First Thoughts: The next eight days

Previewing the next eight days in politics -- focusing on the UN, the potential government shutdown, and health-care implementation… Gaming out the budget brinksmanship… Ted of Arc? Cruz already becoming a conservative martyr… Clinton news everywhere: Hillary speaks to New York magazine, Bill also speaks before CGI meeting, and the New Republic profiles Doug Band (and not in a positive way)… WaPo examines McAuliffe’s business practices… And NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll results in the VA GOV race to be released at 11:00 pm ET.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Ford Kansas City Stamping Plant Liberty in Liberty, Missouri September 20, 2013. Larry Downing / REUTERS

*** The next eight days: The next eight days in politics will certainly be busy -- with President Obama at the United Nations, with the possibility of a government shutdown come Oct. 1, and with enrollment beginning in the new health-care exchanges. The next 48 hours will be all about the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, which gives Obama the opportunity to put a potential shine on what had been a perceived rough going on Syria. That potential shine: The message that diplomacy is working (whether it’s regarding Syria’s chemical weapons, Iran’s nuclear weapons, and general Middle East peace). It wasn’t pretty with Syria, but the president’s message will be that there is real action on chemical weapons. And on Iran? Would the Iranian people have elected Rouhani without sanctions? Would he feel compelled to suddenly reach out the way he has so far (in words) if it wasn’t for the threat of force and the tough sanctions? Again, those will be among the president’s messages to the gathered world leaders in New York City. Here is Obama’s schedule today at the UN: He and the first lady arrive in New York at 12:35 pm ET, Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Nigeria’s president at 1:45 pm, he holds a roundtable discussion at 3:00 pm, and he and the first lady attend a reception for the visiting heads of state at 8:50 pm.

*** Gaming out the budget brinksmanship: But after Monday and Tuesday, the focus will return to the looming federal government shutdown in Washington. How this thing plays out is uncertain, but here is what we DO know in the legislative game of ping pong: The Senate will send back a “clean-ish” continuing resolution to the House that strips away the measure defunding the president’s health care law. Then the House will send something back to the Senate that has SOMETHING to do with the health care. But when does this ping pong happen? The question turns to timing, especially if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) mounts a filibuster in the Senate. After being challenged by House Republicans, Cruz and his allies might have no choice other than to wage some sort of filibuster -- perhaps not by traditional means but using procedural tricks. But such a delay could allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to jam House Speaker John Boehner. Chuck Schumer, in an interview to air on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” this morning, says any “jamming” of Boehner would be on Cruz and his delay tactics. Schumer also says there are behind-the-scenes negotiations taking place between House GOP leaders and Senate Dem leaders, so that once the Cruz show is over, they can act before midnight Sept. 30. Schumer seemed optimistic that a shutdown will be averted for now, but he also acknowledged the next test will be on debt ceiling. Here’s one other thing we know: The party that’s more united typically wins these kinds of fights. And which party right now is less united? See below… 

*** Ted of Arc? The conservative effort to tie the funding of the president’s health-care law to whether or not the federal government stays open on Oct. 1 could VERY WELL blow up in the GOP’s face. But even if that happens, some non-DC conservatives are already trying to make Ted Cruz a martyr. On Sunday, Breitbart News quoted FOX host Chris Wallace saying that he had received opposition research on Cruz -- from Republicans (!!!) -- ahead of Cruz’s appearance on Wallace’s show. That revelation came after Sarah Palin defended Cruz. “If the Senate doesn’t get behind Ted Cruz’s efforts to defund Obamacare, it won’t be because of any failure on Ted’s part. It’ll be because there weren’t enough principled leaders to stand with him, and that would be a tragic loss, not for Ted, but for America,” she said. “Ignore the peanut gallery pundits. They’ve written my political obituary so many times, I’m practically Lazarus. Now they’re trying to destroy Ted Cruz. Good luck with that, you weasels.” (Ummm, Palin’s political career is over -- unless she ever decides to run for political office again, right?) Oh, and don’t miss this Ted Cruz line in GQ: “I don't know a conservative who didn't feel embarrassed voting in 2006 or 2008," Cruz told me—a remark that's sure to endear him even more to McCain.

