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Whiplash on Capitol Hill: From Kumbaya, to Scorched Earth, and Back

Democratic House Minority Leader from (L-R) California Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senate Minority Leader from Kentucky Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate Majority Leader from Nevada Harry Reid, and Republican Speaker of the House from Ohio John Boehner lock hands and sing 'We Shall Overcome' during a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. JIM LO SCALZO / EPA

From kumbaya, to scorched earth, and back again

Talk about whiplash. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of former legislators -- led by Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Trent Lott -- unveiled numerous recommendations to curtail the polarization in Washington, including having a National Primary Day (to encourage voter participation) and regular meetings between the president and Congress (to encourage a better dialogue). Then, about 24 hours later, that potential kumbaya moment turned into scorched political earth: House Speaker John Boehner announced his move to authorize a lawsuit against President Obama’s executive actions. Then, another 24 hours later on Thursday, we learned that former Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN), one of the 20th Century’s great senators and legislators, passed away. Senator after senator yesterday praised Baker’s life and career, invoking his nickname “the Great Conciliator,” remembering him as a man who was beloved by both Democrats and Republicans, and praising his bipartisan achievements. It was a reminder that legislators and politicians are ultimately remembered for the things they build, the achievements they win -- all in a system of government the Founders set up to make the process difficult. And here’s the question staring at the 535 senators and representatives working on Capitol Hill, as well as the folks in the West Wing: If their careers ended today, how is history going to remember them?

Obama on Boehner lawsuit

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing”: Meanwhile, President Obama has now given his first reaction to Boehner’s lawsuit. “What I do worry about is that right now we’ve got a Republican Party that seems to only care about saying no to me,” Obama told ABC. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing.” When asked if he think he’ll get sued, Obama added, “You know the suit is a stunt, but what I told Speaker Boehner directly is if you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?” He went on to say, “The majority of the American people want to see immigration reform done, we had a bipartisan bill through the Senate and you’re going to squawk if I try to do fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you are not doing anything?” Obama also commented on the young undocumented immigrants crossing the border into the United States. “Our message absolutely is: Don’t send your children unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our direct message to families in Central America. Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

Wisconsin prosecutor walks things back on Scott Walker

A week after documents were released linking him to an alleged “scheme” of illegally coordinating fundraising, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got some very good news yesterday. One of the prosecutors of that Wisconsin investigation cautioned that Walker hasn't been accused of a crime and isn't the target of the investigation. "While these documents outlined the prosecutor's legal theory, they did not establish the existence of a crime; rather, they were arguments in support of further investigation to determine if criminal charges against any person or entity are warranted," said an attorney representing special prosecutor Francis Schmitz. The attorney, Randall Crocker, added: "Mr. Schmitz has made no conclusions as to whether there is sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime. It is wrong for any person to point to this sentence in a legal argument as a finding by the special prosecutor that Gov. Walker has engaged in a criminal scheme. It is not such a finding." More from Crocker: "At the time the investigation was halted, Gov. Walker was not a target of the investigation. At no time has he been served with a subpoena." Now this hardly means that Walker is out of the woods. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, Crocker’s statement "doesn't address whether Walker's campaign was a target of the investigation and a subpoena. The Wall Street Journal and later the Journal Sentinel have reported that Walker's campaign received one of a number of subpoenas in the case and is part of the legal fight challenging them." Yet given that Walker has been complaining that the investigation has been unfair to him, he certainly now has a good talking point.

Bill Clinton vs. Dick Cheney

A few days ago, it was Rand Paul sparring with Dick Cheney. Now it’s Bill Clinton. Responding to Cheney’s criticism of President Obama’s handling of Iraq, Bill Clinton told NBC’s David Gregory: “If they hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, none of this would be happening.” He added, “Mr. Cheney has been incredibly adroit for the last six years or so attacking the administration for not doing an adequate job of cleaning up the mess that he made. And I think it's unseemly. And I give President Bush, by the way, a lot of credit for trying to stay out of this debate and letting other people work through it.” And Cheney has now fired back at the former Democratic president. Speaking in Montana, Cheney said, “If there’s somebody who knows something about unseemly, it’s Bill Clinton.”

Scott turns the table on Crist

Finally, in Florida’s very competitive gubernatorial race, a fascinating thing has happened: Gov. Rick Scott has put Charlie Crist on the defensive by calling for Crist’s wealthy wife to release her tax returns. Why it’s fascinating – because Scott is the wealthy one in this contest. The Orlando Sentinel: “‘I can't imagine what Mr. and Mrs. Crist are afraid of if the people of Florida learn the details of their assets and liabilities, as other Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates have freely disclosed over multiple elections,’ Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Thursday in a statement released by the Scott campaign. Scott's campaign committee, Let's Get to Work, hammered home that message in a television ad released Wednesday.” More: “In return, Crist has tried to shift the focus, blasting Scott for bringing Crist's spouse into the campaign while pledging to release more facts about his own finances than Scott has. ‘It's a shameful new low in the history of Florida politics for a candidate to run TV ads attacking the wife of a candidate. ... Spouses and children are off limits,’ Crist said shortly after the commercial was released.”

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