*Taken from Politico.
PRESIDENT OBAMA is taping his NCAA picks today, and they’ll be revealed tomorrow on ESPN. … NATE SILVER’s March Madness bracket http://nyti.ms/fc2qH9 … At 11:25 a.m., Obama will tape interviews from the Map Room with KOAT Albuquerque, KDKA Pittsburgh and WVEC Hampton Roads on education reform and the need to fix No Child Left Behind.
BREAKING — Petraeus to give Hill upbeat view of Afghan fight – AP: “Gen. David Petraeus was to deliver his first formal assessment to Congress, returning to Washington for the first time since he took over as battlefield commander nine months ago. … Taliban momentum ‘has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas … I am concerned that levels of funding for our State Department and USAID partners will not sufficiently enable them to build on the hard-fought security achievements of our men and women in uniform,’ he said in testimony prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee.”
Good Tuesday morning. SPEAKER BOEHNER tells CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that any long-term continuing-resolution deal is going to require “real cuts” AND “real limitations” on spending. Translation: significant spending cuts, plus policy riders, in the final deal. Boehner told Kudlow: “I want the continuing resolution through September 30th finished as soon as possible. But that’s gonna mean real cuts. It’s gonna mean real limitations on what this administration can do for the balance of this fiscal year. And I’m hopeful that we’ll get it finished as soon as possible. … We want to cut spending because cutting spending will lead to a better environment for businesses to help create jobs in America. That’s the core of what we’re trying to do — bring some fiscal sanity to Washington, D.C.” YouTube http://bit.ly/dH6Cgm
WARRIOR WONK – Paul Ryan, the House budget chairman, has been known as a happy wonk, relishing the details of policy. But advisers say he plans to ramp up his political side after he unveils next month’s House GOP budget, which will include politically perilous changes to Medicare and Social Security. Ryan’s Prosperity PAC, formed in January, is launching the Prosperity Project, including travel by Ryan, donations to supportive House Republicans, and fights against Democrats to help counter DCCC spending against GOP freshmen. The Prosperity Project website, accented in Packer green, says a key mission is to “support lawmakers who follow through and make the tough choices.”
–Pat Shortridge, senior adviser to the PAC, told us: “At its core, the project will clearly define the critical budget and economic issues for all Americans to see, support those who vote to cut spending and restore limits to government, and replace those that don’t.” Shortridge and Ryan met as fellow Hill staffers in the mid-90s, when Shortridge was working for Dick Armey and Ryan was with Sam Brownback. Fundraising events for the PAC are planned for later in the year. We’ll ask Ryan about his political plans on Thursday during the Playbook Breakfast, where Playbookers interact live with each other and with newsmakers. RSVP tohttp://bit.ly/g2I534 or PlaybookBreakfast@POLITICO.com. We’ll also put up a livestream link.
–House Republican leaders say that by taking on entitlements, they hope to send an ADULTS IN CHARGE message, and hope the party’s presidential candidates will support them rather than flee (see Bush, George W., 1999). Leaders believe they’ll get credit for being HONEST WITH THE PEOPLE, and that their INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY will be challenged if they shy away now after building the case that hard changes are necessary.
BREAKING TODAY – Labor, business and senators both parties unite to push an INFRASTRUCTURE BANK (the BUILD Act) championed by Sen. John Kerry. President Obama’s budget proposes $25 billion over 10 years for an infrastructure bank, which would leverage federal dollars to encourage private investment in marquee projects. Presser at noon in the Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Room with Sen. Kerry, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, and a surprise guest. A Kerry aide: “This legislation is John Kerry’s climate change effort of 2011 – meaning he’s going to throw his heart and soul into it.”
–From Chamber CEO Tom Donohue’s prepared remarks: “With a modest initial investment of $10 billion, a national infrastructure bank could leverage up to $600 billion in private investments. That’s billion with a ‘b’ and that’s real money, even in Washington.”
–Chamber view: “This is private-sector money waiting on the sidelines to be invested in our nation to ensure we have the world’s best economic foundation (transportation, energy, etc.).”
JAPAN NOW LOOKING LIKE ONE OF THE STORIES OF THE DECADE:
–Apocalyptic N.Y. Times lead: “TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to statements from Japanese government and industry officials.”
–CNBC lower-third: “JAPANESE STOCKS SUFFER WORST 2-DAY LOSS SINCE 1987.”
–The Wall Street Journal Asia editorial, “Nuclear Overreactions: Modern life requires learning from disasters, not fleeing all risk”: “After a once-in-300-years earthquake, the Japanese have been keeping cool amid the chaos, organizing an enormous relief and rescue operation, and generally earning the world’s admiration. We wish we could say the same for the reaction in the U.S., where the troubles at Japan’s nuclear reactors have produced an overreaction about the risks of modern life and technology.”
** A message from Nucor: Eighty percent of China’s stimulus money was spent on infrastructure. America spent only 12 percent. Do we really think this is good enough to maintain our competitive advantage? Let’s rebuild America. Visit www.nucor.com/voice **
BIRTHDAYS: Joshua Spencer Deckard (hat tip: Collegio) … Brendan Buck, the pride of Alpharetta (as a present, follow @Brendan_Buck on Twitter) … Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 78 … Alex Baker (in Rio advancing the POTUS visit) is 26 and little bro Matt Baker is 21.
