Speech Therapy:

Calling it “less a presidential olive branch than a congressional cattle prod,” Politico reports that President Obama is planning to deliver an “aggressive” State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Although he’s not scheduled to lay waste to bipartisanship, Democrats close to Obama say he won’t be calling for a “peaceful collaboration” like he did in his first State of the Union speech in 2009. The strategy is a nod to his decisive victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But as Politico warns, that tactic could have its drawbacks: “If Americans perceive Obama as too partisan, he’ll lose a serious share of his personal popularity. Yet he needs to burn political capital — and keep the GOP on the defensive — to force the opposition into accepting more taxes and fewer budget cuts as part of a deal to avert the $1.2 trillion sequester cuts looming on March 1.” (Read more)

Hold It Right There: After stalling for more than a week, the Senate Armed Services Committee is planning a vote on defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. But not so fast—although the panel tally is expected to go along party lines in favor of confirmation, Republicans may try to delay a vote on the Senate floor by placing a hold on it—something South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham threatened to do over the weekend and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma confirmed Monday. “Hagel may be passed out of the committee, but it’s going to be a long, long time before he hits the floor,” Inhofe said. “We’re going to need as much time as possible, and there are going to be several of us who will have holds.” (Read more)

Military Action: As expected, the Pentagon on Monday extended certain benefits to same-sex couples in the military. The previously denied benefits include joint duty assignments, commissary privileges and emergency leave. The move comes 17 months after the Pentagon dropped its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “At the time of repeal, I committed to reviewing benefits that had not previously been available to same-sex partners based on existing law and policy,” outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. “It is a matter of fundamental equity that we provide similar benefits to all of those men and women in uniform who serve their country. The department already provides a group of benefits that are member-designated. Today, I am pleased to announce that after a thorough and deliberate review, the department will extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of service members.” (Read more)

Money Isn’t Everything: Nate Silver has some cautionary words for the Conservative Victory Project, the newest super PAC from Karl Rove designed to support “electable” Republican candidates. Silver suggests the effort could backfire and end in failure for Rove. Noting that Rove’s latest endeavor has already been met by harsh criticism from those on the right, Silver pointed out that money is actually the “least pressing problem” for candidates whom Rove’s group is likely to support. Silver concludes that “the money may be less likely to help if Mr. Rove’s group hopes to save struggling candidates through a barrage of advertisements late in the race. Republican voters have already been rejecting these candidates despite their overwhelming advantage in paid media placements, and often because they are viewed as too much a part of the Washington establishment. It will take more than a new super PAC for Mr. Rove to earn back their trust.” (Read more)

Video of the Day: “Saturday Night Live” began its latest show by poking fun at the Super Bowl blackout. What evidently didn’t make the cut for the cold open—this skit below of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing that mocked the GOP for its staunch support of, and love for, Israel. Among the things the skit included—Arizona Sen. John McCain (played by Taran Killam) asking Hagel (played by Jason Sudeikis) the following question: “So let me pose to you a hypothetical. You get an urgent call from the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who truly is one of the greatest men of this or any age, and he says to you, ‘it is vital to Israel’s security that you go on national television that night and perform oral sex on a donkey.’ Would you do that for Israel?”


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