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President Obama Stumps for Retirement Rule in Weekly Address

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to stump for the IRA/401k rule he ordered the Labor Department to craft, which will require retirement-plan brokers and advisors to act in clients' best interests, with some exceptions.

“Middle-class families cannot afford to lose their hard earned savings after a lifetime of work.  They deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.  And that’s what this rule would do,” Obama said.

The president also said he that he also anticipates some industry criticism and pledges not to bend in principle.

“While we welcome different perspectives and ideas on how to move forward, what I won’t accept is the notion that there’s nothing we can do to make sure that hard-working, responsible Americans who scrimp and save can retire with security and dignity,” he said.

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi everybody.  In America, we believe that a lifetime of hard work and responsibility should be rewarded with a shot at a secure, dignified retirement.  It’s one of the critical components of middle-class life – and this week, I took new steps to protect it.  
 
Six years after the crisis that shook a lot of people’s faith in a secure retirement, our economy is steadily growing.  Last year was the best year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over the past five years, the private sector has added nearly 12 million new jobs.  And since I took office, the stock market has more than doubled, replenishing the 401(k)s of millions of families.
 
But while we’ve come a long way, we’ve got more work to do to make sure that our recovery reaches more Americans, not just those at the top.  That’s what middle-class economics is all about—the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  
 
That last part—making sure everyone plays by the same set of rules—is why we passed historic Wall Street Reform and a Credit Card Bill of Rights.   It’s why we created a new consumer watchdog agency.  And it’s why we’re taking new action to protect hardworking families’ retirement security. If you’re working hard and putting away money, you should have the peace of mind that the financial advice you’re getting is sound and that your investments are protected.
 
But right now, there are no rules of the road.  Many financial advisers put their clients’ interest first – but some financial advisers get backdoor payments and hidden fees in exchange for steering people into bad investments.  All told, bad advice that results from these conflicts of interest costs middle-class and working families about $17 billion every year.  
 
This week, I called on the Department of Labor to change that – to update the rules and require that retirement advisers put the best interests of their clients above their own financial interests.  Middle-class families cannot afford to lose their hard earned savings after a lifetime of work.  They deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.  And that’s what this rule would do.
 
While many financial advisers support these basic safeguards to prevent abuse, I know some special interests will fight this with everything they’ve got.  But while we welcome different perspectives and ideas on how to move forward, what I won’t accept is the notion that there’s nothing we can do to make sure that hard-working, responsible Americans who scrimp and save can retire with security and dignity.
 
We’re going to keep pushing for this rule, because it’s the right thing to do for our workers and for our country.  The strength of our economy rests on whether hard-working families can not only share in America’s success, but can also contribute to America’s success.  And that’s what I will never stop fighting for – an economy where everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead.
 
Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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GOP Weekly Address: Obama Should Back College Savings Plan

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's Republican Address, Rep. Jim Renacci of Ohio called on President Obama to back a bipartisan savings plan passed by the House this week.

Renacci says that to adapt to the times, 529 college saving plans should be clarified to include computers as qualified expenses and remove unnecessary paperwork burdens for the administrators of these plans.

“We talk all the time about rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules – well, that’s what 529 plans are,” Renacci said. “They empower families to set up accounts for their children – right from when they’re born – and then down the line they can use that money – tax-free – on books, fees, tuition, and room-and-board.”

Renacci argues the president should follow actions taken by the House this week that would modify 529 plans.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Good morning, I’m Jim Renacci, and I have the honor of representing the good people of Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.

This week, the House of Representatives passed a good, bipartisan bill that could help many middle-class families.  I’d like to take a moment to tell you about it.

First, a story.  Like many of you, I was the first in my family to go to college.  Ours was a working class union family so I had to pay my own way through school.  To do that, I worked any number of jobs: truck driver, mechanic, a road crew, you name it.

