*** GOP presidential field remains focused on foreign policy: A week ago, we wrote how national security is now Republican voters’ top concern in the NBC/WSJ poll (vs. the economy being the top concern for Democratic voters). Well, guess what the top issue was at Saturday’s GOP confab in South Carolina -- national security and foreign policy.
- Here was Marco Rubio, per NBC’s Emily Gold: “People ask what should our strategy be on global jihadists and terrorists, I refer them to the movie ‘Taken.’… ‘We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.”
- Here was Scott Walker: “We need a president who’s gonna back away from that deal in Iran and set the record straight.”
- Rick Santorum: “I think it’s time we have a president that honors and supports the American military,” he said. “I would just be happy if the president would be able to tell the difference between our friends and our enemies.”
- And Ted Cruz: “We saw the ugly face of Islamic terrorism in my home state of Texas in Garland where two jihadists came to commit murder. Thankfully one police officer helped them meet their virgins.
*** Four reasons why: There are at least four reasons why the GOP candidates are focused so heavily on foreign affairs -- more so than at this time in the 2012 presidential cycle. One, the economy has improved (223,000 jobs were created last month, and Obama’s economic handling is up to 49% in the latest NBC/WSJ poll), while the deficit has decreased. Two, there’s the rise of ISIS. Three, there’s the Iran deal that the Obama administration is racing to finalize by next month. And four, there’s the GOP recognition that focusing on foreign policy is maybe the best way to go after Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state. Indeed, here’s Rand Paul: “Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya has made us less safe,” Paul (R-Ky.) told John Catsimatidis on The Answer 970 AM radio. “It made it a hotbed for jihadists, and, in fact, I think Libya now is a jihadist wonderland.”
*** Jeb would have authorized 2003 invasion of Iraq: Speaking of foreign policy, in a Fox News interview set to air today, Jeb Bush said would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Washington Post writes. “‘I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,’ the likely 2016 presidential contender said. As a senator from New York, Clinton voted in favor of the invasion — a decision she has since said was wrong. The mistakes, Bush argued, were in the decisions made in the aftermath: ‘Once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first.’” Worth noting: The Oct. 2014 NBC/WSJ poll found 66% of American voters saying that the Iraq war wasn’t worth it.
*** Meet Marco Rubio’s billionaire patron: If you apply the same logic that conservative author Peter Schweizer used for Hillary Clinton -- that donations to the Clinton Foundation appeared to influence policy decisions by Hillary Clinton’s State Department -- then the New York Times’ profile of big Marco Rubio patron Norman Braman is equally eyebrow-raising. What Braman has given Rubio over the years: He’s helped finance Rubio’s campaigns; hired Rubio as a lawyer; employed Rubio’s wife; paid Rubio’s salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and now has committed about $10 million to the pro-Rubio Super PAC in 2016. What Braman has gotten in return: Rubio helped steer millions of taxpayer funds to Braman-backed charities. Rubio defended his actions in an interview with MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt. “The only thing Norman Braman’s ever asked my help on is charities, whether it’s a cancer center, or a genomics center at the University of Miami.”
*** That time Rubio helped out Braman’s cancer institute, despite Jeb Bush’s veto threat: But as the Times piece points out, not every GOP politician supported these charities. Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush, had vetoed the [cancer institute] funding in 2004, incurring Mr. Braman’s public fury... Mr. Rubio did not let it happen again. The next year, he secured the cancer funding over Mr. Bush’s objections. “Marco,” Mr. Bush wrote in a somewhat grudging email to a lobbyist at the time, “strongly wanted the Braman Cancer money.”
*** Bill won’t play role in Hillary’s campaign -- in 2015: Meanwhile, the Washington Post scoops that Bill Clinton is unlikely to play any kind of role in Hillary Clinton’s campaign this year. “Senior aides say he does not plan to do any campaign activities for his wife in 2015, including fundraisers for her campaign or allied super PACs. He has said privately that she should lead the campaign on her own, aides said. ‘He’s completely focused right now on the foundation,’ said Tina Flournoy, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. ‘That does not mean that he does not realize his wife is running for president. But he is not directly engaged in the campaign. As he has said before, if his advice is asked for, he’s happy to give it.’” Of course, Bill not playing a role in 2015 shouldn’t be all that surprising with Hillary WAY AHEAD in the early Democratic field, which so far includes just one other candidate -- Bernie Sanders.
*** Wrapping Fiorina’s “Meet” appearance: On “Meet the Press” yesterday, 2016 GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina defended her lack of experience in elective office. “I understand how the economy works. I understand how the world works. I know more world leaders on the stage today than anyone running, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton.” She explained why she’s against the current free-trade deal, but supported free trade in the past. “The truth is, we don't know what's in this deal. The truth is we know that we have trading partners who have violated agreements in trade deals, China being one of them. And so I think it's important to understand some of the fine print of this deal.” And Fiorina responded to being fired at Hewlett Packard. “Well, they did fire me. I've been very open about that. I was fired in a boardroom brawl. We had board members who were leaking information out of the boardroom. You know, the truth is this: it is a leader's job to challenge the status quo. And when you do, you make enemies.”
