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Anything in Washington becomes political, even the Boston bombing

BY Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  April 15, 2014 at 9:15 AM EST
Running shoes are laid out in a display at the Boston Public Library to commemorate the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Running shoes are laid out in a display at the Boston Public Library to commemorate the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Boston bombing and the year of surveillance scrutiny
  • US-Russia tensions flare over Ukraine
  • Get those taxes in!
  • Health law’s good week
  • Landrieu runs as the insider

Boston bombing – one year later: It’s been a year since the Boston bombing, and while at first, it didn’t look like a political story, just nine days afterward it became one. The Boston Globe reported that U.S. senators were saying Russia had warned about one of the bombers on “multiple” occasions. Back then, FBI officials insisted they only contacted them once. And an inspectors’ general report, reported on by the New York Times last week, backs them up. The spelling of the bomber’s name and whether the Department of Homeland Security should have been more on top of it were questions aimed at then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano eight days after the bombing. Boston also raised questions of privacy — a store surveillance camera helped identify one of the bombers, for example. It’s a reminder that ANYTHING in Washington can and will become political, and of just how big a story surveillance and privacy have been over the past year. Just look at Monday’s Pulitzer winners. Vice President Biden heads to Boston for a noon ET memorial event, where he will speak. President Obama participates in a closed-press moment of silence at the White House for Boston at 2:40 p.m. ET.

Ukraine tensions: President Barack Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone Monday night on the crisis in Ukraine. According to a White House readout of the talk: Putin requested the call, and Mr. Obama expressed “grave concern” for what he sees as Russia’s support for pro-Russian militias inciting unrest in Eastern Ukraine. The international community worries the destabilization could hurt the chances of the planned May 25 Ukraine elections going smoothly. In a readout from the Kremlin, Russia denied any involvement, saying U.S. allegations were based on “inaccurate information.” But it said the “protests … are the result of the Kiev authorities’ unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population.” Both sides seemed to agree to meet again in Geneva Thursday. There are those in the U.S. calling for President Obama to do more. The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page’s headline Tuesday is “Putin acts, Obama assesses.” Jane Harman, the former Democratic congresswoman who was chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC that President Obama and Europe, particularly Germany, weren’t doing enough. And Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s former national security adviser, said the U.S. should be arming the Ukrainians (and making sure Putin knows but keeping it quiet otherwise), because Putin was going forward with a “de facto piecemeal invasion of Ukraine.” The White House did confirm that CIA Director John Brennan was in Kiev over the weekend, which rankled Moscow.

Health law’s good week: The administration got a Congressional Budget Office report Monday it has to like. The CBO found the Affordable Care Act will cost about $104 billion less than expected. And this headline from the Wall Street Journal: “CBO Projects Lower Premiums in Health-Insurance Exchanges.” With this being tax day, though, one other health care story to watch — how many people actually wind up having to pay the health care mandate penalty — and how many people, especially young people, are surprised by it.

Tax day – How taxed are we, anyway?: Today’s tax day (the last day to file your taxes), and Americans feel they are overtaxed — 52 percent say so, per Gallup. That’s why this is always a political winner. It’s hard to make the case that people should be “patriotic,” as Vice President Biden did. Paul Waldman points to a chart showing the U.S. is 32nd on the list of taxes by percentage of gross domestic product of developed countries at 24.1 percent of GDP. The only two Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries behind the U.S. are Chile and Mexico. Denmark is the most taxed at 47.7 percent of GDP, followed by Sweden, France, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands and Hungary, rounding out the top 10.

Landrieu, the insider: Mary Landrieu, D-La., is out with a one-minute ad that plays up her chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “For years she’s forced Washington to respect Louisiana,” an announcer says, adding, “As the new chairman of the Energy Committee… she holds the most powerful position in the Senate for Louisiana.” It’s a fascinating ad given that in this climate, when “Washington” is so toxic, Landrieu is running on her Washington credentials. … Landrieu is polling in the low-to-mid 40s and down a couple of points on average. … BUT there has not been much good polling in these races yet AT ALL. A look around at other races shows Democrats within striking distance or in close races — even in Kentucky and Georgia. Republicans still have the edge for Senate control, but the CW that it’s a done deal isn’t quite the case yet. Democrats start with a disadvantage with the expanded playing field, but the races still have to play out.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died after being shot at Ford’s Theatre the night before. What agency did Lincoln establish a few hours before he was assassinated? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer @NewsHour, @rachelwellford, @DomenicoPBS, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Charlie Bilics @chuckle47 for getting yesterday’s answer – William Seward and Andrew Johnson.

LINE ITEMS

  • Tucked into the president’s agenda Tuesday is a meeting with pastors to “discuss the importance of taking action to pass commonsense immigration reform in the Oval Office” at 11:30 am ET. Of course, immigration faces a dead end in the House this year unless something changes. But the administration has signaled it could slow deportations. The L.A. Times reported last week that “leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus voiced confidence Wednesday that if the Republican-led House fails to undertake immigration reform this year, the administration will act by executive action.”
  • Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., running for the Senate, had a little trouble saying what he’d replace the Affordable Care Act with, since he says he’d repeal it and wants Arkansans to have “have quality, affordable access to health care.”
  • John Sununu on the criticism that Scott Brown isn’t from New Hampshire: “Jean Shaheen, by the way, was born in Missouri!”
  • For many Americans, lying and politics are synonymous. Well, the Supreme Court will decide by June if they can be. They hear arguments April 22.
  • Jonathan Chait looks at one of the other potential consequences of Republicans taking over the Senate — blocking the Obama Supreme Court nominee who could shift the court’s balance.
  • Chelsea Clinton says she could run for office one day.
  • North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis, who leads the GOP pack in early polls and fundraising, will be skipping a major upcoming debate ahead of the May 6 primary. The Raleigh News & Observer profiles one of his competitors, obstetrician Greg Brannon.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin. D-W.Va., tells Politico he’s “absolutely” weighing another run for governor in 2016 if he finds his brand of moderates in short supply in the Senate before his term expires in 2018.
  • The League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund are uniting to form the LeadingGreen coalition for fundraising and contributing directly to candidates.
  • Keep ‘em coming: Republican Curt Clawson, who’s running to replace former Rep. Trey Radel in Florida’s 19th district and who secured the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Monday, released “Quiet” earlier that day. The spot is reminiscent of this ad from Massachusetts’ 6th district’s Richard Tisei last cycle, whose strong 2014 poll numbers we reported on yesterday.
  • But we suppose this ad from one of Speaker John Boehner’s challengers on the right has to take the cake for most unconventional.
  • The Nevada GOP abandoned some controversial social issues in its party platform and endorsed Gov. Brian Sandoval for re-election.
  • Some Wisconsin Republicans are fighting for their right to secede
  • The week after the House passed the Ryan budget, progressive candidates in several states are holding events to drum up support for increasing taxes on America’s wealthiest, per the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
  • A group of House Republicans is traveling to Afghanistan to analyze the security situation there.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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