As an accountant, I’ve seen countless parents struggle with putting away money for their kids’ tuition.  You know how it is: you want to make sure they have it better than you do. But at a time when the cost of just about everything is going up and incomes are barely moving, that job’s only gotten harder.

So last month, when President Obama proposed taxing 529 plans, people were understandably outraged.

Why would we make saving for college even harder?  We talk all the time about rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules – well, that’s what 529 plans are.   They empower families to set up accounts for their children – right from when they’re born – and then down the line they can use that money – tax-free – on books, fees, tuition, and room-and-board.

All told, there are nearly 12 million of these accounts open in all 50 states.  That’s up from 1 million accounts in 2001.  Why would we stop that growth?  So the government can take even more of the money we’ve worked so hard to put away?

Thankfully, after a public outcry, the president was forced to drop the idea.

But we can do more. With all the challenges middle-class families are facing right now, we need to make it easier – not harder – to save.

That’s why the House acted this week to expand and modernize 529 plans.

Our plan will do a few simple things.

First, to adapt to the times, we clarify that computers are qualified expenses under 529 accounts.

Second, we remove unnecessary paperwork burdens for the administrators of these plans.

And third, we allow families to re-deposit refunds from colleges without taxes or penalties.  This might be useful if something happens and a student has to withdraw early for an illness.  It’s just good peace of mind to have.

I’m pleased to report that the bill passed with more than 400 votes.  Now we just need President Obama to help us get this done.

Together, let’s make sure that 529 plans will be there for middle-class families for years to come.

Because we all know that a good education leads to greater opportunity and a stronger economy.  So let’s take this step to make college more affordable and easier to plan.

Thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time.

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Homeland Security Dodges Partial Shutdown After President Obama Signs One-Week Extension

DHS(WASHINGTON) -- Lawmakers narrowly avoided a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security and furloughing thousands of employees Friday when they reached a last-minute deal to approve a one-week funding measure for the department.

Just two hours before the midnight deadline, the House voted 357 to 60 to fund the department for one week. The Senate passed the measure earlier in the evening by a voice vote.

Less than one hour before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent her Democratic colleagues a letter urging them to advance the seven-day measure.

Though the department will be funded, the one-week measure will set up a new round of fighting for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The dysfunction that has become all too familiar on Capitol Hill was on full display today as the House earlier failed to secure enough votes to pass a short-term funding bill that would have kept the department open for three weeks.

That last-minute strategy proposed by House Republicans failed with a vote of 203 to 224. Fifty-two Republicans opposed the measure while 12 Democrats supported it.

President Obama held a meeting in the Oval Office late Friday with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and OMB Director Shaun Donovan to discuss the potential shutdown, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. The president personally phoned House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to receive an update on the situation.

The evening’s drama rounds out months of fighting between Democrats and Republicans over the funding. Republicans have wanted to link any funding for the department to immigration. Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would fund the department through the end of the fiscal year while also blocking President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.

But Democrats opposed that plan, instead pushing for a clean funding bill. Earlier in the day, the Senate passed a clean funding measure with a vote of 68 to 31 to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Sept. 30.

“We passed a full-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said. “It means we did our job so that those men and women working in every agency can do their job to protect America. The Senate has done its job. Now, the House has to do its job.”

Lawmakers will now have one week to hammer out their differences on the funding and immigration. If not, the Department of Homeland Security will have to furlough approximately 40,000 workers. But 80 percent of its 240,000-person workforce would be required to work without pay.

That figure includes 40,000 Customs and Border Protection officers, 5,000 Transportation Security Administration security screeners, and 13,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.


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CPAC: Jeb Bush Answers Boos With Defense of Immigration and Common Core Positions

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, despite a smattering of boos, stuck to his views on immigration and education, controversial with some conservatives, in his question-and-answer session Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying any immigration overhaul needs to include a “path to legal status” for undocumented immigrants.

“The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people,” Bush told the audience and moderator, Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We should give them a path to legal status where they work, where they don’t receive government benefits, where they don’t break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society. That’s what we need to be focused on.”

