Let Me Start: Christmas vacation ends early

President Obama takes questions from the White House press corps today. He last did that March 6.
President Obama takes questions from the White House press corps today. He last did that March 6.
Rex Features via AP Images

President Obama decided to cut short his Hawaii vacation and return to Washington on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. The president and Congress left the negotiating table in disarray last week after House Speaker John Boehner failed to win enough support from his own caucus for his proposed “Plan B” legislation that would have allowed taxes to rise on the wealthiest Americans. In a last minute press conference before leaving for Hawaii on Friday, Obama called for a scaled back agreement and reiterated his commitment to extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. The Senate will also reconvene on Thursday, but no word yet from the House on whether it will return.

According to a new Gallup daily tracking poll released Wednesday, only half of Americans have faith that the president and Congress will reach a budget agreement before the year-end deadline.

A new Washington Post story reveals dramatic details about the pre-election crackup within the Washington-based tea party organization, FreedomWorks. Reportedly, the group’s chairman Dick Armey tried to stage a coup by marching into the office with an unidentified aide holstering a handgun at his waist. Armey then had FreedomWorks’ top two employees - Matt Kibbe, the group’s president, and Adam Brandon, its senior vice president - escorted off the premises, while also suspending several other employees. It was not until Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire, reportedly pledged $12 million to FreedomWorks’ super PAC in exchange for Armey’s resignation that order was restored to the organization.

Following the president’s nomination of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as the next secretary of state, the world waits to see what will happen with Fmr. Sen. Chuck Hagel, Obama’s supposed top choice for secretary of defense. The White House has delayed a final decision on Hagel’s nomination in the face of mounting opposition from gay rights activists and Israel’s closest allies in Congress. As the National Journal points out, it seems that “borking” is playing an outsized role in the selection of Obama’s cabinet.

And be sure to tune in tonight to see The Boston Globe’s Michael Kranish discuss the story behind Mitt Romney’s loss.  Said Romney’s eldest son Tagg, writes Kranish, “[Mitt Romney] wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life.”