*** Clinton news -- everywhere! If you wanted an idea of what the media landscape would look like the moment we get a clear indication if Hillary Clinton is running for president, we got a taste of it over the past 48 hours. Hillary Clinton gave her first private-citizen interview to a news organization; Bill Clinton is making news ahead of his Clinton Global Initiative meeting; and the New Republic runs a tough piece on Bill Clinton aide Doug Band. It’s a reminder of what comes with the Clintons -- excitement, news and attention, and baggage. Now on to these individual stories…

*** “She’s running,” Hillary confidante tells New York magazine: In her first interview with a news organization since leaving her secretary of state post, Hillary Clinton certainly didn’t seem like someone who was shutting the door to a 2016 presidential bid. In fact, it was the opposite. When New York magazine asked if she wrestles with running, Clinton responded, “‘I do,’ she says, ‘but I’m both pragmatic and realistic. I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders, and I’ll do whatever I can from whatever position I find myself in to advocate for the values and the policies I think are right for the country. I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other.’” It’s a significant step that she’s decided to acknowledge publicly that she’s thinking about it. We may all think we know this and treat it as a given inside the Acela Corridor, but it’s still significant to read her SAYING it. But the article adds, “Some of her close confidants, including many people with whom her own staff put me in touch, are far less circumspect than she is. ‘She’s running, but she doesn’t know it yet,’ one such person put it to me. ‘It’s just like a force of history. It’s inexorable, it’s gravitational. I think she actually believes she has more say in it than she actually does.’” Other than sending signals that she’s running, the other unmistakable take away from the Hillary interview: She won’t be surrounding herself with a lot of the Bill alum, a la 2008. More Team Hillary, less Team Bill in 2016. Translation to nervous donors/supporters about a repeat of 2008: Mark Penn and other Bill veterans aren’t running this thing.

*** Was the Clinton Era a conservative era for Democrats? Meanwhile, in advance of his upcoming Clinton Global Initiative meeting, Bill Clinton is giving plenty of interviews. Speaking with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Clinton responded to the accusation that the Clinton Era was a conservative era for Democrats, especially on fiscal policy. “Well, first of all, there's probably something to that. America's growing more liberal culturally and more diverse. But, again, let's not get carried away here. I ran on income inequality in 1992, when I was the governor of my state. I took 25 percent of the people out from under the state income tax, the bottom 25 percent. In my first congressional session, we raised taxes on high-income people, on corporations; we cut taxes on the working poor.” And here’s what he said on the repeal of Glass-Steagall: “I know that Senator Warren said the other day, admitted, when she introduced a bill to reinstate the division between commercial and investment banks, she admitted that the repeal of Glass-Steagall did not cause one single solitary financial institution to fail. Canada did a fabulous job in this financial crisis, and they have always allowed banks to issue securities and make loans.”

*** Andthe Band played on: The New Republic has a different look at the Clintons -- about top Bill Clinton aide Doug Band. “Inside the realm known as Clintonland, he is the subject of considerable angst. There are those who worry about the overlap between his work for the Clinton Global Initiative— which he conceived and helped run for six years—and his energetic efforts to expand Teneo’s client base. And there are those who worry about how some of the messier aspects of the charity’s operations could create trouble for Hillary Clinton, who has made the family foundation her base as she contemplates a presidential run. But the real cause for these anxieties runs deeper. At its heart, the unease with Band reflects an unease with the phenomenon of post-presidential Clintonism itself.” Doug Band’s known as the keeper of the Clinton grudges, and it was inevitable he would be the focus of a tough piece at some point.

*** Examining McAuliffe’s business practices: Speaking of Clinton confidantes and associates, the weekend’s Washington Post examined Terry McAuliffe’s (D) business dealings with a month-plus until Virginia’s Nov. 5 gubernatorial race. “A review of McAuliffe’s business history shows him often coming out ahead personally, even if some investments fail or become embroiled in controversy. One high-profile example involved Global Crossing, a telecommunications firm whose demise in the 1990s cost investors billions of dollars. McAuliffe was working as a consultant to Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick, a prolific political donor, and became an investor in the company. McAuliffe sold some of his Global Crossing shares before the stock price plummeted and made an estimated $8 million before the company went sour.”

*** Results of new VA GOV poll come out tonight: Lastly, the results of a new NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll on Virginia’s gubernatorial contest will be released on NBC-4 at 11:00 pm ET. And we’ll have analysis of the results tomorrow morning -- all ahead of Wednesday’s Terry McAuliffe-vs.-Ken Cuccinelli debate moderated by one of your authors, NBC’s Chuck Todd.

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