He stressed “first and foremost” the nation’s borders need to be “enforce(d)” for “national security purposes, public health purposes, and the rule of law.”

He noted some in the audience were “angry” over his stance, but he said the country needs “economic driven immigrants.”

“Those that want to come here to work to invest in their dreams in this country to create opportunities for all of us,” he said at the CPAC gathering in National Harbor, Maryland. “And that’s what we need to get to and so … the plan also includes a path to legal status.”

The likely 2016 presidential candidate did say he disagrees with the president’s executive action on immigration, adding he used “authority he doesn’t have” and has “gone way beyond his constitutional powers to do this.”

Bush, 62, was greeted at times with boos, but they were drowned out by applause from his supporters in the hall. A few dozen CPAC attendees quietly walked out of the room during the session and once outside the small group chanted “USA, USA.”

Bush also stood by his stance on Common Core education standards. When asked by Hannity whether it is a federal takeover of education, Bush answered, “No, and it shouldn't be," stressing the education standards created “more school choice.”

"My belief is that our standards have to be high enough where a student going through our system is college- or career-ready, and that's not what's happening right now," Bush said.

He stressed the federal government should have “no role” in creation of “standards" or "curriculum,” nor have “access” to student information, adding the federal government should have “no role in the creation of standards, either directly or indirectly.”

Bush has been criticized by some Republicans for not being conservative enough or too moderate on immigration and education, specifically his support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative. But when asked by Hannity whether he is a moderate, Bush replied: “I would describe myself as a practicing, reform-minded, conservative.”

He directly addressed those who booed him, saying he was “marking them down as neutral” and “I want to be your second choice if I decide to go beyond this.”

He did seem all in, though, noting he has to use “legal terminology” that he is still considering the “possibility of running.” He told supporters gathered in a ballroom after his session, “I hope that I’ll see you on the trail.”

In a lighter moment, Hannity asked Bush whether he was “mad” at his mother because of her previous comments that there had been “enough Bushes” in the White House. Bush said at the time it was “a little difficult, but since that time she’s had a change of heart and that’s all right by me.” As he has recently, Bush again stressed his “love” for his family, including his father and brother, both former presidents, but he said if he runs, he needs to show voters “what’s in my heart.”

“I have to show that I care about people about their future,” he said. “It can’t be about the past, it can’t be about my mom and dad and brother who I love. I love them all. It has to be about the ideas that I believe in to move our country forward.”

 

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President Obama Mourns Leonard Nimoy: 'I Loved Spock'

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has joined thousands of Americans in mourning the loss of iconic actor Leonard Nimoy, who died Friday at the age of 83.

"Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock."

Mr. Obama said Nimoy's signature role as first officer to William Shatner's Captain Kirk on the hit series Star Trek defined his career. It also inspired viewers to adopt the character's "cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed" outlook on the world, he said.

Nimoy was "the center of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future," Obama said. "I loved Spock."

The president said he met Nimoy in 2007 and greeted him with "the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for 'live long and prosper.'"

Nimoy was among a crowd of Hollywood celebrities that backed two Obama presidential campaigns. He donated $2,500 to Obama in 2007 and $2,500 in 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. He was also spotted a several high-profile fundraisers for the president during both election cycles.

"I do believe that President Obama means it when he says that he is 100 percent interested in space," Nimoy told reporters at the National Space Symposium in 2010, according to Space.com. "I know for sure he's a Star Trek fan."

Nimoy died in Bel-Air, Calif., his granddaughter Madeleine Nimoy confirmed to ABC News on Friday.

"After 83 years on this planet -- and on his visits to many others -- it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that," Obama said, invoking the Vulcan phrase "live long and prosper."

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New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ‘Very Concerned’ About Potential DHS Shutdown

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton journeyed to the nation’s capital Friday to attend a handful of meetings regarding the funding of the Department of Homeland Security.

