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The Edge: Are Hagel’s Views Outside the Mainstream? The Edge: Are Hagel’s Views Outside the Mainstream?

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The Edge: Are Hagel’s Views Outside the Mainstream?

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here

Are Hagel’s Views Outside the Mainstream?


Chuck Hagel will have his second chance at confirmation as Defense Secretary next week, but pundits have largely missed the most significant reason for his stalled nomination.

Put simply, Hagel’s views on the U.S-Israel relationship defy the traditional congressional consensus on the issue.

That’s why conservative, pro-Israel groups ran attack ads. That’s why liberal-leaning Jewish groups released statements this weekend questioning his speeches. That’s why Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin’s rabbi delivered a sermon last month, declaring: “From our perspective, outside of Pat Buchanan and Al Sharpton, I can’t think of a worse choice!”


Hagel’s support among Democrats is wide, but not deep. In deference to the White House, Democrats remain unified, despite concerns about Hagel’s positions. As Bob Woodward reported on Fox News Sunday, several Democratic senators called the White House to see if he was withdrawing.

Hagel is still likely to be confirmed. But Republican opposition would be minimal if Hagel’s positions were more in line with mainstream views in both parties.

—Josh Kraushaar


WHITE HOUSE LAUNCHES ‘TOUR’ ON SEQUESTER. Later today, President Obama will grant interviews to local TV anchors across the country to discuss the impacts of the looming across-the-board cuts known as the sequester. Following up on a speech from Tuesday, he will use the interviews "to focus on the harmful local impacts that will be felt if congressional Republicans refuse to compromise," a White House official told The Hill. The cuts are scheduled to go into effect next Friday. The following markets scored interviews: Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Baltimore; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Wichita, Kan.; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco; and Honolulu. Read more 

  • In the interviews, Obama will lay out his plans for infrastructure he highlighted in the State of the Union, The New York Times reports, including $50 billion for transportation.

JACKSON JR. PLEADS GUILTY. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., pleaded guilty in federal court this morning to charges of misusing campaign funds, according to Politico. "Sir, for years I lived off my campaign," Jackson told the judge. "I used money I shouldn't have used for personal purposes." Jackson bought thousands of dollars of memorabilia including a football signed by U.S. presidents, a Michael Jackson fedora, and memorabilia of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Lee—all from a company called Antiquities of Nevada. He faces almost five years in prison. His sentencing is in June. Read more

  • Jackson once coauthored a book with his father titled It's About the Money! How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams. It is 89,629th in the rankings.

THE SENATE’S MOST CONSERVATIVE MEMBER: EVER HEARD OF HIM? When people think about conservative “all stars” in the Senate, a few names probably come to mind. There was Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who before leaving the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation was the godfather of the tea party in the upper chamber. There’s also Rand Paul of Kentucky, son of libertarian champion Ron. Perhaps less known is Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the former head of the Club for Growth. All secured a spot on National Journal’s list of the most conservative senators, but none of them hold the top spot. That honor goes to James Risch of Idaho. Read more

  • How about the most liberal senator? Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut tied for that honor. Read more

KERRY: SEQUESTER WOULD DAMAGE U.S. ABROAD. In an address dedicated primarily to how foreign investment is a good deal for Americans (and ripping his former colleagues in Congress for mischaracterizing how much is spent on aid each year), Secretary of State John Kerry warned an audience at the University of Virginia that the looming sequester cuts would damage America’s standing in the world, Agence France-Presse reports. "My credibility as a diplomat working to help other countries create order is strongest when America at last puts its own fiscal house in order,” Kerry said. “It's hard to tell the leadership of any number of countries that they have to resolve their economic issues if we don't resolve our own."  Read more

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The day's action in one quick read."

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JUDD OFFERS MORE SIGNS OF KENTUCKY RUN. Late last week, actress Ashley Judd dined with a handful of influential Democratic insiders in Louisville, Ky., National Journal’s Michael Catalini reports. The list of invitees at the dinner was a who's who of Democratic politicians and operatives, including the commonwealth's only Democratic House member, John Yarmuth, and former party chairman, Jonathan Miller. She has also been in touch with the Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group, according to sources. Politico reports that Judd met with officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee earlier this week. Read more

FED OFFICIALS WORRY ABOUT EASY MONEY. Minutes released from last month’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee show increasing concern from some officials that the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies might lead to instability in the financial markets and may need to be reined in before the job market returns to normal, The Wall Street Journal reports. Stocks plunged following the release of the minutes. Read more

