The Guns, The Kids And The NRA
PHOTO: Guns are displayed in a gun shop in Bellevue, Washington.

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • LETTERS TO OBAMA: President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to unveil a sweeping plan aimed at curbing gun violence today at the White House. The event is scheduled to take place at 11:55 a.m. ET today. And the White House will release handwritten letters to the president from some of the children who will be at the White House when he unveils his plan. The kids offer their own ideas on gun control - ideas that go significantly further than the President's plan, notes ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. Eight-year-old Grant from Maryland, writes the President, "there should be some changes in the law with guns. It's a free country, but I recommend there needs be [sic] a limit with guns." Grant's ideas: "Please don't let people own machine guns or other powerful guns like that. I think there should be a good reason to get a gun. There should be a limit about [sic] how many guns a person can own." Eleven-year-old Julia from Washington, DC writes, "Even though I am not scared for my own safety, I am scared for others. My opinion is it should be very hard for people to buy guns."
  • NRA'S PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE: OBAMA IS AN 'ELITIST HYPOCRITE.' The National Rifle Association has launched a pre-emptive, personal attack on President Obama, calling him an "elitist hypocrite" who, the group claims, is putting American children at risk, notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. In 35-second video posted online Tuesday night, the NRA criticizes Obama for accepting armed Secret Service protection for his daughters, Sasha and Malia, at their private Washington, D.C., school while questioning the placement of similar security at other schools. "Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?" the narrator says. "Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security," it continues. "Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours." WATCH the video:


ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: The End Of National Unity?

When President Obama makes his gun control pitch surrounded by children, his opponents on the issue will - perhaps rightly so - accuse him of some degree of exploiting them as part of a political backdrop. His allies, meanwhile, will complain - perhaps rightly so - about the NRA ad that accuses the president of hypocrisy for dismissing proposals for guns in every school while sending his own children to school under Secret Service armed guard. Both complaints signal that any sort of national unity in the aftermath of the senseless killing of so many kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School is over.

ABC'S RICK KLEIN: 'Leave The Kids At Home'

Without suggesting a perfect equivalency between using children as a backdrop for an announcement (as President Obama is doing today) and using the president's own children to make a sharp political point (as the NRA is), is it too much to ask that both sides leave the kids at home for this fight? We can surely stipulate that neither side doesn't care about the safety of children. That's where the debate began, what made Sandy Hook different than Aurora or Tucson of anything that came before. It may be as much common ground as there exists in the current debate over gun violence. If the goal is to actually get something done on guns in Washington, even the mild suggestion that the other side doesn't stand with kids is the kind of message that has a way of shutting things down.


The shocking new National Rifle Association ad out last night was successful if the goal was to grab headlines and the public's attention, but does it get the NRA closer to its goal? Or does an attack on the president's family - young girls who did not choose for their father to be president - cross the line so much that is turns a once powerful group simply into a fringe organization? This week's ABC News-Washington Post poll shows there is support for armed guards at schools, but was this the smartest way to promote that tactic?

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Another Day, Another Cabinet Shuffle

With the news this morning that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is stepping down by the end of March, the talk now turns to his potential replacements. A few names already in the mix: Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (h/t ABC's Jon Karl). There's also former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. As for why Salazar is leaving the Obama administration, the Denver Post, which broke the news of his departure, notes the secretary's sometimes-grueling travel schedule as well as his likely desire for a "less-glamorous but more-lucrative private sector" job. A GOP operative also suggests at least one other reason: "The reality is that Secretary Salazar was going to become a liability fairly quickly with House Natural Resources opening an investigation as to whether evidence was falsified to warrant a drilling moratorium after the BP Spill."


-GIFFORDS WILL PERSONALLY LOBBY MEMBERS ON GUN CONTROL. Rep. Ron Barber, the former chief of staff to Gabrielle Giffords, tells ABC's Rick Klein and Yahoo!'s Olivier Knox that Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, will personally lobby members of Congress to pass new gun-control measures. The two "will be making visits to members of Congress and will be trying to-in a one-on-one relationship and meeting-lay out their case," Barber said. WATCH:

-POLITICALLY DRESSED: WHAT COATS WILL THE FIRST FAMILY WEAR? ABC's Shushannah Walshe delves into Inauguration Day fashion choices-specifically, the coats the First Family will wear on a cold inauguration Monday. Bloomingdale's men's and women's fashion directors offer their advice for Barack and Michelle. WATCH:


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

ANOTHER CABINET DEPARTURE: SALAZAR TO STEP DOWN. ABC's Jonathan Karl reports: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is the latest member of the Obama cabinet to depart at the start of the president's second term. A senior White House official tells ABC News that Salazar has told the president he intends to leave by the end of March. Salazar was a senator representing Colorado from 2005 to 2009 and prior to that was the state's attorney general. One possible replacement is outgoing Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

… AND HE'LL LEAVE BEHIND A REALLY NICE BATHROOM. ABC's Jonathan Karl reports: The personal bathroom used by the Secretary of the Interior is so swanky its renovation cost $220,000. No detail was overlooked: It has a $3500 sub zero refrigerator (hey, if you're going to have a fridge in the bathroom, it might as well be a good one) and a $689 faucet. At least the "vintage tissue holder" was cheap: just $65 bucks. The renovation was done in 2007 under President George W. Bush's Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, but is only now coming to light thanks to the dogged reporting by ABC News Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV, which first filed a Freedom of Information Act request on the renovation four years ago.