Some of the people Commissioner Bratton met with Friday were Homeland Security Advisor to the President Lisa Monaco, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and the Director of the FBI, James Comey.

“Universally, they are very concerned about this,” Bratton said.

Commissioner Bratton is urging law makers to fully fund the DHS, vehemently disagreeing with the House Republicans’ three-week bill proposal.

“We cannot fund the Nation’s Counterterrorism Program and the Department of Homeland Security on the ‘installment plan,’” Bratton said. “This idea of kicking the can down the road for three weeks; the idea of passing this continuing resolution bill is just not practical or feasible,” and that efforts should be focused elsewhere.    

Commissioner Bratton says he needs the DHS to be fully funded, as he believes his city is arguably the, “number one target in the room.”  

If the Department of Homeland Security does shut down, the impact could be significant, especially on New York, as the city is very dependent on federal funding.

DHS funds for New York are used for the development and expansion of the NYPD’s Domain Awareness System, the purchase and deployment of a wide range of explosive detection equipment, training and maintenance, as well as the NYPD’s intelligence analyst program.

Failing to fund the DHS would cause a furlough of up to 30,000 employees, most of which are involved in many of New York’s important operations. Protective Security Advisors would be unable to share critical intelligence with the NYPD, and any other local and state partners.

“Given the current threats facing this country, holding an agency responsible for protecting Americans from terrorism, hostage to politics is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst,” Bratton said in statement.

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Rand Paul Wows CPAC Crowd, Talks Privacy, Tax Cuts, Hillary Clinton

Kris Connor/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul got a rousing reception Friday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference, lighting up a crowd that tends to have a libertarian streak to it, saying, “In the coming weeks, I will propose the largest tax cut in American history.”

Speaking with rolled-up sleeves, he promised to pitch “a tax cut that will leave more money in the paychecks of every worker in America. My tax plan will keep the IRS out of your life and out the way of every job creator in America. My plan will also cut spending and balance the budget in just five years.”

Paul, R-Ky., blasted Congress, now controlled by Republicans, calling it “dysfunctional.”

“Often, bills are plopped on our desk with only a few hours to review,” he said. “No one, and I mean no one, is able to read what is in the bill. I propose something truly outrageous: Congress should read every bill.”

The crowd was packed with supporters, and Paul was interrupted by chants of “President Paul, President Paul.” He perhaps received the loudest applause when talking about personal privacy and going after the woman he may face if he they both choose to run in 2016: Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary’s war in Libya is a perfect example,” he told the CPAC crowd in National Harbor, Maryland. “Hillary’s war made us less safe," adding, "Libya's less stable."

He said to cheers: “It’s time for Hillary Clinton to permanently retire.”

Calling the crowd “lovers of liberty,” he asked them to “rise to the occasion.”

“You do have a right to privacy," he said. "Your rights are who you are, your rights are what you are, your rights are in your DNA -- and the government can, quite frankly, get over it.

"I say that the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business," he added. "From within, our freedom is threatened by debt and by a government that regulates everything that moves.”

He differed in some ways with other Republican presidential contenders who have taken the stage at the conference since Thursday, specifically on the issue of foreign policy -- an issue that may make him an outlier in the GOP field, but was well-received by the libertarian-leaning activists gathered.

“At home, conservatives understand that the government is the problem, not the solution. But as conservatives, we should not succumb to the notion that government inept at home will somehow become successful abroad,” he said, "that a government that can’t even deliver the mail will somehow be able to create nations abroad. Without question, we must be strong. Without question, we must defend ourselves. I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable and unencumbered by nation building.”

He ended the speech by asking the crowd to “stand” with him: “Will you fight for freedom? Will you vote for freedom?”

Paul is popular with the CPAC crowd. He has won the CPAC straw poll the last two years, and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, a three-time Republican presidential candidate, won the straw poll in 2010 and 2011. This year's winner will be revealed Saturday.

However, Paul received some criticism today at CPAC, even if it was veiled.

