apology on Facebook that she sent to ABC News. In a phone call, Lauten choked through tears as she told ABC News that she had resigned Monday morning. She refused to discuss the circumstances surrounding her resignation, instead pointing to her Facebook apology as her comment on the incident.


@bpolitics: This job is underpaid, lacks job security and you'll never get your boss's job. Yes, we're talking Defense Secretary

@politicalwire: Jeb Bush on running for president: "It's a big sacrifice because it's a pretty ugly business right now." …

@daveweigel: There should be a Museum of Non-Candidates, with wax statues of Mitch Daniels, Rob Portman, Colin Powell, Mario Cuomo

@lisabonos: How Hillary Clinton's demands compare to those of rock stars. …

@GlennThrush: Somebody says something dumb. People go crazy. Massive backlash/counter-backlash. Debate on cable for 5 days. Until new Ebola case surfaces.