*** Huck on that diabetes treatment, Carson on his flat-tax proposal: Also on the Sunday shows, Mike was asked about promoting a dietary supplement that claims to cure diabetes: "I don't have to defend everything that I've ever done," he replied. And Ben Carson defended his support of the flat tax: “I like the idea of a proportional tax. That way you pay according to your ability. And I got that idea, quite frankly, from the Bible, tithing. You make $10 billion a year, you pay $1 billion. You make $10 a year, you pay $1. You get the same rights. That's pretty darn fair, if you ask me. Now, some people say it's not fair because, you know, the poor people can't afford to pay that dollar. That's very condescending. You know, I grew up very poor. I experienced every economic level. And I can tell you poor people have pride, too. And they don't want to be just taken care of.”
*** On the trail today: Ben Carson and Rand Paul are in New Hampshire… Bernie Sanders has an event in Charlottesville, VA… And Scott Walker remains in Israel.
OBAMA AGENDA: Saudi king pulls out of White House summit
"Saudi Arabia’s monarch pulled out of a summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama on Thursday, in a blow to the White House’s efforts to build Arab support for a nuclear accord with Iran," writes the Wall Street Journal.
More, from the AP: "The absences will put a damper on talks that are designed to reassure key Arab allies, and almost certainly reflect dissatisfaction among leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council with Washington's handling of Iran and what they expect to get out of the meeting."
ICYMI: Barack Obama on Elizabeth Warren's claims against a new global trade partnership, in an interview with Yahoo News: "She's absolutely wrong."
CONGRESS: McConnell vs. Reid on fast-track bill
The Wall Street Journal: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to complete fast-track trade legislation by the end of the month are running into an old nemesis: Harry Reid."
The House will consider a 20-week abortion ban this week, Roll Call notes.
OFF TO THE RACES: What happened to the “middle class” – well, at least the term?
The New York Times notes that candidates aren't using the term "middle class" as much – as economic tiers shift and shrink.
"Senior executives from seven of the biggest U.S. banks gathered or dialed into a March 31 meeting on the 51st floor of the Bank of America Tower in New York to discuss the upcoming election cycle and how the firms can counteract what they view as false and damaging statements about large banks, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the meeting."
Republicans in South Carolina had some tough talk on foreign policy in South Carolina this weekend.
Hillary Clinton looks resilient with New Hampshire Democrats in a new Bloomberg/ Saint Anselm poll, while Rand Paul and Scott Walker lead with Republicans.
BUSH: POLITICO questions whether Jeb Bush's decision to delay jumping into the 2016 race is hurting his chances of winning the nomination.
In an interview to be aired Monday on FOX News, Jeb Bush says he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
At Liberty University, he spoke about the role of religion in public life.
CARSON: On FOX News Sunday, Carson talked Ukraine, flat tax and judicial review.
CLINTON: The New York Times reports on Hillary Clinton's brother, Tony Rodham. "On and off for two decades, the affable Mr. Rodham has tried to use his connections with his sister and his brother-in-law, former President Bill Clinton, to further a business career that has seen more failures than successes. The connections to the Clintons have given Mr. Rodham, a self-described “facilitator,” a unique appeal and a range of opportunities, like addressing Chinese investor conferences and joining an advisory board of a company seeking permission to mine for gold in Haiti."
The Washington Post asks the question: "What do to with Bill?" MORE: "Bill Clinton is a political animal who logged 168,000 miles on the campaign trail in 2014. Yet senior aides say he does not plan to do any campaign activities for his wife in 2015, including fundraisers for her campaign or allied super PACs. He has said privately that she should lead the campaign on her own, aides said."
"The Clinton presidential operation may look like a juggernaut from the outside, but her attempts to marshal early support in the home states of long shots are evidence that she feels the need to protect every flank, no matter how weak the opposition appears," writes the Boston Globe.
HUCKABEE: Mike Huckabee, asked about promoting a dietary supplement that claims to cure diabetes: "I don't have to defend everything that I've ever done."
FIORINA: Check out Chuck Todd's interview with Carly Fiorina, who defended her opposition to the trade deal being pushed by the president.
The Meet the Press team also looks at why Carly Fiorina was fired from H-P.
PAUL: Rand Paul says he didn't know what military exercise Jade Helm was when he was asked about it last month.
RUBIO: The New York Times wrote over the weekend about Marco Rubio's close relationship with South Florida auto dealer Norman Braman.
In an interview with Kasie Hunt, Rubio defended his relationship with Braman, saying he "has never asked me to do anything for his business in my time in Washington DC."
WALKER: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Saturday he would end the budget sequester requiring automatic defense and domestic spending cuts if he became president, a critical issue in South Carolina, a state with a large military economy and site of the first primary in the South,” McClatchy writes.
And around the country:
INDIANA: Marlin Stutzman is running for Senate, Roll Call writes.
NEW YORK: The fallout from that big NYT expose on nail salons: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered emergency measures to combat abuse of workers.