Right after Paul spoke, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a 2012 presidential candidate, took the stage. Santorum didn’t mention Paul’s name, but in the past he has said he thinks possible candidates like Paul, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas -- all in their first terms -- do not have enough experience to be president.

He said it was the president’s “profound lack of experience that has created the problems for us here in America,” stressing his own “eight years of service on the armed services committee” while he was in the Senate.

"Commander-in-chief is not an entry-level position,” he said. “[The] Oval Office is no place for on-the-job training, not in times like this.”


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Grover Norquist Predicts Jeb Bush Will Sign His Anti-Tax Pledge

Matt Stroshane/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist said he’s been in discussions with former Gov. Jeb Bush’s aides and is convinced he’ll sign his famous “pledge” if he runs for president, even though Bush has made a point of not signing it in previous runs for office.

Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, told ABC News he believes Bush will come around on the wisdom of vowing in writing in a pledge to constituents not to raise taxes.

“Right now everyone who is thinking of running has signed it in his present capacity or in a previous race, with the exception of Jeb Bush,” Norquist said.

Norquist added that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t actually signed the pledge, but “everyone thinks” he has because “he has stated publically that he would never raise taxes so many times.”

“The challenge for Jeb is he’s said publically, ‘I might.’ I think he’ll be comfortable. But his father and his brother didn’t do pledges, didn’t do questionnaires, did sign the pledge. Because it’s different -- it’s been endorsed by the Republican Party for crying out loud.”

Norquist said he’s been talking to Bush aides, and “we have to wait for them to realize” that it’s a smart move to sign the pledge.

Jeb Bush has made his refusal to sign the anti-tax pledge a point of principle throughout his political career. He blasted the concept of the pledge as recently as 2012.

“I don’t believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people. I respect Grover’s political involvement. He has every right to do it, but I never signed any pledge,” Bush told a congressional panel.

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Carly Fiorina Accuses Hillary Clinton of Playing an 'Imitation' Game

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Positioning herself as the anti-Hillary Clinton candidate in a crowded field of prospective GOP 2016 contenders, Carly Fiorina is unapologetic in attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“I think it’s totally fair game to call out the presumptive Democratic nominee on her track record and policies,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO told ABC News on the sidelines of the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Politics is about contrast, and I think as a conservative, we need to offer a very clear contrast to Hillary Clinton.”

Fiorina addressed the conference Thursday, offering many direct jabs at Clinton during her speech. At one point, to the cheers of the audience, Fiorina joked, “Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have traveled the globe. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”

Asked about Clinton’s recent use of the phrase “unlocking potential,” Fiorina -- whose Super PAC is titled the “Unlocking Potential Project” -- suggested this isn’t the first time Clinton may have copied her.

“Her book cover was remarkably similar to mine, as well,” she said.

“Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I could steal one of her lines and ask, ‘What difference does it make?’” Fiorina said sarcastically, referencing Clinton’s remarks before a congressional committee investigating the 2011 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

If she were to win the nomination, Fiorina said it would put a “hitch in her swing” for Clinton to have to run against another woman.

“I think it just takes of the table a whole set of rhetoric that the Democratic Party has used for the last two elections,” Fiorina said. “Remember Hillary Clinton saying in Iowa, ‘It’s not enough to be a woman,’ you have to be a woman who believes. Really? She’s saying that women only count if they believe certain things.”

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Senate Passes Clean DHS Funding Bill; All Eyes on House

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate passed a clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Sept. 30 with a vote of 68 to 31.

But over in the House of Representatives, lawmakers are preparing to vote on an entirely different plan -- one that would keep DHS funded for three weeks. There are currently no plans for them to even take up the clean DHS bill the Senate just passed.

House Democrats are actively whipping against the short term bill, and Senate Democrats have not revealed whether they will agree to it. Less than 13 hours remain until the Department of Homeland Security shuts down.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black had a particularly fitting prayer for lawmakers Friday morning.