NEW YORK PASSES NATION'S TOUGHEST GUN LAW. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: New York became the first state to pass a gun control law - the toughest in the nation - since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre last month. Acting one month and a day since the rampage killing that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law shortly after 5 p.m. Called the New York Safe Act, the law includes a tougher assault weapons ban that broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon, and limits the capacity of magazines to seven bullets, down from 10. The law also requires background checks of ammunition and gun buyers, even in private sales, imposes tougher penalties for illegal gun use, a one-state check on all firearms purchases, and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods. As he signed the bill into law, Cuomo said it was not only "the first bill" but the "best bill."

FORMER A.G. ED MEESE: OBAMA RISKS IMPEACHMENT IF HE GOES TOO FAR ON GUNS. The former U.S. attorney general under Ronald Reagan tells the conservative site Newsmax that President Obama could be impeached if he uses executive orders to implement gun control. "It would not be legal. It would not be constitutional," said Meese. "And, indeed, if he tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense."

OBAMA'S SECOND TERM: BETTER JOB APPROVAL, AN EDGE ON THE DEBT LIMIT. President Obama begins his second term with his highest job approval since his first year in office, except for his post-Osama-bin-Laden bump, and an advantage over House Republicans: With another showdown on the nation's borrowing limit looming, 58 percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say the debt ceiling should be handled separately from the debate on spending cuts. Thirty-six percent instead favor linking the two, as the Republicans in Congress seek - a position that drew a tart response from the president Monday. … the president leads the GOP leadership in trust to handle the issue by a 14-point margin. … Fifty-five percent approve of his job performance overall, the most since November 2009, save for a blip at 56 percent immediately after Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in spring 2011.

MARK SANFORD: I'M RUNNING. The disgraced former governor will announce a bid for Congress today, attempting a political comeback with a run for the House seat formerly held by Tim Scott, who was tapped to replace retiring South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint. Sanford told The National Review's Jim Geraghty on Tuesday: "Officially we're going to announce tomorrow, and then it's off to the races. … In life we're all going to make mistakes, we're all going to come up short. The key is, how do you get back up and how do you learn from those mistakes? . . . But I think that the bigger issue is, don't judge any one person by their best day, don't judge them by their worst day. Look at the totality, the whole of their life, and make judgments accordingly."

WHERE THE GOP GOES FROM HERE. "In an interview, [RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus said he expects the [Republican National Committee's Growth and Opportunity Project] will recommend a more sustained effort to recruit and communicate with Republicans and potential party voters," reports Bloomberg News' John McCormick. "'The days of building up for three years and then running a short-sprint campaign are over,' he said. 'We've entered into the world of year-round campaigns, year-round messaging, year-round ground work, voter registration at a very granular level from coast to coast and that's where the Republican Party is probably going to have to go.' Discussing the party's presidential primary process, Priebus said he'd like to see fewer candidate debates than the more than 20 that were held in 2011 and 2012. He also said he wants the party to play a greater role in picking debate moderators and consider a penalty for candidates who attend unsanctioned forums."

NRA LAUNCHES LOBBYING FIGHT. Politico's Anna Palmer reports: "The NRA kept its dozen in-house lobbyists on lockdown in the first month after the Newtown massacre, but no more. The group is moving back onto Capitol Hill in force, not shying away from its take-no-prisoners message: no new gun laws. … NRA consultants and in-house staff have been ordered to avoid the press in an effort to control their message. An NRA spokesman did not respond to several requests for comment. A source familiar with the group's plan said that in-house lobbyists and some contract lobbyists had been tasked with bringing their message up to Capitol Hill."

HOUSE SENDS SANDY AID BILL TO SENATE. ABC's John Parkinson reports: Seventy-nine days after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeast, the House of Representatives voted this evening to approve about $50 billion of additional relief for the region pounded by the storm. The measure passed 241-180, mostly behind Democratic support, winning 49 votes from Republicans and 192 votes from Democrats. Just one Democrat opposed the legislation, while 179 Republicans voted against it. The base bill, known as the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Act, included about $17 billion to fund immediate and critical needs for Sandy victims and their communities. An amendment offered by New Jersey Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen to provide an additional $33 billion for disaster relief also passed, bringing the total amount of relief closer to the Obama administration's emergency supplemental request, which called for $60.4 billion in total relief.

CHRISTIE SKIPS PUBLIC FUNDING IN NJ CAMPAIGN. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: Unlike his 2009 campaign, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will not take public matching funds for his GOP gubernatorial primary this year. Since he announced his re-election bid in late November, the campaign has hauled in $2.139 million for his primary campaign - one in which he's not expected to have any opposition - and has $2.08 million in cash on hand, suggesting why the campaign decided to opt out of the matching-funds program.


@RyanLizza: A must-read @peterbakernyt oral history of Obama's first term: …

@JillDLawrence: Interesting conservative view RT @DrewHampshire Union Leader editorial: The debt ceiling: Right fight, wrong time:

@charliepolitico: Only 65 markets saw any broadcast TV advertising by the Obama campaign last year

@politicalwire: Problem for GOP leaders: Majority of Americans don't want spending cuts linked to debt ceiling …

@DoyleMcManus: #Democrats feel as if they're on a roll. But once spending cuts are on the table, their divisions will reemerge.

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