12 min read

Wake Up To Politics - November 14, 2014

To read today's edition of Wake Up To Politics in a PDF format, click here. Continue reading to find the text of the Wake Up in the body of the email!

Friday, November 14, 2014
725 Days Until Election Day 2016
It's Friday, November 14, 2014, I'm Gabe Fleisher for this packed edition of Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
To send me questions, comments, tips, new subscribers, and more: email me at wakeuptopolitics@gmail.com. To learn more about WUTP or subscribe, visit the site: wakeuptopolitics.com, or read my tweets and follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/Wakeup2Politics.
From the Editor's Desk

  • Hello and Happy Friday! First off, a scheduling note – I have been awarded a Lincoln Forum Student Scholarship, after participating in an essay contest on Abraham Lincoln. Because of this, myself and another student from somewhere in the U.S. will be attending the Lincoln Forum, a meeting of top Lincoln scholars, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I am not sure about the Wake Up schedule for next week while I am there, but will try to write as many as possible. Sorry!
  • Also, a few weeks ago, in English class, we were assigned to write a short story, and I, of course, tied in politics. Only my mom and dad, who are contractually obligated as parents to like it, and my teacher, who is not, have seen it, and I wanted to share it with you. This is a piece of original writing (connected to politics but not news), and you are free to read it or to scroll down and just read the news.

A Stroll by Gabe FleisherWilliam J. Davenport was born into wealth, and had lived his life entirely encased in it. He was heir to the Davenport steel empire, and his was a life privileged with fame and fortune. Davenport had served just two years as Governor of New York when he ran for President of the United States. Drawing upon his considerable personal wealth, Davenport won the election by funding his campaign purely from his own pocket, pouring millions into the race – figures his opponents could not compete with, even backed by legions of donors.
By December of its second year, just as the thermometers dropped to freezing temperatures, the Davenport Administration had reached a low point as well. The President’s party had lost both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, the economy was in decline, and unemployment numbers were at a record high. And Bill Davenport, the most powerful and richest man in the world, was slipping deep into a state of depression.
All he had to do to witness the country’s depression – one of economics, not emotion – was lift up the shades in his office, and stare out at the throngs of protestors who gathered each day, screaming and chanting, holding signs in opposition to everything he had done, and also things he hadn’t. And then there were the letters. When he took office, Davenport figured it was a good idea to read, and respond to, 10 letters every day. At first, the President found it to be engaging, but just 15 months into his term, the letters from the public took a disheartening turn, and he opened the 10 selected by his staff each day to find stories of illness, homelessness, and unemployment. Worst of all were the missives he received that were merely pleading for money. No, I cannot spare $20 for your brat’s college education, he thought. And I don’t care if you’re working two jobs and your husband’s dead: the answer is no! Of course, he didn’t write that, although he badly wanted to. His staff instead drew up a more conciliatory response to these sorts of letters – and they even stuffed the envelope with a pack of White House M&Ms, which, the Commander-in-Chief retorted, cost the taxpayer an extra 53¢.
“Actually,” an aide informed him, “the M&Ms come out of your personal salary,” to which President Davenport just deigned to growl in response. But he went along with it anyways. The country was in a recession, after all, or, as they kept reminding him to call it: a “temporary economic downturn,” whatever that meant. I don’t know what exactly is in a downturn, because Peggy and I happen to be doing just fine, thank you.
Criticism was coming at Davenport from all sides – the press, the protestors, sometimes even his own staff, and the night before, his wife, too. One day, he had enough. He needed to get out of the bubble of the White House, and the Oval Office he had come to think of as a jail cell. He needed to take a stroll away. From what exactly, Davenport could not be sure.
“I’m going out for a smoke,” the President told his Secret Service agent, Bobby, or Billy, or something. “I’ll be right back.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll be right here if you need me,” the agent replied with a crisp salute. As he walked past the guard, Davenport glanced at the agent’s name badge. Martha, it read.
Wrapped in his coat, President Davenport walked past the White House, past the Capitol, the monuments, and the fancy buildings. Into the city, mostly void of life at one in the afternoon. Soon he heard a voice from behind him: “Mister! Mister!”
At first assuming the press had caught up to him, Davenport ignored the voice, until it grew louder. He turned around, to face a man with sunken eyes encircled by dark rings, in clothes that, to the President, barely resembled more than a wrapper, a hand outstretched, with a hat carrying a few dimes, a dollar or two, and an expired bus pass.
“Spare a dollar?” the man asked.
“No, I cannot,” Davenport replied, disgusted at the begging voice. “What’s your name, sir?” he asked nastily, ready to report the man to the police for harassment.
The man looked up in surprise, as if hearing the word “sir” for the first time. “I don’t expect it matters much. Yours?”
“Bill Davenport. Do you not recognize me? I’m the Presi-,” he began to say, shocked at this rare display of unrecognition, but then merely said: “I’m Bill Davenport.”
Davenport then extended his hand, but nobody rushed to shake it. He awkwardly returned the hand to his pocket.
“What are you doing out here?” Davenport asked. “It’s 20 degrees.”
“I could ask you the same thing,” the man pointed out, but answered: “I’m here because I have to be. My wife was shot two years ago on this very street corner. Left me with four kids and an empty refrigerator. Now the kids are at school. They don’t know I’m here, but I have to be to get by.”
“Well, I won’t tell them,” Davenport said with a jovial smile, which was not returned. “But why? Why would you want to beg?”
“I stand here every day, no matter the weather. But I have to. I’ve got nothing, and if I didn’t stand here, my kids would have less than nothing. I have to stand here. For them. They’re beautiful, all four of ‘em. Oldest is about to graduate. What he’ll do after that, I do not know. He wants to go to Howard University and become an engineer. We can’t afford it of course, but the boy dreams big, and I love it. When I was young, my only dream was to get a hat.”
“A hat?” Davenport repeated, confused.
“So my dad could hold the little money he got begging on this street corner. But my kids come home each day, glowing. They love to learn. And I want my oldest to go to college. I want it dearly.”
“I’ve got two,” Davenport said. “John and Mary. I think they would rather be partying than at school, but they’re good kids. And a beautiful young wife, Peggy. We couldn’t be prouder.”
“Me too. If only I could put a little more on our table. So many people walk by. In this city, there’s young, old, poor, rich, black, white, and a President just a few blocks down. But none of them are willing to give.”
“Well, the President’s trying. He cares very deeply about our nation’s poor,” Davenport said automatically, as if reading off a teleprompter at a press conference.
“I’m not so sure anyone cares anymore, not least that joker on Pennsylvania Avenue. None of them care – Democrats, Republicans, senators, congressmen, the President. They’re all the same over there. But I’m here. I’m standing in America, the real one. And it may be the land of hope and opportunity, but I gotta tell you: I don’t have much of either anymore.”
“I know the feeling.”
“Well, thanks for listening then, mister. It was nice to talk to you…to talk to anyone.”
“No, thank you,” President Davenport said, dropping a $100 bill in the man’s hat.
With that, Davenport turned around, and walked away from the man standing in America, who was looking at his back, staring in awe.
Soon, both men were weeping. One, in joy, because he had been looked in the eye, and the other, in sympathy, because his eyes had been opened.