“Remind them that lawmakers can work miracles with cooperation, but accomplish little with legislative brinksmanship,” Black said.

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Scott Walker's Wisconsin Budget Removes Sexual Assault Reporting Mandates for Colleges

ABC News(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisc., has proposed alterations to the state of Wisconsin's budget that would remove the mandate requiring colleges to report sexual assaults to the Department of Justice.

On page 508 of the governor's budget recommendations posted to the Wisconsin state legislature's website, Walker recommended "[deleting] language related to sexual assault information and reporting."

The document specifically details changes Walker would enact, including deleting "the requirement that each institution report annually to the Department of Justice statistics on sexual assaults and on sexual assaults committed by acquaintances of victims that occurred on the campus of that institution in the previous years."

Walker's recommendations also include ending a mandate that requires colleges to provide oral and written or electronic information on sexual assault to newly entering and already enrolled students.

The proposal would also "delete the requirement that any person employed at an institution who witnesses a sexual assault on campus or receives a report from a student enrolled in the institution that the student has been sexually assaulted report the assault to the dean of students."

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Why Everyone Is So Obsessed with "House of Cards"

Netflix(COLLEGE PARK, Md.) -- TV fans have some binge watching to do this weekend. The 13-episode third season of Netflix original series House of Cards is now available to stream.

When a brief "glitch" teased the season earlier this month it put a 30-minute pause button on Washington -- home to many of the show's obsessed fans.

So we started to wonder what it is about the show that has fans in such a tizzy. It turns out that Americans like fictional politicians a lot better than real ones.

ABC News spoke with a big fan of House of Cards, Trevor Parry-Giles, a professor of political communication at the University of Maryland and director of academic affairs for the National Communication Association, about why we just can't get enough of Frank and Claire Underwood.

So how did you get into this kind of research?


I was a double major in college, political science and communication. I was always interested in such matters and did my masters on an old show called LA Law. When The West Wing came out my wife and I, she also studies political communication, decided to do some work on it.

What do you like about the show?


I was a fan of the British version, there’s a whole book that its based on and when the British version debuted on PBS I devoured that because I had done my doctoral dissertation on British politics and the Thatcher regime. This down and dirty look at British politics was quite interesting and relevant.

The British version, you think Frank Underwood’s bad, Francis Urquhart is evil incarnate. He, like Underwood, rises his way up through the back benches to become the prime minister. There’s all sorts of parallels and interesting dynamics.

What is it about fictional presidents that you find interesting?


Often times our popular culture and fictional representations of politics mirror or reflect in some way messages and meanings about the actual political world.

The conventional wisdom about people like Frank Underwood is that he gets things done, that’s in response to a perception of the government as ineffective and unable to get things done. Historically since the Constitutional era we have always used politics as a literary device, there’s all of the ingredients of good drama, powerful characters, monumental decisions, much at stake. All the good characteristics of good entertainment in popular culture, it’s like a crime drama.

What does it say about our politics that House of Cards is so popular?

I don’t think it says anything particularly unique about our own political culture, it does say something about American political culture because we've have both Utopian and Dystopian depictions that work in both directions as a commentary on our politics.

I, in the end, think that’s actually pretty healthy. If the system was completely dysfunctional popular culture couldn't get away with envisioning a totally Dystopian one.

You write about how The West Wing is a really romantic view of people who work in politics. What do you think of the contrast between that and the Dystopia in House of Cards?

That’s an interesting question, I don’t know if House of Cards is popular now because it speaks to some kind of lurking anxiety we have about our politics. My sense is that we also have other examples. There’s a show called Madam Secretary that’s entirely implausible but it’s romantic in that it's a young, attractive couple. It's sort of like West Wing in that they're always doing things like walking and talking in hallways.

You could read that and say maybe we’re longing for a Utopian vision of our foreign policy but I do think there is a sense that House of Cards is filling some kind of narrative need and actually kind of accessing something about how we see our political world.