–BOTH SIDES PUSH OBAMA TO ENGAGE ON DEBT – Carrie Budoff Brown: “Administration aides said … that it is Washington — not the public — that is agitating for the president to wade into every legislative debate. This is a subtle shift from the past two years, when the president could be mistaken for a prime minister, expending political capital in ushering bills through Congress. … ‘This is a process. It is not a one-act play,’ said Geoff Garin, who has done messaging work on the deficit debate for Senate Democrats. ‘We are early in Act 1 of a four-act play.’ … The State of the Union address and his 2012 budget request came and went without Obama embracing any major components of the [debt] commission’s plan … Now, with lawmakers suggesting a look at entitlement reform during the short-term budget negotiations, White House aides said they aren’t ruling it out, but their preference is to finish the continuing resolution first and deal with the long-term budget issues later.” http://bit.ly/ej6HIg
–HILL BALKS AT OBAMA’S SEPTMEBER DEADLINE ON “NO CHILD” — Meredith Shiner: “[C]ongressional leaders, wary of last year’s legislative battles, almost unanimously dismissed a fall deadline announced Monday by President Obama for passing a major education reform bill. … The [House education committee] has 11 … freshmen, who make up half of its GOP membership. And the bill’s cost — more than $12 billion in fiscal year 2010 alone — is another strike against the law in a year when virtually all domestic spending is on the chopping block. … The top eight education negotiators … don’t agree entirely on how to reform the law, and they diverge on whether there’s time this year … Sources familiar with last Thursday’s meeting at the White House say [House education chairman John] Kline [said] he favors ‘targeted legislation’ and an ‘incremental approach’ to reform, as opposed to a more comprehensive bill preferred by [Senate education chairman Tom] Harkin.” http://bit.ly/gRB2iP
2012 HOT-STOVE LEAGUE:
–Donald Trump gives interview for Human Events cover story: “I’m a Committed Republican” http://bit.ly/i4RmYI … On declaring: “I have to wait till June because I have a very successful television show. Unfortunately you have certain little rules and regulations in this country that I can’t do anything right now because of air time.” http://bit.ly/e4dX8Y
–EMERGING 2012 ISSUE: AMERICAN DECLINE – Jonathan Martin sees “the rise of an emerging debate on the right that could overshadow the traditional focus on social and fiscal issues and create an opening for a candidate who can speak to a still inchoate but clearly volatile element that is roiling the conservative grassroots. … It’s the idea, held by many conservative activists, that America is becoming too European—weak, feckless and faithless … From Tea Party luminary Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to establishment favorite Mitt Romney, the GOP hopefuls are all vying to respond … ‘There is doubt in the minds of Americans that we will continue as this great, exceptional nation,’ said Bachmann in her debut appearance last month in Iowa, warning against the path of ‘managed decline.’ Romney, who titled his book ‘No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,’ has responded to the alarm about the nation’s future with an appeal tuned to tea party frequencies. … ‘I refuse to believe that America is just another place on the map with a flag.’ Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has also gotten into the America-on-the-wane act with a pithy line he’s added to his stump speech. ‘Just because we followed Greece into democracy doesn’t mean we need to follow them into bankruptcy,’ Pawlenty said at a presidential candidate forum last week.”http://bit.ly/gvQ1AB
SPORTS BLINK – BRACKETOLOGY EDITION – Bracket managers decide to ignore “First Four” games, and most deadlines remain Thursday morning – AP Sports Writer Jamie Aron: “[T]he majority of contests are sticking with the old way of doing things, [including] ESPN.com and its pool that drew 5.4 million entries last year … Jason Waram, vice president of fantasy games and social media for ESPN.com, said his staff began kicking around this dilemma last summer, shortly after the NCAA decided to expand the field from 65 teams to 68. They also polled some contestants to see what they thought. After what he called ‘definitely a spirited debate,’ the status quo won out. …
“The same was true at Yahoo, which had another thing to consider — its $1 million bonus for accurately picking every game. Considering that no entry has come closer than 56 of 63, there wasn’t much of a push to make the challenge any more difficult, said Edwin Pankau, Yahoo’s senior product manager for fantasy sports. ‘I read somewhere that getting perfect with 63 is about as likely as winning the Powerball twice in a row,’ he said. … [I]nstead of pushing up the ballot deadline, there could be incentive to wait even longer to see which teams snag those 11th and 12th spots [in the tonight and tomorrow games], since teams in those seeds have a pretty good track record of pulling off upsets.”
ALEX JORDAN HARRIS – author, speaker, student, champion debater – e-mails: “The annual Edmonds/Harris inter-family bracket challenge (my wife won it all last year) is part of ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge and using the ESPN Bracket Bound app for iPhone. You can create and join groups, fill out and submit your bracket from your phone, and access ESPN’s news, schedule, and scores. Another great app is the NCAA’s March Madness On Demand app for iPhone and iPad. Its killer feature is free, live streaming of every single game, but it also allows you to create and join groups on NCAA.com and fill out your bracket. The app is optimized for the iPhone 4′s Retina Display and features Game Center for iPad with in-game highlights, stats, and team leaders. We’re using ESPN Bracket Bound app because ESPN.com draws a bigger pool, offers more content to help certain members of the family (me included) fill out their brackets, and has a smoother (faster) interface for filling out brackets on your phone. But I have both apps and will use them both this year.”