POST OFFICE CLOTHING LINE WILL BATTLE RAIN, HEAT, SNOW. The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service announced it will launch “a new line of all-weather apparel and accessories sometime next year,” The Washington Post reports. The line will be called “Rain Heat & Snow.” The new products will include jackets, headgear, footwear, and clothing designed to integrate iPods and other technology. Read more

ACCEPTING SEQUESTER IN THEORY, PROTECTING CUTS IN REALITY. Some lawmakers have accepted the impending sequester cuts. But they haven’t yet accepted that cuts will affect their own turf. Politico reports that both in private and public, members of Congress are urging the administration to take mercy on their home district’s programs and employment hubs. For example, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., has implored the Army Corps of Engineers to steer cuts away from water projects along the Mississippi River and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is talking to the Pentagon about staving off job cuts at a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Read more

ROMNEY TO SPEAK AT CPAC. Mitt Romney will speak at next month’s Conservative Political Action Committee just outside Washington, according to National Review. “This is really an opportunity for Governor Romney to thank all his supporters and friends,” a senior Romney aide said. Read more

INSPIRING A CONSERVATIVE FIRESTORM. A reporter for New York’s Daily News explained how his phone calls inspired a damning myth that Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel delivered a speech before a nonexistent group called "Friends of Hamas." "Doing my job, I erred in counting on confidentiality and the understanding that my example was farcical—and by assuming no one would print an unchecked rumor," reporter Dan Friedman wrote. "If anyone didn't know already: Partisan agendas, Internet reporting and old-fashioned carelessness can move complete crocks fast. If you see a story on Hagel addressing the Junior League of Hezbollah, that's fake too." Read more


BIDEN TO TALK GUNS IN CONN. Vice President Joe Biden will be in Danbury, Conn., on Thursday, where he will take part in a conference on gun violence, The New Haven Register reports. The panels will include local law enforcement officials and discussions on mental health and school safety initiatives. Biden will be joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., among others. The event, at Western Connecticut State University, is about 10 miles away from Newtown, the site of a December school massacre. Read more

HOME SALES FIGURES TO SHOW SLIGHT COOLING. The monthly existing home sales report for January will be released Thursday morning at 10 a.m. The consensus among economists is an annual rate of 4.9 million, a slight cooling from December’s numbers. Read more


LANCE ARMSTRONG: THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. It’s been a month since Lance Armstrong delivered his confession to Oprah Winfrey that he doped during his cycling career. Now, Texas Monthly catches up with the fallen hero in his hometown of Austin, where he was once a beloved, larger-than-life figure. “The stain’s not going away...” Armstrong said. “This stain will live forever. I’ll never get rid of it.” He adds: “I wasn’t a hero, and I’m not a monster.” Read more


"More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside my marriage. I deeply regret this and am very sorry for my behavior. I hope New Mexicans will view that my accomplishments for my beloved state outweigh my personal transgression." --Former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., in a statement acknowledging an affair with another senator’s daughter that ended in the birth of a son. Read more


WHAT DRIVES THE BUDGET? Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., opened a Budget Committee hearing last week by noting that 80 percent of the government’s welfare programs “together comprise the single largest item in the federal budget—larger than Medicare, Social Security, or defense.” Whether or not that’s true, though, depends heavily on your definition of “welfare,” according to The Washington Post. In making the assertion, Sessions lumped together all federal benefits for low-income people, referencing a Congressional Research Service report that said such spending totaled $746 billion in fiscal year 2010. Sessions’s office said the broad-strokes characterization was intentional, because they reject the definition of “welfare” as only cash-assistance programs. The Post concludes that Sessions’s use of the word “welfare” is intended to shock. “Though he derives his figure from the [CRS], he has ignored CRS’s caveats about how to describe these programs,” The Post wrote. Read more


  • @gopconference: That awkward moment when you realize Nancy Pelosi's blog is still called "The Gavel"
  • @lynnsweet: #Jesse Jackson Jr. Walking outside of courtroom grabs my hand and tells me "tell everybody back home, I'm sorry I let them down, OK?"
  • @mattyglesias: If you play the audiobook version of America: The Next Chapter backwards, it says “Friends of Hamas”
  • @BuzzFeedBen: And here’s this month’s best photograph
  • @politicalwire: Rough week: Two politicians admit to secret children, one pleads guilty to stealing $750K, another found in a barrel of cement

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Chock full of usable information on today's issues."

Michael, Executive Director

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

Great way to keep up with Washington"

Ray, Professor of Economics

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