There is some empirical evidence to support this. When West Wing was on television and very popular they did surveys that found reactions to government servants and officials had gone up during the period the show was on television. There was an uptick in law school applications when LA Law was on.

You also talk about how the president is usually a masculine figure in your research, typically a white man. How do newer shows stack up to that stereotype?

We've seen more people of color as president in popular culture certainly since the West Wing. We've seen more women in presidential roles. The president in State of Affairs is played by Alfre Woodard, who is both African American and a woman. You can read all of that sort of against the presence of the Hillary Clinton phenomenon or the Sarah Palin phenomenon. That may be an instance where the culture is actually reflective of what’s going on in the political world where the possibility of a woman president is more real than when The West Wing was on.

Obama also opened a lot of doors. There were a few African American presidents in popular culture prior to Obama of course, like Morgan Freeman in that bad asteroid movie Deep Impact. There have been women as well before Selina Meyer. I think the culture is moving the popular culture.

What's your take on Claire Underwood as a first lady?

I often think of her in contrast with the first lady as depicted in Scandal. The Scandal depiction of the presidency is also interesting in that it has racial dynamics but the first lady is implicated in all the aspects of the plot. Here where you had an Obama phenomenon in terms of presidents you might see a Hillary Clinton or even Michelle Obama phenomenon in terms of activism, that might be an Abbey Bartlet phenomenon as well, but The West Wing went to great lengths to remind us that she’s a woman.

What's your favorite depiction of a president?


Some grad students and I are working right now on a project on presidential impersonations, I love Paul Giamatti as John Adams in the HBO miniseries. In terms of popular culture I'm still locked into Josiah Bartlet.

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"House of Cards": How the Real-Life Frank Underwood Is Staring Down the DHS Showdown

U.S. Congress(WASHINGTON) -- What would Frank Underwood do?

As the House of Representatives’ majority whip -- a role famously depicted in the Netflix hit series House of Cards -- it’s a question Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., ponders as Capitol Hill faces a showdown over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

“I think he’d storm over to the Senate chamber and just start maybe voting some people’s machines ‘yes’ to get the bill brought up,” Scalise joked of the fictional character played by Kevin Spacey. “He’d take matters into his own hands over in the Senate.”

Scalise, who didn’t start watching House of Cards until after he became majority whip in August, said the fictional Washington depicted in the show bears only a limited semblance to reality.

“They depict the Capitol and the hectic schedule. I mean everybody is running around from meeting to meeting and votes,” he said in an interview with The Fine Print. “But when it comes to the interaction between members, it’s a lot more collegial than I think is depicted there.”

But on the real-life battle over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is set to run out of funding at midnight Friday unless Congress reaches a last-minute deal, Scalise described the current impasse as “disappointing.”

“We moved by the second week in January to get a bill passed out of the House that had a strong Republican vote that not only funded the Department of Homeland Security but also made it clear that the president doesn’t have the legal authority to go and issue some kind of executive amnesty on his own in the Oval Office,” Scalise said.

The bill passed by the House of Representatives proposed funding the Department of Homeland Security, while simultaneously halting the implementation of President Obama’s executive action on immigration. But Senate Democrats have effectively blocked that House bill from being considered.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently proposed passing a clean bill that would leave the president’s action on immigration out of the equation, Scalise said the Senate’s attempts at compromise are too little, too late.

“We're not going to pass bad policy just because the Senate waits and waits until the midnight hour,” Scalise said. “If a kid just doesn't do his homework and then just shows up and expects the teacher to give him a break, I mean, at some point everybody's got responsibilities. “

Scalise also gave The Fine Print a tour of a rarely seen room on Capitol Hill that was once frequented by President Abraham Lincoln. Recently renamed by Scalise as the “Lincoln Room,” the room was actually the House cloakroom during Lincoln’s one term in Congress before the Civil War.

“When Abraham Lincoln was a member of the House, he actually sat right here in this spot, by this fireplace, and this is where he would read and tell stories and meet with members, because they didn't have offices during those times in the 1840s,” Scalise said.

