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Obama says U.S. military ‘superior’ to Putin’s Russian forces

BY Domenico Montanaro, Simone Pathe and Rachel Wellford  April 17, 2014 at 9:19 AM EST
Pro-Russian activists are reflected on a TV screen as they watch a TV broadcasting of Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual televised question-and-answer session with the nation outside the secret service building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk Thursday. Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-Russian activists are reflected on a TV screen as they watch a TV broadcasting of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual televised question-and-answer session with the nation outside the secret service building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk Thursday. Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama again warns of consequences for Russia on Ukraine
  • 2016 women under the microscope
  • Is Obama not “Deporter-In-Chief”?

Cold War games: President Obama flexed some American military muscle in an interview with CBS News, saying of Russia, “They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians. We don’t need a war.” Reuters described the comments as Obama “using words unheard since the Cold War.” Obama warned Russia of “consequences” for what he sees as Russia violating Ukrainian sovereignty and that it was “absolutely clear” Russia has “supported at minimum non-state militias in Eastern Ukraine.” Three pro-Russian separatists were killed in Eastern Ukraine, and Ukrainian officials said a national guard base came under attack. Russia’s Vladimir Putin was sharply critical, warning that Ukraine’s leaders were taking it into an “abyss” and called accusations that Russia was behind the unrest in Eastern Ukraine “[nonsense]” — although he did for the first time acknowledge the presence of Russian soldiers in Ukraine. He also raised the potential for Russia to use force in Ukraine, asserting that his Parliament gave him authority to do if necessary. “I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that by political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve all of the sharp problems,” he said in a televised interview in Russia. Still, for all the saber rattling, the most the West is calling for is another round of tougher sanctions, though some in the U.S. have called for arming Ukrainians. Today begins another round of talks in Geneva with Secretary of State Kerry.

2016 women under the microscope: Mother Jones has a lengthy look at popular New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and paints her as “the next Sarah Palin – Petty, vindictive, Petty. Vindictive. Weak on policy.” Maybe the worst part of the story for Martinez is having called a Democratic opponent a “little b—-” (an aide refers to another Democrat as a “retard”). She also said of teachers, “They already don’t work, you know, two and a half months out of the year.” And her campaign suggested quietly recording a YouTube discussion about everyone in the state needing to “feel the pain,” so when the time came for education cuts once in office, she wouldn’t be called out as a flip-flopper. There’s plenty of palace intrigue, but much of this reads like the behind-the-scenes of a typical hard-fought campaign rather than something that will imperil her. In fact, the “little b—-” anecdote may actually help her with donors and strategists because it makes her look tough, frankly. And on teachers, as a Republican, she probably wasn’t going to be getting the teachers’ union endorsement in a presidential run anyway, if she ever does decide to do that. But this is the kind of scrutiny that will continue for people like Martinez, who will be on everyone’s short list for the GOP future.

Vetting Hillary: Meanwhile, the vetting of the Dems’ top female prospect continues. In the latest what-kind-of-president-would-Hillary-be retrospective, The New York Times fleshes out her diplomatic legacy, noting that her service to Mr. Obama makes it harder for her to tout her own more hawkish record. And of crucial importance, her aides say, is conveying that her most publicized project — defending the rights of women and girls — is part of a strong national security strategy.

Warren’s memoir: Another woman looked to by many on the left as the future is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Though she has said she’s not running for president in 2016, the release of her forthcoming book, “A Fighting Chance,” (which includes a brief, flattering shout out to Hillary Clinton), is going to stoke all kinds of speculation about her future. She writes that she reluctantly agreed to build up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, knowing that Mr. Obama was considering other, less controversial candidates to be its director, with one White House adviser telling her she’d be best as [the agency’s “cheerleader.”] She took offense. “I assume that was meant as a metaphor,” Warren writes, “but I had to wonder: Cheerleader? Would the same suggestion have been made to a man in my position? I did not rush out to buy pom-poms.” She also calls out former White House economic adviser Larry Summers for drawing a line and wanting her to choose whether she was an “outsider” or an “insider.” He said insiders don’t criticize other insiders. “I had been warned,” she writes. Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant, put it this way to the Boston Globe: “It’s not the book that would have been on the syllabus for her Harvard Law School class.” But if she ever runs, “it will be on the syllabus of every reporter covering the presidential election in 2016.”

Immigration numbers on the decline? The number of deportations through U.S. immigration courts have dropped significantly in the last five years. “The statistics present a different picture of President Obama’s enforcement policies than the one painted by many immigrant advocates, who have assailed the president as the ‘deporter in chief’…,” the New York Times reports. The courts saw 26 percent fewer immigration cases last year than in 2009, and court deportations have decreased by 43 percent in that same time period. A couple of other things to consider: The courts do not oversee all deportations. And since the administration has increased border security significantly, many illegal immigrants who are caught are deported immediately and never see an immigration courtroom. What’s more, budget cuts have meant fewer judges to help the courts get through the mountain of immigration cases that have piled up. Although the overall numbers have gone down, there are still individual cities around the U.S. where immigration cases have increased. According to a Department of Justice report, Harlingen, Texas, for example, saw a 60 percent spike in cases; Houston’s increased by 52 percent and Phoenix was up 30 percent.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1961, 1,200 exiles, under the orders of President John. F. Kennedy, landed on the shores of Cuba in what became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. What agency head was forced to resign after the failed overthrow of Fidel Castro? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer @NewsHour, @rachelwellford, @DomenicoPBS, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Unfortunately, no one got yesterday’s answer to yesterday’s trivia — “How many senators originally voted against the legislation to end slavery in DC?” Answer: 14.

LINE ITEMS

  • Politico’s Katie Glueck reports that GOP donors worry that Jeb Bush’s family won’t want to be put through the scrutiny of a presidential campaign.
  • Michael Bloomberg’s new group “Everytown for Gun Safety” is out with a new ad depicting a young girl finding a handgun while playing hide-and-seek with her brother.
  • IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the agency is moving forward on rules to limit political activities of tax-exempt groups, but that the IRS and Treasury will be rewriting controversial draft guidelines for what constitutes “candidate-related political activities.”
  • The New York Times reports that Kathleen Sebelius is weighing a challenge to incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts. She has until June 2nd to decide.
  • Put Alaska First is airing an ad in defense of Sen. Mark Begich’s support of the Affordable Care Act, specifically the provision against denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — without mentioning the law or Mr. Obama by name.
  • Many of Put Alaska First’s ads have attacked Republican Dan Sullivan as a carpetbagger, as well as outside interests like Americans for Prosperity, but this seemingly homegrown super PAC, Huffington Post notes, gets most of their money from DC.
  • The law firm whose taxpayer-funded investigation of the George Washington Bridge scandal exonerated New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a $10,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association nine days before releasing their report.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., gets just a 40 to 44 percent approval rating in the latest Winthrop poll.
  • Since she announced her candidacy in late February, Debbie Dingell, the wife of retiring Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., has only spent $11,543 on her campaign and still has $518,263 cash on hand.
  • Democrats and Republicans continue to spar over the Senate-passed immigration reform bill, but this time it was during a call between Mr. Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that blocks cities from creating their own minimum wage standards.
  • The Nation’s Jarrett Murphy analyzes New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first 100 days in office and the struggle he’s had to uphold his campaign promises.
  • Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., now says he will campaign for GOP candidate Jim Oberweis, after having first said he would not out of loyalty to his friend Sen. Dick Durbin.
  • 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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