Capitol Hill News

  • Leadership Set for Next Congress The four congressional party caucuses met Thursday to vote on their leaders for the 114th Congress (which will convene in January). And it’s a lot of the same faces…just some with different titles.
  • Senate Republicans Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Senate Minority Leader, has been elected by his caucus to serve as Majority Leader in the new Senate, now that Republicans have claimed the majority in the chamber.
  • McConnell’s team remains intact, with John Cornyn (TX) re-elected as Republican Whip; John Thune (SD) as Conference Chair; John Barrasso (WY) as Policy Committee chair; and Roy Blunt (MO) as Conference Vice Chair.
  • The one change in the expanded leadership team was at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which will be chaired by Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) for the 2016 cycle. Senate Republicans chose Wicker over Dean Heller (NV) to succeed outgoing chair Jerry Moran (KS) in the caucus’s only contested leadership battle.
  • Senate Democrats The soon-to-be Senate minority party, the Democrats, had a similar situation. Harry Reid (NV), who is currently Senate Majority Leader, was re-elected to serve as Senate Minority Leader (and continue serving as Caucus Chair, the traditional role of the Democratic Senate leader) in the next Congress. His deputies too were re-elected: Dick Durbin (IL) as Whip; Chuck Schumer (NY) as both Caucus Vice Chair and Policy Committee Chair; and Patty Murray (WA) as Caucus Secretary.
  • Again, the biggest change was in the election committee chair: Sen. Jon Tester (MT) was elected to serve as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, with Michael Bennet opting not to run for re-election as he himself faces a potentially tough race in 2016.
  • In the larger team, however, there will be two new faces: two female Senators, both liberal rising stars mentioned as potential presidential or vice presidential candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) will serve in the newly created position of strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy Committee – a sort of liaison to liberals in the party, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) will take the post of Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee chair, a panel inside the caucus similar to the Policy Committee formerly headed by Sen. Mark Begich (AK), who will not be returning to leadership in the 114th Congress or the Senate at all, after being defeated for re-election earlier this month.
  • While Harry Reid was easily chosen to remain atop the Senate Democratic Caucus, a number of red-state Democrats did make news in voting against his re-election as Leader, including Sens. Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Tim Kaine (VA), Mary (LA), and Mark Warner (VA).
  • House Republicans John Boehner will be serving as House Speaker for at least another two years, now that House Republicans have re-elected him to the post. Like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, he is joined by his top deputies in his re-election: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), Whip Steve Scalise (LA), Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), and National Republican Congressional Committee chair Greg Walden (OR).
  • There was one contested race in the House Republican leadership elections Thursday: for the caucus’s Policy Committee chairmanship, won by Rep. Luke Messer (IN), over Reps. Tom Reed (NY) and Rob Woodall (GA).
  • Boehner’s election Thursday just means he is the Republican nominee for the office (Democrats nominated Nancy Pelosi). As the only constitutional officer in the entire Congress, Beohner stands for election by the entire House, but with Republicans in the majority, he was all but elected Speaker by the GOP’s re-nomination.
  • House Democrats Finally, the House Democratic Caucus doesn’t vote on its leaders until Tuesday, but their roster is likely to be similar as well, with the only difference to be the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will run for re-election, and is expected to win, although there has been mumbling about colleagues wanting her to step aside for a younger leader. Pelosi responded to questions on when she will retire in a press conference Thursday by saying, “I don’t understand why this question should even come up,” and hinted she believed the questions were rooted in sexism, asking, “When was the last time you asked Mitch McConnell… ‘aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch?’”
  • Roundup At the end of the day, the titles in the Senate will be different, and there may be a little turnover in lower-level leadership posts, but across-the-board, its mostly the same face we’ve been seeing for years.
  • In fact, the same four people have served in the four top leadership posts in Congress (Mitch McConnell as top Senate Republican, Harry Reid as top Senate Democrat, John Boehner as top House Republican, and Nancy Pelosi as top House Democrat) since January 2007. Reid and Boehner have both served atop their respective caucuses for longer than that, and all four have served in some party leadership post since the 1990’s.
  • And none of that will change for at least two more years.