To hear more about Scalise’s thoughts on the fight over Homeland Security, and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Lincoln Room, check out this episode of The Fine Print.

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Missouri State Auditor Dead in Apparent Suicide

Office of the Missouri State Auditor(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon mourned the death of state auditor Tom Schweich on Thursday, calling him "a brilliant, devoted and accomplished public servant."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Schweich, the Republican state auditor and a contender for governor in next year's election, apparently committed suicide in his home on Thursday.

Nixon highlighted Schweich's contributions both locally and abroad, mentioning specifically "his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan" and "his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri."

"Tom Schweich's exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come," Nixon said in a statement.

Darlene Green, City of St. Louis Comptroller, offered prayers for "one of our great leaders here in Missouri," calling it "a day to put politics aside and reflect on the life and legacy of Tom Schweich," in a statement.

Schweich leaves behind a wife and two children.

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Eric Holder Reveals His Worst Day on the Job

Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Eric Holder’s days as attorney general are numbered. And in an interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas, he reflected on his six years leading a department that he first started working for at the age of 25, as a lawyer fresh out of Columbia Law School.

Leaving the department is “bittersweet...in the truest sense of the word,” Holder said, adding there’s some “satisfaction” in being the nation’s first African-American attorney general.

“I am aware of the historical significance of my appointment,” Holder conceded. “I am hoping that I've done a job that would make proud the people who made it possible; the people who sacrificed, the people who struggled, the people who dreamed, the people who gave their lives. I owe a special something to them.”

Nevertheless, Holder, 64, has had his ups and downs, and his share of controversies. Here’s how he described to ABC News some particular moments of his tenure:

WORST DAY ON THE JOB

Dec. 14, 2012: The day a 20-year-old opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six others. “I cried. The men and women who were up there that day cried. We hugged each other,” Holder told ABC News, recounting his visit to the school, where the carpets and bathroom were still stained with blood. “Those little angels were piled up almost like cord wood. …That was, without question, the worst day.”

BEST DAY ON THE JOB

“It’s hard to pick out any one day,” Holder said. “I have certainly liked the visits I’ve made around the country. I've had the opportunity to go to every district in this country. I think I'm the first attorney general to have done that.” Holder said other “good days” are those that let him “sit down with the career people, take pictures with them, hear about what it is they're doing, the problems that they are facing.”

DINING WITH THE ENEMY?

Holder has been a lightning rod for Republican critics, who Holder suggested differ from him in that he’s “a person who likes to talk about facts and talk about policies that are going to change things that have too long been unaddressed.” But while he and many Republican have “butted heads,” they’ve also sat down for many meals together, according to Holder. “What you don't know about are the breakfasts I've had in my conference room with some of the same people who were yelling at me a couple of days before,” Holder recalled. “The lunches that we've had, the phone calls that we make, the progress that we've made, the legislation that we've passed by working together.”

SETTING A RECORD

“If you look at the work of this Justice Department, we have brought record numbers of cases against police departments around the country,” Holder told ABC News when asked about the department’s response to high-profile cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and Sanford, Florida. The Justice Department announced this week federal charges would not be filed against George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin in 2012 after a confrontation with the unarmed teenager in Sanford. The outcomes of two federal probes tied to the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson last year are still pending. “I'd say that in all the cases that we do, we've conducted an independent, thorough, investigation,” Holder said, adding his department has been “very aggressive” in bringing charges when appropriate. He promised to announce the results of the Ferguson probes before he leaves.

ADVICE FOR HIS SUCCESSOR

Holder had these words of advice for his successor: “Follow your experience, follow your heart, be a student of history, be unafraid.” Holder said Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York, who’s waiting to be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate, has all those qualities “in spades.” “I'm going to try to leave for Loretta as little [leftover work] as I possibly can, which is why I have been as active as I've been over these last few weeks,” Holder said. “I think she's going to be a great attorney general.”

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