White House Watch

  • The President’s Schedule President Obama continues his Asia trip today with a stop in Burma. Below, all times Eastern (Burma time is 11 hours ahead).
  • At 12:50 AM Eastern Time, the President will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s opposition leader, at the house she was detained at for 15 years.
  • At 1:40 AM, Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi will hold a press conference.
  • At 3:05 AM, President Obama will meet with staff at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma, before meeting with Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Regional Director Keri Lowry at the U.S. Embassy at 3:30 AM.
  • At 6:40 AM, the President will leave Rangoon for Brisbane, Australia (at this point he would go to sleep, since it is night for Burmese time).
  • Over the weekend, President Obama will participate in the G20 Conference in Brisbane, Australia on Saturday and Sunday, before leaving Brisbane for DC on Sunday.

Question of the Day

  • Yesterday’s Answer As George W. Bush released 41, a biography of his father/presidential predecessor, the trivia question was: “Name the other presidents who have written books about other presidents.”
  • Here are the possible answers I know of:
  • John Quincy Adams wrote eulogies the size of books when both of his immediate predecessors died (An Eulogy on the Life and Character of James Monroe and An Eulogy on the Life and Character of James Madison), and later drew from both of them to write a joint biography on both men, The Lives of James Madison and James Monroe.
  • Woodrow Wilson, a political science professor, authored a biography of George Washington, creatively titled George Washington, although this was long before his Presidency.
  • Finally, Herbert Hoover wrote a book on Woodrow Wilson, The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson.
  • The Amazon blurb about 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush reads, “Forty-three men have served as President of the United States. Countless books have been written about them. But never before has a President told the story of his father, another President, through his own eyes and in his own words.”
  • This is not entirely true: John Quincy Adams did write about his father John Adams – both presidents – in attempt to write a book about him, which was never published. JQA worked on-again, off-again on the biography, meant to “redeem [his father’s] fame,” but he kept postponing the work, and he died before he could finish it.
  • GREAT JOB…Joe Bookman, who answered John Quincy Adams, and John F. Kennedy on John Quincy Adams (who he included in Profiles in Courage – not a full-length book on JQA, but great thought!); Brad Chotiner, who answered Woodrow Wilson; and Steve Gitnik, who answered JQA!

Letters to the Editor

  • Laurie Sperling asks, “Were any Presidents unmarried, with no First Lady in the White House?”
  • Great question! Just one president was a life-long bachelor: James Buchanan. In addition, Grover Cleveland began his White House term a bachelor but married a year later. Also, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and Chester Arthur had no First Lady – but that was because they were widowers, and their wives had died.
  • Anyone with a question on ANYTHING related to politics, history, or Wake Up To Politics, please email me at wakeuptopolitics@gmail.com or tweet me @WakeUp2Politics!